Leaders of Tea Party groups split on defense spending cuts

Some leaders of Tea Party groups say there are no “sacred cows” when it comes to spending cuts in Washington, and the traditionally Republican Party-protected Department of Defense budget is no exception — while other leaders in the grassroots movement say they are wary of cutting funds necessary to protect the nation.

FreedomWorks’s director of federal and state campaigns Brendan Steinhauser told The Daily Caller his organization has “publicly supported starting with the $100 billion in cuts [Defense] Secretary Gates recommended.”

“I don’t think anyone can agree on one number or amount that needs to be cut, or how much needs to be spent, but I think the idea is that we definitely have to look at it,” Steinhauser said in a phone interview. “We definitely need to cut where there is waste, and maybe force the Pentagon to do more with a little bit less money. I think we’ve proven that, throughout the history of this country, that we can defend this country without spending a trillion dollars per year on defense.”

The federal government spent about $717 billion on defense in 2010. That’s out of about $3.552 trillion in total government spending.

Tea Party Patriots co-founder Mark Meckler agrees with Steinhauser regarding defense spending cuts, saying, “We think they should be on the table like everything else. There are no sacred cows.”

Tea Party Express spokesman Levi Russell told TheDC that while his group is open to military spending cuts, defense spending is one of the few expenses explicitly sanctioned in the Constitution.

“In general, we think everything is on the table [in terms of spending cuts],” Russell said. “We always think our government, including our military, can find ways to operate more efficiently. With that said, providing a general defense and a strong military is one of the few powers that the Constitution clearly directs our federal government to take control of.”

Tea Party Nation founder Judson Phillips said he’s opposed to any cuts to the Department of Defense and aligns more with conservative groups like the Heritage Foundation, American Enterprise Institute and the Foreign Policy Initiative.

“I am very, very strongly opposed to DoD cuts,” Phillips said in an e-mail to TheDC. “DoD has been cut far too much and we have a dangerous world out there. Of course, Obama would like the US to have the military strength of Luxembourg, so I suspect he will be pushing for more defense cuts.”

In an October 2010 report, Heritage, AEI and the Foreign Policy Initiative discredited what they said were military spending “myths,” like about how much of the U.S. budget is actually defense spending. Though defense spending currently takes about a fifth of the U.S. annual budget, entitlements like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid eat up nearly 60 percent of it. The think tanks point out, too, that cutting the entire military budget for 2011 would only halve the $1.5 trillion budget deficit.

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  • H-daddy

    This article, and all the comments, have missed a major point. The “empire” is going to fall apart whether we like it or not. We simply can’t afford it. So…why not disassemble it rather than watch it collapse. Bring home the troops, shut down all those bases etc. and save some serious $$$$. And turn off the foreign aid as well.

  • kingfish

    Defense cuts are definitely on the table. In fact, none of these so-called “leaders” can speak for us. They serve the tea partiers only in organizing events. Most tea partiers want an END to the never-ending, ever-expanding wars (to include the farce “War on Terror”) to keep TAXPAYER money flowing into the military-industrial complex coffers.

    The Pentagon has proven itself totally incompetent, with no strategy whatsoever (example: building Afghanistan bases in valleys surrounded on all sides by mountains — the troops sitting ducks that even a 6-yr old can figure out). The Pentagon hires thousands of mercenaries to do its job, costing Americans even more money.

    The Pentagon “lost” $4 TRILLION just prior to 911 (Rumsfeld announced $2.3 trillion) — no investigation whatsoever, despite an Israeli dual-citizen Dov Zakheim being the Pentagon comptroller. It “lost” $800 billion last year, and other sums numerous times. Where did all the Iraqi bank money and gold go? Where did the planeloads of CASH sent to Iraq for “rebuilding” go? It certainly never found its way to rebuilding! The Pentagon budget should be DECREASED for every dollar amount of “loss”. SO YES! SLASHING THEIR BUDGET IS DEFINITELY ON THE TABLE!

    The Pentagon orders brand new aircraft engines and other parts, then “salvages” them to give to Israel – this has been going on for decades. This is in addition to the BILLIONS we fork over to Israel in foreign aid. Despite all these “giveaways” to Israel (while Americans go homeless, jobless, and hungry), the Mossad and Israeli commanders, snipe our troops and blow off their limbs with Israeli-built IEDs. Here’s an Anderson Cooper report on the issue:

  • loudog

    Tea Partier who believes in $1 trillion/yr in defense related spending = Republican

    • clw

      SOME TEA Partiers are Republican. SOME are Democrats… SOME are Independents…

      • loudog

        and the ones who agree with spending $1 trillion/yr ruling the world are what?