So where should policy makers reduce spending?

• First, eliminate unnecessary overhead in the Pentagon, defense agencies and headquarters staffs. Since 2001, these have grown like weeds. Over the past decade, the number of DOD civilians increased by more than 100,000, to roughly 778,000 in 2010, while the number of contractors also ballooned. …

• Second, take steps to reduce the costs of military health care without sacrificing quality of care. The current trajectory of the Pentagon’s health-care spending is unsustainable. DOD’s medical costs have more than doubled since 2001, to more than 10% of the defense budget from roughly 6%, and they are growing faster than any other federal health-care program: 10.6% per year, compared with 9% for the Veterans Administration and 8.5% for Medicare. Overall, U.S. health-care costs are rising 6.3% per year. …

• Third, cut excess infrastructure. Since the last Base Realignment and Closure Commission in the late 1990s, Congress has prevented the Defense Department from closing bases it no longer needs or consolidating infrastructure to better support evolving missions. This inability to shed or realign facilities hangs like an albatross around the department’s neck, consuming billions of dollars that could otherwise go to readiness and modernization. Congress should grant DOD’s request for another Base Realignment and Closure Commission round this year.