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)
Cut all discretionary spending by 1/3! Let the Bush tax cuts expire. Lock entitlement spending at present value.
That will get us to a balanced budget in 3 years, then look at priorities of what needs to be expended.
But is there really any question about this? A lot of people make their living making stuff for the defence industry. I’ve been working in engineering for thirty years or so, and I can’t find a company which doesn’t have defence work somewhere. I once worked for a company that made graphics cards for game players (3Dfx). It was a great feeling for me to realize that I was working on something that just made people happy. But at a trade show once someone came by and told me he was from the Air Force, and that they were using our cards in helicopter simulators. I was pretty crushed. It seems as if noone can escape the graft of the defence department.
If we as a nation decide to reduce the military budget, many people will lose their livelihood. Many of those livelihoods are very good indeed, and the potential losers will fight to keep the status quo. It doesn’t matter if we can’t win wars, it just matters that paychecks show up.
This is slightly off topic, but I wonder. Burma has a large military establishment, and seems unable to prevail against anyone except for Buddhist monks. I wonder if the US could win a war against Burma
The defence budget, and the vast majority defence department, as far as I can tell, have nothing to do with warfighting or defence. They have to do with buying stuff from military suppliers.
True, last week Robert Reich wrote about the military industrial complex being an expensive jobs program, it is not much more. The wars and perpetual mobilization to spend federal money for jobs, dividends and sa feedback loop of political influence.
This is the crux of Eisenhower’s Jan 1961 military industrial complex speech.
I had been in the business, on the government side, over 38 years and was amazed that as the Soviet threats evaporated the only thing cut was the rate of growth.
The military industrial complex was not a growth industry for a few years in the 1990’s.
Since 9/11 the military industrial complex is again a growth industry with Sec Def’s concerned for the ‘health of the industry’. Despite the apparent and recurring faults and ineptitudes.
The “resources” are better applied elsewhere, except no one has overcome the undue influence
Read this for a compromise analysis of US military spending trends and imperatives. I often agree with Lawrence Korb, but always have problems with Loren Thompson.
Some day I will post about foriegn sales of US equipment.
The same thing happens to every president. They take him into a building and show him “things”. Things about what the rest of the world is planning and doing. I have been in that building and I can tell you that when you come out, you are scared to death. Our way of life seems like a fragile ship on a raging sea determined to destroy it. It would take an extremely strong (or extremely stupid) president to look at that proof and decide we need to cut our military by 50%. It needs to be done, but I don’t blame the presidents for not doing it.
Shuttering Joint Forces Command is a start, all they do is figure out industrial age war responses to all the frightful issue in the world where no one is formed like during WWII. They are feed stock for the military think tanks.
Militarism is not the best nor brightest solution to the fears of the pentagon.
Stupidity and fear of the PAC’s and neo con talking heads are what keep the US military from being cut by two thirds.
What stupidity? If the fear spread around the building and Langley were real how come the big ticket items are always late, expensive and unreliable, failing many of the tests to prove they are needed? How come inept and wasteful companies are still making defective war materials? If the stuff were so needed would not enemies be at the gates, and should not they be prosecuted for false claims under the acts from the same pillaging during the Civil War?
It takes an extremely gullible president with no critcal thinking to accept the briefing from CIA and the pentagon at face. The one who parrot it are militarists, ideologues or on the take.
A few facts: the US spends 50% of the world’s arms outlays “defending” a declining economy. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_military_expenditures
China is next with several times the manpower. UK third which reflects 7% of its budget and rapidly declining to pay for austerity as compared to the US’ 20%. Then a few more friends and Russia.
But as I say GDP is not a measure of the value or the potential, and the US’s trillion are routinely defeted by non governments who have tactical superiority fighting around the expensive sledge hammers sent to weed a garden.
Why cut discretionary by a paltry 1/3?
In UK it is less than 10% of outlays while in US it is 40%?
Seems that at least 2/3 cut is in order.
And to get the masses depending on SS to go along with cat food commission and watch the increase of the SS Trust fund by eliminating the COLA’s (should be on all federal retirements your mine and buffs) might as well get discretionary cut by 75%.
The SS surpluses would eliminate sovereign wealth, and privately held US government notes.
Ilsm–Thanks for the post. I am learning a lot from you and I appreciate the opportunity to do so. Nancy O.
You are welcome. My goal in retirement is to educate. There are a lot of “fallacious facts” running around about the wars and the military industrial complex and Dan is kind enough to give me a forum. I had been out of touch the past year with aging parent issues and now have time to research and improve my communicatiuon skills. More to come.
