Do it Yourself Defense Cuts


Military life is full of things we can’t control — the latest of which is the defense cut battle on Capitol Hill. The Pentagon has to axe at least $450 billion over the next ten years, and is facing some tough decisions while getting ready to do so. What should get the first look? Super pricey retiree benefits? Military family perks? Weapons systems that may or may not be needed? Military personnel based in Europe?

I’m sure if I was President for a day I could have all of this ironed out pronto. … or not.

As if just to emphasize how hard this, the New York Times has a fun defense strategy widget that lets you choose from a menu of items to cut. The options range from benefits to weapons to personnel.

You’ll note the absence of a few options you and I might consider no-brainers (for example, reducing the recreation programs or base hourly childcare budget — both things I love but are not necessary).There are also a few things that seem to make perfect sense based on their description, but really aren’t what they seem (example: combining the commissary and exchange systems, which we’ve talked about in the past).

Like Rebekah Sanderlin over at Operation Marriage, I felt pretty bad about the stuff that I decided to get rid of. And I’m sure my choices reflect my personal bias as an active duty family member. But nonetheless, faced with only the options on this sheet (and my limited knowledge of a lot of the weapon and defense systems), here is my personal defense cuts tally and what it would save over ten years (according to the New York Times):

        Option                                                                                                  Savings

Raise Tricare drug co-pays                                                                       $26 billion

Exclude military retirees from Tricare Prime                                      $105 billion

Freeze for 3 years salaries of Pentagon civilian employees            $15.5 billion

Cut Pentagon civilian workforce by 20 percent                                  $73 billion

Replace F-35 Joint Strike Fight with F-16s and F/A-18s               $48 billion

Reduce Navy Ship Buying                                                                        $55 billion

Cancel the Air Force’s Next Gen Bomber                                            $38 billion

Reduce military presence in Europe/Asia                                           $69.5 billion

Reduce Defense Department travel costs                                            $14 billion

Standardize spending on base support                                                $20 billion

Audit the Pentagon                                                                                   $25 billion


I beg you, don’t judge me for my choices — but instead go and make your own. Make sure you click “submit plan” at the end so you can see what others have chosen.

And when you’re done — come back here and discuss. What should’ve been in the options that wasn’t? Are you surprised by any of the choices other have made?

P.S. My husband just glanced over my shoulder, saw what I chose and said “I hate your choices.” So if you do judge me, you’ll be in good company.

About the Author

Amy Bushatz
Amy is the editor in chief of’s spouse and family blog A journalist by trade, Amy also covers spouse and family news for where she is the managing editor of spouse and family content. An Army wife and mother of two, Amy has been featured as a subject matter expert on, NPR, Fox News, NBC, CBS, ABC and BBC as well as in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post. Follow her on twitter @amybushatz.
  • Kerlina

    Hi Amy!

    Love the way you write! Here is my 2 cents. I’d rather the government make cuts in spending that is not supported by The Constitution before going after the few things the Federal government IS supposed to pay for. Once that is done, then make cuts…..after wasteful and double spending is already been sorted.

  • haawwkeye

    i would start by putting anything to do with the Retirees off limits, from raising Tricare or co-pay on medications. I have done my time and I believe IMHO that we should be left alone….

    I will probably upset a lot of active duty people with this next one, but hey it is my opinion. I would start charging all active duty members for Tricare\. They could use the same rate as they do for the retirees.

    I would freeze all civilian pay raises for the next 3 years.

    I would reduce Congress/Senate members pay by 20%. They expect us to live on our salary, let them take a cut in their pay.

    Savings, Yes there would be a lot. Upset people oh yes… But hey who cares, it’s only a hypothetical list..

  • Richard Watson

    As a US Navy veteran (1982-1988 as a Storekeeper); I agree with the comments that have been made so far and agree that non-defense spending needs to be cut FIRST!!


  • R.Svoboda

    The first and foremost place to cut Money from is Foreign Aid especially to the countries that use the money we give them against us. Let’s take all that money and make the United States a Better country and leave the Military alone except for some of the items that seem to double and triple in cost when we dish out a Govt. contact on a specific item.

  • joey solar system

    To be real, it has to be:

    1) exclude reitrees from tricare
    2) close all of medicare, and
    3) raise the co-pays for Drugs

    and cut the next gen bomber

    How’s that for scythe swiping?!

