Answering the Con’s Military Waste Argument

All PF Resources  Millennial Speech & Debate Workshops
The argument that the military should simply “cut waste” to fund the military projects the Pro identifies as important have been popular. And I suggested this argument in my initial essay on the topic.
Despite its popularity and my suggestion, however, I think it is easy to defeat.
First, it is not that much money in the grand scheme of things. The report says up to $150/billion could be saved over 5 years.
Benjamin Friedman, December 12, 2016, The Intelligencer, Cutting Waste in Defense Spending,
A report, authored by McKinsey consultants for the Defense Business Board, a Department of Defense advisory body consisting mostly of corporate executives, estimated that the Pentagon could save $75-150 billion over five years by becoming more efficient and using the savings to pay for combat forces. According to the Washington Post

If it’s $150 billion, that’s only $30 billion/year. If it’s $75 billion, that’s $15 billion/year.

$15-$30 billion/year isn’t that much of a savings. For example, nuclear modernization is likely to cost $1 trillion.  Expanding the navy will cost $440 billion. As long as the Pro defends a substantial increase in military spending, it is unclear how simply “cutting waste” can accomplish that.
Second, this is Public Forum – They can’t run a counterplan to cut waste or use it to fund what we support, which means the waste will exist whether or not you vote Pro or Con
Third, one person’s waste is another person’s treasure. It is not as if everyone in Congress is simply going to agree what the “waste” is and that it should be cut and re-allocated. In the report, the Pentagon was not specific as to where the cuts should be.
Benjamin Friedman, December 12, 2016, The Intelligencer, Cutting Waste in Defense Spending,
But the Defense Business Board Report isn’t much help. It says the Pentagon could save $46-$89 billion by “optimizing” contracts, without explaining why they are suboptimal now. It sees another $5-$9 billion in savings from information-technology efficiencies, though IT efforts at big agencies have a poor track record. Another $23-$53 billion in savings comes from business-process reforms, like “hybrid business process innovation and agility centers,” as if the problem was a deficiency in trendy adjectives. The most concrete recommendation is “labor force optimization”–reducing civilian and contractor personnel. That’s not a bad idea, but the report doesn’t tell us who the wasteful personnel are. It settles for banalities, like “review organizational structure to identify and reduce areas of complexity and redundancy.” Budget cutters like to target waste because it means savings without sacrifice. Waste has no lobby or constituency, so you lose nothing and offend no one in hunting it. But true savings, even the efficiency sort where you do the same missions for less cost, don’t come for nothing. Efficiency savings include closing bases, combining or shuttering combatant commands, cutting a nuclear-weapons delivery system, lowering personnel costs and the like.
And politics means that every part of the budget will be protected, wasteful or not.
Patrick Watson, Maudin Economics, Business Insider, December 29, 2016,
The Trump administration will have a hard time changing everything That F-35 program, for instance, is directly responsible for thousands of jobs in virtually every congressional district. The contractors arranged it that way on purpose. Canceling the F-35s might be the right move, budget-wise, but it would have serious political side effects. President Eisenhower was way ahead of his time when he warned about the “military-industrial complex.” He knew from experience how political forces could make defense spending spin out of control. It is truly insane and no one has been able to change it. Will Trump have better luck? Maybe, though choosing retired USMC General James Mattis as secretary of defense doesn’t give me confidence. Mattis barely had his uniform off when he took a high-paying board seat with leading defense contractor General Dynamics (GD) in 2013. But I could be wrong; some people say Mattis was a good general. Maybe he learned something from that private-sector experience that will help him rein in the contracting beast. I hope so—but I’m not going to bet on it. No, the far better bet is that defense spending will remain strong and probably growafter Mattis and Trump take command. They may change priorities, but I can’t see them spending any less. That being the case, I think it is a mistake to interpret those Trump tweets as a sign that defense spending is on a downhill slide. In fact, the opposite is much more likely. The all-weather sector It’s true that the US has the world’s largest defense budget, but other countries spend a lot too… and they will have to spend even more if Trump gets the US’s NATO allies to shoulder more of the financial burden. I also bet Trump will not-so-subtly suggest they buy American products, which will offset any revenue loss from lower Pentagon spending