US warfare spending

by reader Ilsm

Heritage Foundation’s Rant against Reductions to the War Machine:
Talking points aired on 14 Aug 2010 AM session of C-SPAN TV.

US warfare spending will decline to 3% of GDP by 2019. As if that is a problem. GDP is meaningless, especially when you see the tiny threats that the large percent of US GDP is supposed to address, and doing it very badly.

The figure that should be explained is what UK and Germany spend as percent of government outlays, aside from real reasons to have a war machine, a better measure than GDP. That they won’t go there reflects the fear that if the US citizen saw how little the Europeans spend the rational question is “what do they see about security challenges differently than the US”? The UK spends about 7% of outlays on “defence” while the US spends nearly 20% (just a bit less than SS outlays). What is wrong with this picture?

‘Rise of Peer Competitors’ is invoked, the wish (unsubstantiated) that ‘some other country would spend as counterpoint to the US’ does not make the reality test: double digit increases in China and Russia are on the order of $5-6B US a year, as if that could equate to the $1.6 T backlog (GAO 09-326SP) in the US in the 95 top investments the DoD is spendnding, all running late and 19% over original cost estimates, and not tested. However, if the US does not spend the trillions better it is likely a $50B annual defense increase will keep it at bay. (What is the GDP of the Taliban)?

But the push for austerity is now on the ‘cat food for oldsters commission’ train, and the drive is to attack human resources costs as too high and/or identify the need to cut retiree and dependent health care and pensions so that more money can be added to the overruns described annually by GAO. A department that cannot afford retiree health benefits must pay for huge fraud, and waste in its weapon procurement. Heritage does not think the US needs to worry about military retirees because only 20% of the force will get to retirement? Nice calculation for the personnel who do the fighting.

That most of equipment is from the 1970’s is an obviously false and cheeky comment and used to justify spending. The reason is twofold: first none of it is needed for the US without military peer competitors, and second the replacements are not needed the money is wasted in an inept welfare system that keeps incompetent ideas from and the money chasing after failures and not terminating in an orderly fashion. See such programs as the MV 22, F 22, B2, C 17 Littoral Combat Ships, San Antonio Class…. The list is long and the failure to actually replace hardware is less about stingy appropriation than ineptitude in the military industrial complex, which is paid well for the second or third failed attempt to build replacements for 1970’s (proposed against the Soviets by the way).

The US DOD should get less than 10% of US budget, and then carefully reduced to less than 5%.

(Rdan here…some editing for readability)