We need to cut our bloated national security budget
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
A thief was asked, “Why do you rob banks?” And he famously replied, “Because that’s where the money is.”
We should take our cue from that thief and look to solve our budget and deficit problems by going where the money is. The money is in the bloated sacred cow that is our military and national security budget.
The strictly military or current Pentagon budget is about $700 billion per year, including the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. And as Gordon Adams, who oversaw military spending for the Clinton administration, has pointed out: “We spend about a third of the defense budget not for national security reasons but because whatever program or facility you propose to cut is in some congresspersons’ district or state.”
Get it? Right there, we are wasting hundreds of billions every year because Congress is captured by the campaign contributions of industries serving the military and voters who don’t realize that jobs lost by cutting military spending can be replaced with better jobs doing truly useful things.
I’m talking useful things like repairing our crumbling infrastructure before more bridges fall into the water taking unlucky drivers to their deaths. Like really putting serious money into developing clean energy and other important technologies. Like providing better education for our children.
Then if you add to the Pentagon’s $700 billion for such items as counterterrorism activities of the State Department and other agencies, U.S. intelligence agencies, veterans’ programs, foreign military aid and other miscellany, the true national security budget is a whopping $1.2 trillion.
Even TIME magazine last April proposed major cuts to the military budget. Their article pointed out that we keep building aircraft carriers at $15 billion each, when we already have too many and they are becoming obsolete. They are vulnerable to enemy missiles and feature expensive manned aircraft when drones and missiles can do the job.
Their article asked if we really need to spend many billions for new jet fighters when existing fleets of of F-15s, F-16s and F18s will give us vast air superiority for years to come. Why does the Navy need 50 attack submarines? Does the Army still need 80,000 troops in Europe?
What is all this for, TIME asked, in light of the following. “If the Chinese want to slay us, they don’t need to attack us with their missiles. They just have to call in their loans.” And this: “We’ve waged war nonstop for nearly a decade in Afghanistan – at a cost of nearly half a trillion dollars – against a foe with no army, no navy, and no air force.”
We now have 17 intelligence agencies, which are by all accounts, mired in turf wars and general confusion. They generate so much raw, unfocused information that most of it can’t even be reviewed much less analyzed. At least $100 billion could be cut here, and we’d never notice the difference.
Another area ripe for reduction is our insane number of military bases abroad. These reflect a truly dysfunctional foreign policy, namely the delusion that we can control the whole world.
The whole bloated national security budget represents half of all our federal discretionary spending (excluding entitlements like Medicare). After adjusting for inflation, it is now 50 percent higher than the average spent during the cold war years. And we spend more on our military than the rest of the world combined.
Today more than ever we need to remember the warning of Dwight Eisenhower to beware the influence of the military-industrial complex. And the more recent warning of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen that the single biggest threat to our national security is our debt.
TIME’s article concluded: “For too long, an uninterested and distracted citizenry has been content to leave the messy business of national defense to those with bottom-line reasons for force-feeding it like a foie gras goose.”
– “What Do We Really Want?” appears on the second and fourth Thursdays of the month. Mary Boland is a retired teacher and journalist, a proud grandmother, and a longtime resident of Carbondale. Follow her on twitter@grannyboland.
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