Tag Archives: Military spending

The Ruinously Expensive American Military, by Philip Giraldi

Being in the military used to be a low remuneration occupation. No more. From Philip Giraldi at unz.com:

Pay and benefits are out of control

America’s Republican politicians complain that “entitlements,” by which they mean pensions and medical care, are leading the country to bankruptcy even as they fatten the spending on the Pentagon, which now takes 12 percent of the overall budget. And it should be noted that while workers contribute to the social programs during all their years of employment, the money that goes to the military comes straight out of the pockets of taxpayers before being wasted in ways that scarcely benefit the average citizen unless one seriously thinks that folks over in Syria, Iran and Afghanistan actually do threaten the survival of the United States of America.

I was in a Virginia supermarket the other day checking out when the woman behind the cash register in a perky voice asked me “Will you give $5 to support our troops?” I responded “No. Our troops already get way too much of our money.” She replied, “Hee, hee that’s a funny joke” and I said “It’s not a joke.” Her face dropped and she signaled to her boss over in customer service and asked her to take over, saying that I had been rude.

If there is any group in the United States that exceeds the sheer greed of our politicians it is the military, which believes itself to be “entitled” as a consequence of its role in the global war on terror. I am a veteran who began service in a largely draftee army in which we were paid “twenty-one dollars a day once a month” as the old World War 2 song goes. When we got out, the GI Bill gave us $175 a month to go back to college, which did not cover much.

Today’s United States has 2,083,000 soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen on active duty plus reserves. Now that the military is an all-volunteer rather than a conscript force, it is understandable that pay and benefits should be close to or equivalent to civilian pay scales. Currently, a sergeant first class with 10 years in service gets paid $3968 a month. A captain with ten years gets $6271. That amounts to $47,616 and $75,252 a year respectively plus healthcare, food, housing, cost of living increases and bonuses to include combat pay.

To continue reading: The Ruinously Expensive American Military

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How the Pentagon Devours the Budget, Normalizing Budgetary Bloat, by William Hurting

The Pentagon has never been subjected to an audit, but Congress has passed two years worth of budgets that give it, and its contractors, huge increases over prior years, everything they could dream of…and more. From William Hartung at tomdispatch.com:

Imagine for a moment a scheme in which American taxpayers were taken to the cleaners to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars and there was barely a hint of criticism or outrage.  Imagine as well that the White House and a majority of the politicians in Washington, no matter the party, acquiesced in the arrangement.  In fact, the annual quest to boost Pentagon spending into the stratosphere regularly follows that very scenario, assisted by predictions of imminent doom from industry-funded hawks with a vested interest in increased military outlays.

Most Americans are probably aware that the Pentagon spends a lot of money, but it’s unlikely they grasp just how huge those sums really are.  All too often, astonishingly lavish military budgets are treated as if they were part of the natural order, like death or taxes.

The figures contained in the recent budget deal that kept Congress open, as well as in President Trump’s budget proposal for 2019, are a case in point: $700 billion for the Pentagon and related programs in 2018 and $716 billion the following year.  Remarkably, such numbers far exceeded even the Pentagon’s own expansive expectations.  According to Donald Trump, admittedly not the most reliable source in all cases, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis reportedly said, “Wow, I can’t believe we got everything we wanted” — a rare admission from the head of an organization whose only response to virtually any budget proposal is to ask for more.

The public reaction to such staggering Pentagon budget hikes was muted, to put it mildly. Unlike last year’s tax giveaway to the rich, throwing near-record amounts of tax dollars at the Department of Defense generated no visible public outrage.  Yet those tax cuts and Pentagon increases are closely related.  The Trump administration’s pairing of the two mimics the failed approach of President Ronald Reagan in the 1980s — only more so.  It’s a phenomenon I’ve termed “Reaganomics on steroids.”  Reagan’s approach yielded oceans of red ink and a severe weakening of the social safety net.  It also provoked such a strong pushback that he later backtracked by raising taxes and set the stage for sharp reductions in nuclear weapons.

To continue reading: How the Pentagon Devours the Budget, Normalizing Budgetary Bloat

What Would an ‘America First!’ Security Policy Look Like? by James George Jatras

Imagine, a defensive defense policy, no more global cop. From James George Jatras at strategic-culture.com:

Republicans love to caricature Democrats as big spenders whose only approach to any problem is to throw money at it. As with most caricatures, it is made easy by the fact that it is mostly true. At least when it comes to domestic entitlement programs, nobody can top the party of FDR and JFK when it comes to doling out goodies to favored constituencies paid for by picking someone else’s pocket.

However, Republicans are hardly the zealous guardians of the public purse they would have us believe. While quick to trash their partisan opponents for making free with taxpayers’ money, they are no less happy to do the same – at least when it’s called “national defense.”

