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General News    H3'ed 7/7/22

Tomgram: William Hartung, Call It the National (In)security Budget

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This article originally appeared at TomDispatch.com. To receive TomDispatch in your inbox three times a week, click here.

Yes, Afghanistan went down the drain and Washington's global war on terror ended (more or less) in disaster 20 years after it began. But the urge to militarize the planet? Not a chance in an American world where, as TomDispatch regular William Hartung lays out in striking detail today, the Pentagon and the military-industrial complex plan to continue ruling the roost in Washington for time eternal.

So, war, what is it good for? Absolutely something! In that sense, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, a horror of the first order, has been anything but bad for the Pentagon. Just in case you hadn't noticed, three decades after the old Cold War ended, with a distinct helping hand from Russian president Vladimir Putin, the Biden administration has been playing its part admirably in ramping up this country's newest version of the old Cold War into an ever more militarized set of confrontations.

It's not just the CIA operatives in Ukraine or the sending of U.S. troops to neighboring Poland early in the Ukraine war. Only last week, at a NATO summit, President Biden announced that this country would ramp up its military presence in Europe yet again on land, sea, and in the air. (Keep in mind that, since the war in Ukraine began, Washington had already dispatched an extra 20,000 troops to Europe, raising its forces there above 100,000.) At least 3,000 more combat troops are now heading for Romania, two F-35 squadrons for Great Britain, U.S. naval ships for Spain, and the U.S. 5th Army Corps will establish a sizeable permanent base and headquarters in Poland, while there will be unspecified "enhanced" deployments in the Baltics and American forces will be upped in Germany and Italy, too.

And this isn't just happening in Europe to face down an outrageous Russian invasion of Ukraine. An increasingly militarized commitment to Asia, especially Taiwan, and a new Cold War with China has been in the cards for a while now. I'm sure you remember our president upping the ante there by responding to a reporter's question about whether the U.S. would ever get militarily involved in defending Taiwan this way: "Yes, that's the commitment we made." True, his aides walked him back on the subject, but from sending American naval vessels through the Taiwan strait and into the South China Sea to ramping up naval war exercises with allies in the Pacific, everything seems to be getting colder and colder in ways that seem hotter and hotter.

The world may look more ominous to some of us, but not, it seems, to the Pentagon. In terms of what matters to our military leaders, things " think: funding " are only (and eternally) on the upswing. Keep all of this in mind as you read Hartung's latest yearly look at our national (in)security budget and how, in a world with so many other problems, it continues to go through the roof. Tom

Fueling the Warfare State
America's $1.4 Trillion "National Security" Budget Makes Us Ever Less Safe

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This March, when the Biden administration presented a staggering $813 billion proposal for "national defense," it was hard to imagine a budget that could go significantly higher or be more generous to the denizens of the military-industrial complex. After all, that request represented far more than peak spending in the Korean or Vietnam War years, and well over $100 billion more than at the height of the Cold War.

It was, in fact, an astonishing figure by any measure " more than two-and-a-half times what China spends; more, in fact, than (and hold your hats for this one!) the national security budgets of the next nine countries, including China and Russia, combined. And yet the weapons industry and hawks in Congress are now demanding that even more be spent.

In recent National Defense Authorization Act proposals, which always set a marker for what Congress is willing to fork over to the Pentagon, the Senate and House Armed Services Committees both voted to increase the 2023 budget yet again " by $45 billion in the case of the Senate and $37 billion for the House. The final figure won't be determined until later this year, but Congress is likely to add tens of billions of dollars more than even the Biden administration wanted to what will most likely be a record for the Pentagon's already bloated budget.

This lust for yet more weapons spending is especially misguided at a time when a never-ending pandemic, growing heat waves and other depredations of climate change, and racial and economic injustice are devastating the lives of millions of Americans. Make no mistake about it: the greatest risks to our safety and our future are non-military in nature, with the exception, of course, of the threat of nuclear war, which could increase if the current budget goes through as planned.

But as TomDispatch readers know, the Pentagon is just one element in an ever more costly American national security state. Adding other military, intelligence, and internal-security expenditures to the Pentagon's budget brings the total upcoming "national security" budget to a mind-boggling $1.4 trillion. And note that, in June 2021, the last time my colleague Mandy Smithberger and I added up such costs to the taxpayer, that figure was almost $1.3 trillion, so the trend is obvious.

To understand how these vast sums are spent year after year, let's take a quick tour of America's national security budget, top to bottom.

The Pentagon's "Base" Budget

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Tom Engelhardt, who runs the Nation Institute's Tomdispatch.com ("a regular antidote to the mainstream media"), is the co-founder of the American Empire Project and, most recently, the author of Mission Unaccomplished: Tomdispatch (more...)
 

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