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OpEdNews Op Eds    H1'ed 8/30/19

The Great Cost and Myth of U.S. Defense Spending

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U.S. defense spending is out of control, severely undermining our ability to tackle climate change, infrastructure needs, health care, and other national challenges. The mainstream media, particularly the New York Times and Washington Post, contribute to the problem of defense spending by understating the cost of defense.

Journalists and pundits regularly refer to U.S. defense spending as greater than the next seven or eight countries. Nonsense! U.S. defense spending when correctly tabulated exceeds the defense spending of the rest of the global community. Current defense spending is greater than $1 trillion and the bipartisan support for U.S defense spending assures continued increases. Many of the largest spenders on defense, moreover, are our treaty allies.

Most estimates of U.S. defense spending cite only the budget figures for the Pentagon, which points toward $750 billion. However, much of the spending of many agencies, particularly in the intelligence community (more than $70 billion), is devoted to support of the military. The same can be said for the Department of Homeland Security (also around $70 billion) as well as the Department of Energy ($30 billion), which devotes huge sums to nuclear forces. The Veterans Administration (nearly $200 billion), moreover, must be considered part and parcel of U.S. defense spending. At the same time, the Trump administration is cutting the spending of U.S. cabinet agencies to support defense spending, excluding not only the Department of Defense, but the Department of Homeland Security and the Veterans Administration.

When these departments and agencies are taken into account, U.S. defense spending greatly exceeds $1 trillion, which finds very little criticism within the Congress or the various think tanks that address the issue of military spending. With the loss of Senators Carl Levin (D-MI) and John McCain (R-AZ), there has been no bipartisan scrutiny of defense spending. This is particularly troubling at this time because the various Democratic candidates for the presidency have little background in the field of national security, let alone the abstruse aspects of defense spending, and there is no attention given to the many obvious areas for cutting back allocations for defense.

The trillions of dollars allocated for defense in recent years received insufficient congressional monitoring and internal oversight. Until recently, the Pentagon budget was the only large federal budget that had never been audited, and last year's audit, which cost nearly $400 million, produced a failing grade for the Pentagon. President Eisenhower's warning about the military-industrial complex nearly 60 years ago noted that military demands on U.S. spending would become a "cross of iron" that would limit domestic spending. Now, at a time when there are no serious challenges to U.S. security or military supremacy, more than 60 percent of U.S. discretionary spending goes to support defense.

There is no better example of the insidious nature of the military-industrial complex than the industry's recruitment of retired generals to become executives at defense companies and the Pentagon's use of these same retired generals to take part in exercises involving weapons systems that their companies are vying to build for the military. Retired generals and admirals are also working as military analysts for television and radio networks, often receiving classified briefings from the Pentagon before their on-air appearances. Nevertheless, a recent Inspector General study found no conflict of interest involving these officers.

Every aspect of the Pentagon's budget needs to be scrutinized for savings, including procurement, operations and maintenance, and infrastructure. There are hundreds of U.S. military facilities overseas with hundreds of thousands of U.S. military personnel stationed there. By comparison, China has one overseas facility, a small one on the Horn of Africa, and Russia has only modest air and naval facilities in Syria outside the former Soviet space. Procurement boondoggles have robbed the U.S. treasury of hundreds of billions of dollars, particularly for national missile defense and the Army's Future Combat System, which consists of interconnected vehicles, robots, and sensing devices. Hugely expensive U.S. aircraft carriers are vulnerable to inexpensive sophisticated cruise missiles in the Russian and Chinese inventories.

The excessive spending on the Air Force is the most wasteful of all military expenditures. The Air Force is obsessed with fighter superiority in an era without a threat. Pentagon briefings on Capitol Hill regularly exaggerate the capabilities of foreign air defense. Billions of dollars have been spent on advanced aircraft, such as the B-1 bomber and the F-22 fighter, which have never been deployed in Iraq or Afghanistan or any other combat zone. The F-22 was designed in the mid-1980s to confront Soviet fighter planes that were never built. The F-22 program was eventually killed to make way for the more costly and contentious F-35 program.

