Drum circle of the war hawks

By Cate Long
December 15, 2011

The war hawks, desperate to avoid huge impending cuts to the defense budget, have formed a drum circle to stall the reductions and are beginning to pound out a rhythm. Seung Min Kim of Politico reports:

Congressional Republicans are still full throttle in their efforts to dismantle the automatic spending cuts that would be particularly painful to the Pentagon.

A quartet of Senate defense hawks [Republican Senators Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, John McCain of Arizona, Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, and Jon Kyl of Arizona] announced on Wednesday they’ll introduce legislation to undo hundreds of billions of dollars in defense cuts by replacing it with budget savings elsewhere. Those across-the-board cuts were mandated by the supercommittee’s inability to strike a deal slashing the nation’s deficit by at least $1.2 trillion over the next decade.

The U.S. government faces massive deficits as far as the eye can see. We’ve been very fortunate to fund these deficits with borrowing at historically low rates as global investors sought the safety of U.S. Treasuries. But our fiscal imbalances, like those of many European nations, are unsustainable in the long run. We cannot continue to spend more than we take in. We must shrink every part of the federal budget and get more efficiency from what we do spend. The arguments of fiscal expansionists that stimulus spending is necessary to jumpstart the economy have proven unpopular. Government spending must shrink, and a major component of that is defense spending. The war hawks defend military spending with the patriotism mantle, but that’s a worn-out cliche that can’t pass scrutiny.

Let’s have a look at the numbers.

President Obama proposed spending approximately $924 billion on defense, veterans care and international affairs for 2012. This represents about 24.7 percent of the $3.729 trillion federal budget. The automatic cuts to these areas required by the Budget Control Act of 2011 will equal about $75 billion per year over 8 years. This would be on top of already-enacted Defense Department reductions of $45 billion per year over 10 years. The combined $120 billion of annual spending cuts will equal about 12.9 percent of the joint defense/intelligence budget. It’s a big cut, but it would barely dent the capabilities of the biggest military force on earth.

Other countries spend much, much less than we do on their defense needs. For example, China, with about 19 percent of the world’s population, spends about 16 percent of what the U.S. military spends. Germany, which everyone expects will use its wealth to save other Eurozone nations, only spends about 1.4 percent of their GDP on its military. Meanwhile the U.S. will have 42 military installations in Germany even after multiple installations are closed through 2015. So America spends on European defense while Germany saves. It’s an imprudent strategy and our deficit-funded government really can’t afford it.

I’m not suggesting that other parts of the federal government should be spared. Every area of the budget should reduces expenses at a level equal to the military cuts, even if the Bush tax cuts are allowed to expire in 2012.

Senators Graham, McCain, Ayotte, and Kyl should ask if borrowing to maintain our enormous military doesn’t ultimately weaken our economic strength. No amount of patriotism will protect a fiscally weakened nation. Our strength comes from careful conservation of our resources. It’s time to roll back military spending.

4 comments

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usgovernmentspending.com aggregates federal, state & local spending on national defense. including portions of DHS, state, energy & other departments with military function + special appropriations, they have estimated total national defense spending in 2011 at $900 billion. this doesn’t include accruals for long term liabilities of soldiers injured and a series of other unfunded benefits. this is a $1 trillion annual cost easy with all things considered.

Posted by decentralimprov | Report as abusive

Defense spending (not including wars) has doubled since 9/11. Can we trim 10% without weakening US dominance in world? Of course!

Posted by gordo365 | Report as abusive

The only reason the American Defense cost LOOKS so high is that the retirement, VA and other costs are included in the defense totals. The other countries do not do that for their defense costs.

There are area’s that defense costs may be cut. But most of those were congressional pork when first created and are still political pork.

So like any good politician, the weapons that our troops need to stay alive are given short shrift, and the Political Pork continues unabated.

Go figure.

“Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys.” PJ O’Rourke

Posted by Chieftain | Report as abusive

While the United States is in a serious financial problem with huge government and trade deficits I fear that deep cuts into the US military will lead to a seriously weakened force. The article I just read and am commenting on states that the US far outspends other nations in the military sector with China a far second place. The other nations listed I am not concerned about as they are US allies but China is actively modernizing and expanding their military and they can do this for far less capital than the US because China can do so with little profit in the equation. We must remember that most industry in China is run by it’s military. Couple this with low labor costs and it’s acquisition of western technology through US corporations that have moved production to China, entered into required agreements for licensed and joint production of high technology systems such as aircraft, communication, computing systems and others and China can produce high technology military systems for far less than the US.
The days of the Pentagon being a ‘cash cow’ for US defense companies is coming to an end. US defense contractors must reduce huge overhead such as high salaries for multiple executives by thinning out the upper ranks and concentrating on producing products for the military with a sense of nationalism such as China’s military suppliers. US defense contractors have always viewed military systems as high profit ventures and this mentality must change. Profit should be in the equation but realistic. The term COTS (commercial off-the-shelf) is becoming more common in use by the Pentagon in incorporating technologies in future weapons systems in dealing with funding cuts but the same is available for China to use. The US must maintain a strong, technologically advanced and sizable force as China continues to gain strength economically and militarily and has demonstrated that it is engaged in gaining power through control of the world’s dwindling natural resources and increasingly becoming bolder in international matters such as territorial rights and the issue of Taiwan. China is on a mission to replace the US as the world’s superpower and the US must be in a position to counter China as it becomes more vocal and forceful in it’s intentions.

Posted by halseyjr61 | Report as abusive