Can Pentagon Cut Costs in Spite of Congress?

Military Brass May Trim Personnel Costs, But Extra Bases Still a Problem

Publicly, the Pentagon always wants more. When sequestration forced cuts, they railed against them. When Congress bypassed sequestration and raised spending, they said it wasn’t enough.

But behind the scenes, the Pentagon is resigned to some eventual cuts that need to be made, noting in particular that troop benefits are rising at such a rate that they’ll amount to the whole Pentagon budget by the end of the decade.

Cutting anything troop-related isn’t popular with Congress, and while the Pentagon says their goal is to work with lawmakers, the reality is that cuts in personnel costs may be done through loopholes, and in spite of Congressional objections.

They can do that, but some of the other cost-cutting measures that they really need can’t be done without Congress. The big one is base closures, as the Pentagon currently says about 20 percent of their facilities are completely unneeded or unused, but still maintained because Congress won’t give them permission to close them.

The problem there is that closing bases would require a Base Realignment and Closure Commission, and every time the Pentagon asks Congress to set one up to examine the excess bases, Congress has refused.

The Pentagon has tried to get a handle on this by keeping the bases only nominally open and moving everything out of them, but that only saves a fraction of actually closing them, and even then, Congressmen tend to complain when their base isn’t one of the active ones, even if it’s of no use except as a drain on the budget.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is senior editor of