Like the Air Force and its dominance of the skies, the Navy has had total dominance at sea for the past six decades. U.S naval ships are deployed in too many areas with too many missions. The Navy, moreover, has its own air force, its own army, and its own strategic weapons. It has greater lethality than all of the navies of the world combined and has a subordinate organization, the Coast Guard, which represents the world's seventh largest fleet. The U.S. Marines, moreover, have more planes, ships, armored vehicles, and personnel in uniform than the entire British military. The very existence of the Marine Corps is questionable in view of the fact that its last amphibious landing was in the first year of the Korean War nearly 60 years ago.

One of the best kept secrets of the past 60 years has been the high cost of producing and maintaining nuclear weapons somewhere between $5 and $6 trillion, which represents one-fourth to one-third of overall defense spending. The total is roughly equivalent to the total amount of money spent on the Army or the Navy since World War Two. When the United States began to develop and deploy nuclear weapons, the military-industrial complex stressed that the huge investment in nuclear systems would allow a smaller army and navy. Meanwhile, our army and navy have gotten larger and costlier for taxpayers.

In sum, Republican Presidents George W. Bush and Donald Trump have created the worst of all possible strategic worlds. Bush abrogated the ABM Treaty, the cornerstone of deterrence and one of the pearls of arms control and disarmament policy, and paved the way for the murky world of national missile defense, which costs hundreds of billions of dollars. Trump abrogated the INF Treaty, one of the most successful disarmament treaties in history, and paved the way for a renewed arms race in Europe and Asia. These actions were guided by John Bolton who served as an arms control adviser to Bush and the national security adviser to Trump. As a result, incentives have been created for others to deploy intercontinental missiles, modernize strategic inventories, pursue weapons of mass destruction, and follow the folly of national missile defense. Once again, only the interests of the military-industrial complex are being served.

Cicero said that "endless money forms the sinews of war." So it is not surprising that the United States has been in conflict for nearly all of the past three decades. At the same time, there has been a withdrawal from the world of diplomacy, which finds that there are fewer Foreign Service Officers than there are members of military service bands.

 

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14 people are discussing this page, with 24 comments


Michael Dewey

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Country claiming to trust in god with every buck it spends is going the opposite direction of his will for these times in Isaiah 2 and Micah 4 when nations beat swords into plowshares, feeding the world and never training for war again. Taking the Nukes apart and stopping the production of more weapons is all that is required of this generation.

Submitted on Friday, Aug 30, 2019 at 10:18:42 PM

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Don Smith

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Lots of good arguments, but not enough documentation. And some of the facts seem squishy. For example, "last year's audit, which cost nearly $400 million, produced a failing grade for the Pentagon." In fact, I recall that the audit failed in the sense that the Pentagon was unable to complete it. Their records were of too low quality, and the Pentagon refused to cooperate.

Submitted on Saturday, Aug 31, 2019 at 1:36:58 PM

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shad williams

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Reply to Don Smith:   New Content

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ho ho ho ho he he he he...not enough documentation...Perhaps we should ask John Whitehead whether there is sufficient documentation for us to stop bitching as I love to do and start kicking some ass as I would love to do?

There is no point in thinking that this reality needs more documentation or evidence. There is no point in thinking about whether there will be another reality for us if this one ends, so we might as well do what needs to be done in this one.

Submitted on Sunday, Sep 1, 2019 at 4:38:36 AM

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Dennis Kaiser

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It's time we the people begin not only listening to but reacting to what people like Tulsi Gabbard are telling us about the bloated military give away that are falsely sold to us as "keeping us safe". The truth is further removed when one saw how safe they kept us on 9/11 as they were completely invisible for hours.

The reality is we the people have been lied to over and over in order to have our tax dollars squandered by the Military-Industrial Complex by using these illegal regime change crimes against humanity in countries with no other reasonable motive evident. In every case where the story given us by the Presstitute Media Propagandist accomplices the "ruthless dictator" in charge is removed by a much more ruthless group making it devastating for the citizens of that nation as well as thoroughly imploding the economy of that nation, thus creating nothing but claims of crimes against humanity on leaders of our nation and these crimes could actually include those against our own people as due to having fewer funds available for our own when see millions dying due to unaffordability of adequate healthcare, more people living in poverty, as many as 500,000 filing bankruptcy due to high costs of healthcare, our nation's infrastructure collapsing with millions living in hazardous conditions, and more.