Over the next five years, the Trump administration will spend $3.6 trillion on the military. The GOP-controlled Congress’s approved, with Republicans voting overwhelmingly in the affirmative, the “Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018” (HR 1892) and the “National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018” (HR 2810). With respect to the former, the watchdog National Taxpayers Union urged a No vote:

‘An initial estimate of approximately $300 billion in new spending above the law’s caps barely scratches the surface in terms of total spending. The two-year deal also includes $155 billion in defense and non-defense Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) spending, $5 billion in emergency spending for defense, and more than $80 billion in disaster funding. $100 billion in proposed offsets are comprised of the same budget gimmicks taxpayers have seen used as pay-fors over and over and are unlikely to generate much of a down-payment on this new spending.’  

Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) poses the question that few in Washington – and certainly few Republicans – are willing to ask: “Is our military budget too small, or is our mission too large?” He notes:

‘Since 2001, the U.S. military budget has more than doubled in nominal terms and grown over 37% accounting for inflation. The U.S. spends more than the next eight countries combined.

It’s really hard to argue that our military is underfunded, so perhaps our mission has grown too large. That mission includes being currently involved in combat operations in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Somalia, Niger, Libya, and Yemen. We have troops in over 50 of 54 African countries. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have cost over a trillion dollars and lasted for over 15 years.’

Defense spending is about survival, right? If you need to spend it, you spend it. But realistically, how does one assess whether spending is too much or too little without looking at the strategy the military is tasked with carrying out, and whether it makes any sense?

To continue reading: What Would an ‘America First!’ Security Policy Look Like?

Trump Ups Defense Budget By 13% – “Can’t Have World’s Best Military On An Obama Budget”, by Tyler Durden

US military spending is almost three times that of China, and almost nine times that of Russia. They have now been declared our geopolitical rivals that we must best. So Trump is increasing the defense budget by 13 percent over the next two years. If he didn’t, the Chinese and Russians would probably be planning an invasion of the US this very minute. From Tyler Durden at zerohedge.com:

With Washington having seemingly turned its turret away from ‘terror’ and back to “revisionist, authoritarian” regimes like ‘Russia and China’, the Military-Industrial Complex is ‘gonna need a bigger budget’ – a 13% bigger $716 billion one by 2019.

US military spending already dwarfed the rest of the world…

But, while presenting the 2018 National Defense Strategy (NDS2018) of the United States on Friday at the Johns Hopkins University, Secretary of Defense James Mattis painted a picture of a dangerous world in which U.S. power – and all of the supposed “good” that it does around the world – is on the decline.

“Our competitive edge has eroded in every domain of warfare – air, land, sea, space, and cyberspace,” he said. “And it is continually eroding.”

And now, as The Washington Post reports, President Trump is expected to ask for $716 billion in defense spending when he unveils his 2019 budget next month, a major increase that signals a shift away from concerns about rising deficits, U.S. officials said.

The proposed budget is a victory for Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who recently unveiled a strategy that proposes retooling the military to deter and, if necessary, fight a potential conflict with major powers such as China and Russia.

And it represents a setback for deficit hawks such as Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget, who last year pressed for an increase in defense spending that could be offset by cuts to domestic programs.

The $716 billion figure for 2019 would cover the Pentagon’s annual budget as well as spending on ongoing wars and the maintenance of the U.S. nuclear arsenal. It would increase Pentagon spending by more than 7 percent over the 2018 budget, which still has not passed through Congress.

The proposed budget would be a 13 percent increase over 2017 when the United States spent about $634 billion on defense. In the absence of a budget, spending continues at 2017 levels.

To continue reading: Trump Ups Defense Budget By 13% – “Can’t Have World’s Best Military On An Obama Budget”

Lavishing Money on the Pentagon, by Jonathan Marshall

You can never spend enough to satisfy the Pentagon. From Jonathan Marshall at consortiumnews.com:

Exclusive: It seems like it’s always Christmastime at the Pentagon where the stockings are full and budget-cutting is for those domestic social-program guys, as Jonathan Marshall explains.

Wise parents who celebrate Christmas advise their young children not to make unreasonably grandiose requests of Santa. After all, he has to squeeze down a rather narrow chimney to deliver their presents.

President Trump announces the signing of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2018 on Dec. 12, 2017, at the White House. (Screen shot from whitehouse.gov)

But as Christmas approaches this year, leaders of Congress, the Pentagon, and the Trump White House seem to have forgotten that lesson. Their wish list for the U.S. military, if taken seriously, will bust the federal budget at the very time Republicans are ramming through tax legislation that will shrink Uncle Sam’s savings account by more than a trillion dollars over the next decade.

President Trump this week signed into law a $700 billion blueprint for military spending in the current fiscal year. The 2018 National Defense Authorization Act includes funding for more troops, more weapons, more interventions abroad, and more active wars, with Trump’s enthusiastic blessing. “We need our military,” he declared at a White House signing ceremony.

