Empires don’t generally live within their means, which eventually means the end of the empire. The U.S. is no exception. From Doug Bandow at antiwar.com:
Originally appeared at the American Institute for Economic Research.
A new year dawns bright, with the US hurtling over the fiscal cliff. The lame duck Congress voted for a pork-packed $1.7 trillion budget bill. As the saying goes, it’s only money!
At a time of enormous domestic need, Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell pushed an extra $45 billion for Ukraine, declaring that Washington’s “number one priority” was supporting that nation. Kentuckians might wonder if their Senator had moved to Odesa, Kharkiv, or Lviv over the holidays.
Alas, this appropriation was small change compared to the overall “defense” (in fact, mostly for offensive operations) budget. Congress hiked military outlays to record levels, topping off the already-bloated Biden spending program at $858 billion. American taxpayers remain stuck subsidizing prosperous, populous Europeans, superfluous Middle Eastern monarchs, and cheap-riding Asian defense dependents.
Unwilling to raise taxes as it also shovels ever-more cash into social programs old and new, Congress simply borrows additional money as if loans need not be repaid. The publicly held national debt hit 100 percent of GDP and is heading toward the record of 106 percent set in 1946, at the conclusion of the worst war in human history. Within a decade the US faces trillion-dollar deficits for as far as government analysts can budget. By mid-century the Congressional Budget Office expects the debt/GDP ratio to run around 185 percent. And that assumes policymakers don’t do anything stupid, like approve massive new spending programs without paying for them. Which, unfortunately, is as certain as the rising of the sun.
Just what the military needs, another $45 billion. From Dave DeCamp at antiwar.com:
Congress is still finalizing the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act
The House and Senate have agreed to increase the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) by $45 billion more than President Biden requested, POLITICO reported on Wednesday.
The $45 billion increase was agreed on by the House and Senate Armed Service committees, but other details of the NDAA are still being finalized. The increase the two panels agreed on brings the bill to $847 billion.
Including programs outside of the jurisdiction of House and Senate Armed Service committees, the NDAA will reach $858 billion.
Once finalized, it will be the second year in a row that Congress significantly increases President Biden’s requested budget. Last year, the president asked for $753 billion but was granted an NDAA worth about $778 billion.
The POLITICO report said that the chairs of the Senate and House Armed Services committees have largely agreed on the bill and have handed it off to congressional leadership.
You’ve got to admire the ingenuity and chutzpah of the big defense contractors. From Medea Benjamin and Nicolas J.S. Davies at consortiumnews.com:
If it passes, the Reed/Inhofe amendment invoking wartime emergency spending powers will give the merchants of death what they are looking for, write Medea Benjamin and Nicolas J. S. Davies.
U.S. Sen. Jack Reed in 2019. (U.S. Army, Patrick Enright)
If the powerful leaders of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senators Jack Reed (D-RI) and Jim Inhofe (R-OK), have their way, Congress will soon invoke wartime emergency powers to build up even greater stockpiles of Pentagon weapons.
The amendment is supposedly designed to facilitate replenishing the weapons the United States has sent to Ukraine, but a look at the wish list contemplated in this amendment reveals a different story.
Reed and Inhofe’s idea is to tuck their wartime amendment into the FY2023 National Defense Appropriation Act (NDAA) that will be passed during the lame-duck session before the end of the year. The amendment sailed through the Armed Services Committee in mid-October and, if it becomes law, the Department of Defense will be allowed to lock in multi-year contracts and award non-competitive contracts to arms manufacturers for Ukraine-related weapons.
If the Reed/Inhofe amendment is really aimed at replenishing the Pentagon’s supplies, then why do the quantities in its wish list vastly surpass those sent to Ukraine?
Let’s do the comparison:
- The current “star” of U.S. military aid to Ukraine is Lockheed Martin’s HIMARS rocket system, the same weapon U.S. Marines used to help reduce much of Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, to rubble in 2017. The U.S. has sent 38 HIMARS systems to Ukraine, but Senators Reed and Inhofe plan to “reorder” 700 of them, with 100,000 rockets, which could cost up to $4 billion.
- Another artillery weapon provided to Ukraine is the M777 155 mm howitzer. To “replace” the 142 M777s sent to Ukraine, the senators plan to order 1,000 of them, at an estimated cost of $3.7 billion, from BAE Systems.
- HIMARS launchers can also fire Lockheed Martin’s long-range (up to 190 miles) MGM-140 ATACMS missiles, which the U.S. has not sent to Ukraine. In fact, the U.S. has only ever fired 560 of them, mostly at Iraq in 2003. The even longer-range “Precision Strike Missile,” formerly prohibited under the INF Treaty renounced by former President Donald Trump, will start replacing the ATACMS in 2023, yet the Reed-Inhofe Amendment would buy 6,000 ATACMS, 10 times more than the U.S. has ever used, at an estimated cost of $600 million.