I started figuring it out about 20 years ago working as a GS in a major defense program. I began thinking on issues that just did not feel right, and researching.
A “fallacious fact” occurs in my experience when you tell your military customer you will meet a schedule or pass a test or come in on price, up to the last day, then fail to deliver. The tale was a “fallacious fact”. Does not drive the pentagon wild they thrive on “fallacious facts” and sending good money after bad and paying over and over for scrap and rework.
This my ire at the Heritage crocadile tears about all the old equipment. It is not old because the taxpayer has been stingy. The industry keeps delivering waste and rework.
Lot’s of them in the pentagon and their cronie industry.
I am in awe that the problems have not changed with adminsitrations, rising deficits and scarcity of enemies.
I take note of the exit of a portion of our military presence in Iraq.
And I wipe a small portion of the Bush extrement from my face and breath a little easier that, perhaps, we can rid ourselves of the Southern plantation, evangelical republicans that are dead set against the social society that produced such a good way of life for the USA and the world since WW2.
We must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientifictechnological elite.
(In his “milatary industrial complex” speech)
As I watched the pathetic conastoga wagon troop transport vehicles passing the gate into Kuwait, I felt like puking at the obvious lamo engineering, with the wire and plate steel “protections” that our “contractors” have produced. IMO, they are particularly cynical, pathetic example of the republican privatization effort.
No wonder so many of our American troops were maimed and killed by the IED’s.
Something has to change, now.
Barack O’bama needs to go. What a cynical, f**cking pol he has turned out to be.
The pentagon has to be brought under control, with a huge, and immediate cut to their budget (55 %). The domestic spying has to stop.
The war in Iraq and Afghanistan are a symptom of the sickness that has engulfed the USA since the rise of the reaganauts.
I will add that BO is a much better choice than any “thing” that the sick fuck republicans have to offer.
Sandy, I see it like you. Obama was wishy-washy on health care and supported to increase fighting in Afghanistan. But the leadership of the party preferred him over Hillary. Still he towered over McCain and looking what the Republicans have to offer as of now is absolutely scary. It is the party of the lunatics.
At the end, in my opinion, there must be a combination of fiscal stimulus, low interest rate, public investment, industrial policy, trade deficit reduction and tax havens closure as a way out of this nightmare
a.- The defense budget must be greatly reduced, and expend this money in infrastructures that acts as “economic multipliers”, for example= why not to build some nuclear power plants to have less energy imports, and have an advantage in production costs associated to the energy costs?. Also the green energy should be help in the research and development phase to get a real competitive energy prices
b.- The interest rates should be maintained low in the next years, as an incentive to the investment, and also to avoid the nightmare a high interest rate could pose to the people with variable interest mortgage that can give the keys of their houses to the banks in millions, and then wrecking havoc to the now damaged financial system
c.- There must have an industrial policy, helping new factories that produce jobs, and installing a “fair” trade policy, more than a “free” trade policy. USA cannot compete with an authoritarian state that maintains slavery labor conditions to his workers and no environmental constrains to the factories. This way of life in those countries are not sustainable in the long term, but before it collapses they could destroy all the industrial base of the western countries, now very depleted (except Germany of course). Also the technology and know-how provide by the public universities and research centers should be not allowed to be sent oversea to give an advantage to others countries that do not invest in this kind of things
d.- The tax cut for the rich must finish, also prosecute much hardly the black economy and tax havens where a huge amount of money is lost. The tax havens are really an scandal in this time, and nobody seems interested in close them
Those are some things to start to do
Let’s work for these things.
As usual, I’m a dollar short and a day late in responding, but I think the DFC and Lysistrata make good points.
My own feeling about the Clintons are that they were and are tools of Walmart, the worst of the offshoring criminals.
I think that Bill and Hillary, who was a Walmart corporate Director, are as much responsible for the “fwee martet” agenda as any republican jerk off. Walmart, as the largest domestic retailer, is continuously operating politically, quietly and behind the scenes, from Bentonville Arkansas. Anyone thinking that Billy Clinton, the best republican president we have had since Ike, was not front running the Walmart agenda is not paying attention.
I agree: Fair trade trumps the tragically academic naivete of “fwee twade”. China and Japan are not the only mercantilists operating in the US. The Europeans have been about mercantilism for centuries, that is why their history is marred with world wars. Germany is mercing the US as we speak.
Best to all.