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Rep. proposes alternatives for military cuts
Mandated military budget cuts through a process called sequestration are looming Jan. 1, but U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston, R-1, says there is a better way to reduce the federal deficit.

Kingston has released a list of potential ways to reduce Department of Defense spending without cutting every military program by about 10 percent, which is what sequestration will require.

Sequestration does not give elected officials and military leaders flexibility to choose which programs to protect, reduce or eliminate. Kingston said the list is a starting point for discussion.

"Everybody needs to be putting lists on the table," he said.

For example, Kingston believes there is little reason to maintain over 75,000 troops in Western Europe. If the force were cut to 35,000, Kingston said there would be little risk because the threat of conflict in the region is minimal. The proposal would result in a one-time savings of $30 billion.

Other examples of possible savings proposed by Kingston, a member of the House Appropriations Committee, include:

* Eliminating excess inventory of spare parts and secondary items for a savings of $500 million.

* Stopping the production of tanks for the Army, which has 1,547 tanks and has indicated it doesn't need any more, even though they are still being manufactured.

"The tank has had a good run," Kingston said. "It's time to pull the plug."

* Scaling back and eliminating unneeded emergency funds for the war in Afghanistan for a potential savings of more than $1.2 billion.

* Terminating the Medium Extended Air Defense System, which military analysts say has under-performed.

* Restricting requirements for no-bid contracts with the Department of Defense.

* Reducing military flyovers at sporting events, which can cost $100,000 or more. (About 1,000 flyovers a year cost the government about $100 million.)

"The military says it helps recruitment," he said.

But he said the military has never been able to quantify the impact flyovers have on recruitment.

One of the big problems, he said, is that individual congressmen and senators are too protective of their districts at the expense of the national economy.

Kingston said he never tried to block the decision to send four Trident submarines stationed at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay to a base in Bangor, Wash., a decade ago because it was in the best interest of national security, even though it was painful to the regional economy.

The Navy made the decision because there were more threats to national security in the Pacific. He said he hopes other elected officials in different areas of the nation follow that example.

"I think people have to get used to that and put the country first," he said. "Unless you can justify it, you have to come up with tough decisions."

Kingston believes military leaders, not elected officials, should have a bigger say in what they believe is vital and what can be reduced or eliminated.

"There's no question this is a good working document," Kingston said. "We need to trust the experts but they need to be able to defend what they're doing."

Kingston's Democratic opponent for the Nov. 6 election, Lesli Messinger, did not return a telephone call or respond to an email for comment.

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