In addition to lavish spending on new weapons — like $10 billion for purchases of the disastrous F-35 Joint Strike Fighter — this Christmas legislation for the military includes all sorts of smaller presents, including billions of dollars to fund NATO’s European Deterrence Initiative (whatever happened to Trump’s demand that our allies pay for their own defense?), missile defense systems of doubtful efficacy, and development of a new cruise missile that would violate the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty with Russia.

The bill also earmarks $350 million for military aid to Ukraine, including lethal weaponry — a highly provocative measure that Arizona Senator John McCain has long promoted. Independent analysts, including prominent conservative foreign policy experts, warn that such lethal aid would be destabilizing, provocative, and “extraordinarily foolish.”

Under the arcane rules of Congress, the House and Senate must still translate this blueprint into actual budget appropriations. Therein lies the rub. Back in the days when Republicans still claimed to believe in balanced budgets, they led the way in enacting limits on federal spending.

To continue reading: Lavishing Money on the Pentagon

The Military Industrial Complex Is Undermining US National Security, by Federico Pieraccini

The Russians and the Chinese get a lot more military bang for their rubles and yuan than the US gets for its bucks. From Federico Pieraccini at strategic-culture.org:

The ongoing problems with the F-35 and other military programs, stemming from virtually unlimited budgets, underline the inefficiency of the American military-industrial complex (MIC). In contrast, Moscow develops armaments capable of counteracting the latest technological advances of the US at minimal cost.

One of a state’s most insidious mechanisms is the inefficiency of the military-industrial sector. When looking at the world’s first superpower, this becomes all the more pronounced. Still, the ongoing problems highlighted by the F-35 program and failed missile interceptions by ABM systems are a good demonstration of how inefficiency in the US military sector has risen to worrying levels.

The main cause of these issues is related to the huge military-industrial complex that employs hundreds of thousands Americans directly or indirectly. The unhealthy composition of this power conglomerate often employs a revolving door involving politicians and board members from large arms-producing companies. This situation raises questions about corruption as well as a number of obvious conflicts of interest.

It is no surprise, therefore, that Congress is increasingly willing to grant what almost amount to blank checks to finance military budgets, numbering in the hundreds of billions of dollars. The second factor that impacts negatively on the efficiency of the MIC is the propaganda to which the entire American system is subjected. Looking at the example of think-tanks, they are all practically funded, directly or indirectly, by the military-related industries or foreign governments (especially Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Israel). The role of think-tanks is to influence policymakers, creating a common view between components of the (deep) state.

A problem arises when almost all experts and politicians participating in these Washington based think tanks come from federal agencies or industries tied to the military through contracts worth billions of dollars. Hardly offering any dissent from official or mainstream opinions on issue ranging from Russia to the F-35, politicians, experts and journalists all agree that Russia constitutes the main danger and that the F-35 program does not have any critical issues and is actually a superior weapon, two lies in full swing. Think-tanks and their guests promote an erroneous narrative that seeds, nourishes and sustains the problems and inefficiencies that beset military systems and Washington’s strategic vision. They offer no criticism, no change of policy, only echo chambers of lies and propaganda.

To continue reading: The Military Industrial Complex Is Undermining US National Security

Big Military Spending Boost Threatens Our Economy and Security, by Ron Paul

The worst part of the bloated military budget isn’t its bloat far beyond what’s necessary to provide the US a rock-solid defensive capability for itself. Rather, its that US foreign military interventions seem to increase to the extent necessary to spend all those dollars. In other words, the policy follows the dollars and not the other way around From Ron Paul at ronpaulinstitute.org:

On Friday the House overwhelmingly approved a massive increase in military spending, passing a $696 billion National Defense Authorization bill for 2018. President Trump’s request already included a huge fifty or so billion dollar spending increase, but the Republican-led House found even that to be far too small. They added another $30 billion to the bill for good measure. Even President Trump, in his official statement, expressed some concern over spending in the House-passed bill.

According to the already weak limitations on military spending increases in the 2011 “sequestration” law, the base military budget for 2018 would be $72 billion more than allowed.

Don’t worry, they’ll find a way to get around that!

The big explosion in military spending comes as the US is planning to dramatically increase its military actions overseas. The president is expected to send thousands more troops back to Afghanistan, the longest war in US history. After nearly 16 years, the Taliban controls more territory than at anytime since the initial US invasion and ISIS is seeping into the cracks created by constant US military action in the country.

The Pentagon and Defense Secretary James Mattis are already telling us that even when ISIS is finally defeated in Iraq, the US military doesn’t dare end its occupation of the country again. Look for a very expensive array of permanent US military bases throughout the country. So much for our 2003 invasion creating a stable democracy, as the neocons promised.

In Syria, the United States has currently established at least eight military bases even though it has no permission to do so from the Syrian government nor does it have a UN resolution authorizing the US military presence there. Pentagon officials have made it clear they will continue to occupy Syrian territory even after ISIS is defeated, to “stabilize” the region.

To continue reading: Big Military Spending Boost Threatens Our Economy and Security