To further exacerbate the bloated expense of the MIC is the huge amount of monies allocated that goes unaccounted for. It is noted that some 15-20% of the funds allocated cannot be accounted for annually. This alone could provide much to the above-mentioned failures. This alone is significant, but the biggest problem is the lack of concern by our legislators as they annually increase the budget amount rather than realize if money is not accounted for it means it wasn't actually needed because if it was needed people would know where it went.

It's time we begin listening to the Tulsi Gabbards rather than allow their voices to be stifled. Like the unaccounted tax dollars mentioned above the stifling of voice on the matter is just as telling.

We need to start listening and acting.

Submitted on Saturday, Aug 31, 2019 at 1:50:21 PM

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Start acting as if we are the sharp end of the stick rather than the other way round.

Submitted on Sunday, Sep 1, 2019 at 4:40:04 AM

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The rich cannot earn one cent without people. All Americans pay taxes and then only the rich decide how the tax money is going to be spent. This is theft, not only of tax money but also the theft of the future of the people. The rich have taken the right from American people to decide about their future.

Submitted on Saturday, Aug 31, 2019 at 1:56:11 PM

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On the contrary Aleksandar, the "rich" have taken nothing from the people that the people did not ALLOW them to take. Frankly, I get tired of this regular complaint. The "People" have many opportunities available to them, to ensure their representatives Truly and Honestly represent them every time an election comes up. Yet strangely, in every such election, the vote back into power these same representatives that have NOT been representing them. From where I sit, that's really strange behaviour indeed, and it DOES place responsibility on these "people" for their inaction. Yes, I know, voting can be, and IS rigged in many cases. But that still does not cut the mustard, where are the protests from these "people" against the outcomes that THEY claim does not represent accurately THEIR vote ???? We hear/see such protests in other countries when the "people" are disappointed by the outcome of such elections all the time. But in the U.S. such protests never happen, OR if they do, are not reported in the MSM. At the end of the day, the "people" get the Government they deserve.

Submitted on Sunday, Sep 1, 2019 at 2:49:34 AM

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If what you say is true, then humans don't deserve to exist. Imagine something like a human being in charge of an entire planet.

Submitted on Sunday, Sep 1, 2019 at 4:44:43 AM

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In the author's tally of the true cost for the military, he failed to mention the interest payment on debt incurred because of past military expenditures. The last I checked, that amount comes to about $400 million a year. On a daily level, the total sum comes to roughly $4 billion per day. It's beyond me how the public acquiesces. But when you realize that there are many households with insane policies, and if you regard the country as much as an entity as a household, then such behavior is not out of the realm of understandability.

Submitted on Saturday, Aug 31, 2019 at 3:44:43 PM

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Now your narrowing the issue down. IMHO.

Submitted on Sunday, Sep 1, 2019 at 2:53:37 AM

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Wasn't there anything you liked about the article?

As far as household policies go, do you have any treasury grade money printing plates? If I had some of those I could employ people all over the world to print goo gobs of fiat dollars...hell we could buy England, the little bleating sheep Boris would give it up.

Submitted on Sunday, Sep 1, 2019 at 4:55:53 AM

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I wish thinking people would quit calling it "defense" spending. It is empire spending. It is the funding of the "war of terror" on the world.

Submitted on Saturday, Aug 31, 2019 at 4:55:57 PM

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I always refer to it as military spending. Empire spending is even more accurate. Words matter.

Submitted on Sunday, Sep 1, 2019 at 3:52:22 PM

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DOD needs to call itself the War Dept as it once did.Our military has little to do with "defense".

Submitted on Saturday, Aug 31, 2019 at 5:20:29 PM

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The main point of this article is correct and important: US military spending is absurdly high, and much of the money is unaccounted for.