When it comes to the defense budget, it’s always meet the new boss, same as the old boss. Consequently, the budget only heads one way, regardless of who’s in the presidency. From Mandy Smithberger at tomdispatch.com:
Joe Biden’s First 100 Days Were a Pentagon Prize
The first 100 days of President Joe Biden’s administration have come and gone. While somewhat exaggerated, that milestone is normally considered the honeymoon period for any new president. Buoyed by a recent election triumph and inauguration, he’s expected to be at the peak of his power when it comes to advancing the biggest, boldest items on his agenda.
And indeed, as far as, say, infrastructure or pandemic vaccination goals, Biden has delivered in a major way. Blindly funding the Pentagon and its priorities in the stratospheric fashion that’s become the essence of Washington has, however, proven another matter entirely. One-hundred days later and it’s remarkable how little has changed when it comes to pouring money into this country’s vast military infrastructure and the wars, ongoing or imagined, that accompany it.
For the past decade, debate about the Pentagon budget was governed, in part, by the Budget Control Act, which placed at least nominal caps on spending levels for both defense and non-defense agencies. In reality, though, unlike so many other government agencies, the Pentagon was never restrained by such a cap. Congress continued to raise its limits as military budgets only grew and, no less important, defense spending had a release valve that allowed staggering sums of money to flow without serious accounting into an off-budget fund meant especially for its wars and labelled “the overseas contingency operations account.” The Congressional Research Service has estimated that such supplemental spending from September 11, 2001, to fiscal year 2019 totaled an astonishing $2 trillion above and beyond the congressionally agreed upon Pentagon budget.
It’s now okay to question Motherhood (sexist patriarchal oppression) and Apple Pie (sugar delivery vehicle) but don’t ever, ever question the US defense budget. From Robert Koehler at antiwar.com:
The annual defense budget, passed recently by both the House (377-48) and Senate (82-8), came in at $738 billion for 2020, up from last year a sweet $22 billion.
War hits the motherlode every year.
“The money just isn’t there” for virtually anything that matters – you know, healthcare for all, free college tuition, clean water, eco-sustainable energy production – but we’ve sold the national soul to the war god so long ago that the perfunctory, bipartisan passage of the National Defense Authorization Act comes and goes every year with, at most, a few marginal cries of outrage and a big shrug from the media.
This year the NDAA came with a few extra stocking-stuffers for the warmongers and profiteers. It bequeathed the world an upgraded possibility of nuclear war and guaranteed the universe a future of bellicosity beyond the confines of Mother Earth.
The temptation for me as I write about this is to hide behind a façade of sarcasm as I hurl my scathing little criticisms at the politicians, the mainstream media and the corrupt bureaucratic farce known as the Pentagon. The alternative is to stand naked and vulnerable to what is being done: lobotomizing humanity’s collective thought process, killing the future.
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Congress is trying to use the appropriations process to tell all sorts of countries what they can and cannot do. From Alex Gorka at strategic-culture.org:
The House and Senate versions of the draft National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for fiscal year 2019 were unveiled by Congress on July 23. Both include a provision to temporarily bar the transfers of F-35 joint strike fighters (JSF) to Turkey. According to the final 2019 defense bill, the Defense Department would be required to submit a report to lawmakers within 90 days about the relationship with Ankara, all its foreign weapons deals, and Turkey’s move to purchase the S-400 air-defense system from Russia before any more sales could go through. Until then the US would sit on any weapons transfers to Turkey. Ankara’s decision to buy the Russian S-400 air-defense system, the “F-35 killer,” has greatly aggravated bilateral ties between the US and Turkey, a relationship that was already clouded by many other issues.
The House is expected to vote on the legislation this month, with the Senate taking it up in early August. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis had warned Congress against punishing Turkey by cutting off transfers of F-35s in retaliation for its plans to buy the Russian anti-aircraft system, but his opinion was ignored. The State Department has been putting pressure on Ankara to try to make it reconsider the S-400 deal, in favor of purchasing the less capable, US-made Patriot system. US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Wess Mitchell told the Senate “We’ve been very clear that across the board, an acquisition of S-400 will inevitably affect the prospects for Turkish military-industrial cooperation with the United States, including F-35.” Turkish officials view the US demand as blackmail.
Turkey is one of twelve partner nations in the F-35 program, nine of which have received the fighters through foreign military sales. Ankara has planned to purchase the 100 F-35 aircraft it technically already owns by investing $1.25 billion into the project. US legislators fear that using the F-35 and the S-400 together could compromise the F-35 and allow Russia to gain access to the sensitive technology. As a result, the true owner has been denied access to his property by both houses of US Congress.
The bill includes a compromise waiver under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) for the countries purchasing Russian military equipment, as long as they are taking steps to wean themselves from it.
To continue reading: The US 2019 Defense Budget Bill: Congress Defies the New World Order