Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget

Public Indicates Support for Defense Cuts

May 11, 2012 | Other Spending

At Wonkblog, Suzy Khimm points to a study done by the Stimson Center that polled Americans about how large the defense budget should be. The study asked 665 participants about how much money they would assign to various parts of the defense budget after giving them context and arguments for and against cutting spending. Overall, the participants cut defense by an average of $104 billion (18 percent reduction) from 2012 to 2013 when they went area-by-area through the budget and by $127 billion (23 percent) when they picked an overall defense spending number. Khimm notes that these cuts are larger than even what the sequester calls for (which is a ten percent cut).

Our budget simulator may not be as exhaustive as the options presented in this study, but it does give us a good idea of where our users would be willing to trim costs. Granted, the baseline for defense spending has changed since those results were compiled, as the Budget Control Act has reduced defense through spending caps. Still, the results are informative about areas our users were willing to cut. In terms of defense, a majority of users picked five options from the defense portion of the simulator as well as the option to draw down troops in Afghanistan to 30,000 by 2013. The five options were:

  • Cut weapons systems
  • Cut foreign aid in half
  • Cancel missile defense system
  • Reduce ship buildings
  • Decrease troop levels and reverse the Grow the Army initiative

These five options represent $330 billion in savings from 2011-2018. Adding in the war drawdown ups that number to close $1.4 trillion; however, the drawdown savings are likely to occur anyways as troops are already scheduled to be drawn down in Afghanistan in a similar manner.

Defense Options that Received Majority Support
 Percent of Users SupportedSavings Through 2018 (billions)
Cut Weapons Systems73%$30
Cut Foreign Aid in Half66%$110
Cancel Missile Defense System54%$50
Reduce Ship Building75%$50
Decrease Troop Levels81%$90
Subtotal, Base Savings$330
Reduce Afghanistan Troops to 30,000 by 201370%$1,030
Total Savings$1,360

These results are not scientific, but they are informative about what at least the users of our simulator supported cutting. See the full results of the simulator here and play our new simulator with updated defense options here.