Unfortunately, there is a major error in language caused by the saturation of propaganda within the US media. Very little of this expense is for defense, an activity which is not merely allowed but called for by the US Constitution. Almost all this spending is for offense, including many activities strictly prohibited to the US government by the US Constitution, particularly the Bill of Rights. Almost all of the money actually spent on defense is only to counter threats recruited by the offensive parts of the the US military establishment. A realistic military budget, for the purpose of defense only, would be under $100 billion. (It would take several years additional spending above $100G, but below $500G, to mothball offensive capability.)

Submitted on Saturday, Aug 31, 2019 at 5:56:28 PM

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There are also a number of factual errors in the article that should be corrected. These include:

1) Eisenhower's "Cross of Iron" speech was given in 1953, not almost 6 decades ago but noticeably more than that. This warned the military budget threatened spending for domestic welfare (a Constitutional duty). It was a precursor to the better remembered military industrial complex speech, given in 1961. Perhaps Ike was just covering his butt, as he presided over the establishment of the "peacetime" permanently large military industrial complex, and the Cross of Iron speech makes clear he knew what was going on when it happened. He even drafted Elvis. Also, he initiated the Turko-Cuban missile crisis.

2) The B-1 bomber was used in combat in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and also Kosovo.

3) The F-22 was not used in Iraq or Afghanistan because it was not deemed ready, and the target air forces insufficient and non-existent, but it has participated in combat in Syria. The F-22 program was not killed. Design and production have ended, but operational, maintenance, and upgrade costs continue.

The article alludes to, but does not make explicit, that the huge size and culture of the US military pretty much guarantees near continuous war, including the Cold War threat of major nuclear annihilation. Its actions greatly increase the threat to USA itself (including confirming the practice that killing civilians is a primary strategy of war, and not just an unavoidable side effect).

This article also ignores the collusion of the Democrats with the Republicans in the more recent wars in southwest Asia, which mirrors the Republican collusion with the Democrats in the east Asian wars prior to that. Obama was to Bush as Nixon was to Johnson.

Submitted on Saturday, Aug 31, 2019 at 5:57:45 PM

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"Obama was to Bush as Nixon was to Johnson." Brilliant!

Submitted on Sunday, Sep 1, 2019 at 1:05:19 AM

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To Plymouth, Jamestown, George Washington to Abraham Lincoln to Donald Trump to Venezuela.

Submitted on Sunday, Sep 1, 2019 at 5:00:07 AM

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Sorry,Shad but what the heck does that mean?

Submitted on Sunday, Sep 1, 2019 at 7:12:44 PM

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I am suggesting that the ruling class been ruling through their proxies much longer than the past three US presidents - US history is replete with acts of empire building that has artfully been pushed off the front pages of k-12. More and more of this history is becoming dissiminated. I feel like a dupe.

Submitted on Monday, Sep 2, 2019 at 5:21:07 AM

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Haarrummmpfff

Submitted on Sunday, Sep 1, 2019 at 4:57:13 AM

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Militaries exist to blow stuff up and kill people, wholly antisocial behavior which does nothing to advance worthy goals. As world leaders we must STOP this hateful nonsense and start solving problems.

Submitted on Sunday, Sep 1, 2019 at 1:16:34 PM

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Wars are for profit and plunder. Not defense. Human progress has been held hostage to a gang of psychopathic thugs for thousands of years. We have reached the point where our weapons not only drain national coffers of needed resources, but threaten human extinction. At this point we either choose to evolve or we bring about our own demise.

Submitted on Sunday, Sep 1, 2019 at 4:00:59 PM

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On September 10th, 2001, it was publicly announced that $11 trillion had gone missing from the Pentagon. We all know what happened the next day. Coincidence, or part of a coverup? That number has more than doubled since then, with no accountability whatsoever. The Pentagon is the biggest money laundering operation in the world, a cancer on our nation that threatens to consume it. Like others have pointed out, our military is not about protection, so much as waging unnecessary wars to justify the bloated budget, as well as controlling of other nations around the globe.

Submitted on Monday, Sep 2, 2019 at 3:33:07 AM

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