  • Charleen Johnson

    Okay I have had this figured out for quite some time, and there wouldn’t have to be any cuts to the military. Matter of fact they could possibly get raises! If you charge all (not just Hispanics) illegal aliens $10 a month to live in this country (according to the US Government we have appx. 14 million), they can work and pay taxes just like all of us do. In 1 year that’s $1,580,000,000, multiply that by a 10 year plan and you end up with $15, 800, 000, 000. What do you all think?

  • Denise Campbell

    I would Cut Pentagon Civilian work force and freeze their salaries for 3 years.

  • Holly

    Kelly, the biggest problem I see with making active duty families pay more for Tricare (vs. retirees) is that retirees FREQUENTLY have other jobs, whereas active duty folks don’t usually have other jobs and often their spouses have great difficulty finding jobs or advancing in their careers due to the frequent moves. The result is that household income for retirees is usually significantly higher than in active duty homes until the household actually stops working, by which time Medicare has often kicked in to help defray medical costs.

  • Cindy

    Retirees must be off limits, it is bad enough that everything has changed compared to what you were promised when you went in(60′ in my situation. Now being a military widow, it is hard financially and I do not need anyone messing with my health insurance any more than it has been.

  • guest1

    Simple: Cut the billions of dollars in aid to other countries especially pakistan. If we cannot support our own then why should we support other countries? We giving out money that we apparently dont have. We assist these countries and we will soon be the third world country. We should not make any cuts to the defense budget, that is the foundation of our freedom. We must continue to research and produce in order to be ahead of other countries not take a step back or stand still while others move into the future. We cannot afford to lose our military superiority. SO JUST CUT THE BILLONS OF DOLLARS IN AID TO OTHER COUNTRIES AND LETS WORRY ABOUT OUR OWN PEOPLE!!

  • Mike

    First off, I am retired ARMY E-7 and it seems like everything GOV’T does hits me. Let all officers and enlisted above E-5 pay for tricare. Give congress/senate a 10% reduction in pay and freeze their salaries until they listen to the people or come up with something acceptable. Also stopping the obamas from their lavish parties wouldn’t hurt.

  • Dawn

    A suggestion my husband told me would be to get rid of all the security guards at all the military installations. Either the MP’s do the security at the gates or have the soldiers do a rotation as a security guard like they pull CQ or staff duty. According to him this would save millions of dollars a year.

  • It really irritates me that the military is always where they to make cuts. When our military members signed on the dotted line, they were promised specific benefits. Everytime our government overspends by helping other countries out or giving themselves raises, they want to cut things that have been promised to the military members. Why don’t they take a 3 year salary freeze or maybe even a salary cut? We never see Congress, the Senate or the President take any cut in their benefits! Do they ever lay their life on the line for our country? NO! Sorry, I’ll get off of my soap box now. Just blowing a little steam.

  • CleoBarker

    If I keep taking pay cuts and benefit cuts, then so does the Senate, House, Congress, etc. Stop targetting me because then I’ll just target you in elections and opinion polls. All Government, federal employees, military should all take proportional pay cuts. You cut one, you cut all of them gall darnit!! It sucks to keep sacrificing mine when all comparable gov forces don’t get jack cut or taken from them. Is it normal to feel targeted for this type of thing??

  • land911

    When asked what spending I would cut, I think back to when my husband (now a disabled Veteran) was in the US Army (Honorable discharge in 1980). My husband was assigned to work in some warehouse (kind of like shipping and receiving) for a few months for light duty. He told me that they received boxes of nails (if you go to Menards or Home Depot today, you would pay about $15 to $20 for the same size box, back in 1979 or 1980 you would have paid $5),and the invoice said $100 per box.
    In todays market that would be $300 to $400 per box.
    Cut the high spending for supplies. Why pay $100 per box of nails when you could get the same size box for $5? I believe the suppliers are taking the government for a ride, this should be checked into!

  • S. Cockrell

    Let’s start with a serious review of the General Officers/Admirals – do we really need that many… then let’s take a look at some of the sacred cows – the Military Academies and Post Graduate Schools – say, combine the academies into one educational institution and then use the civilian sector for post-graduate degrees. Combine and revise the procurement systems instead of having one for each branch of service… Reduce congressional salaries and perks – especially the retirement package they get – lifetime for say 4 years of congressional service. Take a very hard look at the big ticket items – especially those that are replicated across multiple war fighter platforms. Reduce US military presence in Europe. Increase support to the wounded veterans who made the ultimate sacrifice and leave the retirees alone – they’ve paid their dues.