Please note: the following post is not meant in any way to be a criticism of our armed forces men and women bravely serving to defend our country today, I have the utmost respect for their dedication, courage, and sense of duty. I thank them for all of the sacrifices they make on a daily basis.
Depending on how you count, we spend anywhere from $600 billion to $700 billion a year on our military infrastructure. This comes out to more than a quarter of what the Federal government brings in via taxes and fees every year. It will account for nearly half of the Federal government’s 2011 budget deficit. We are spending a lot of money on our military and Defense Department but are we getting at least equal value in return?
Highly doubtful if you look at how out of control this spending is. The waste really falls into three categories:
– Ancient Military Spending – this category includes all of the money we have long been spending in military areas that do not to be maintained any more, such as ancient and now unnecessary foreign deployments of U.S troops.
– Current Military Spending – this category includes all of the money we spend today in non-essential military operations and Defense Department bureaucracy.
– Illegal Military Spending – this category includes all of the money we spend on illegal military operations today.
Ancient Wasteful Spending
Maybe at some time, decades ago, during the Cold War it made sense to station over 80,000 U.S. troops in Europe to support our western Europe allies and guard against Communist forces coming across the Iron Curtain. However, the Iron Curtain came down twenty years ago, Communism no longer exists as a threat to Europe, and many of the nations where we stationed troops to guard against their invading armies are now our allies and are actually part of NATO, our European military alliance.
There is no longer a need to station more than a bare skeleton crew of military liaison people in Europe, no fighting personnel at all should continue to be deployed. Bring them home, reduce the military recruiting expense, and save the deployment cost.
The same goes for troops we have stationed in the Far East. South Korean has one of the strongest economies in the world. They have mandatory military service requirements for all of its citizens. They are strong enough to fight off any North Korean military moves whether or not we continue to station 30,000 or so troops in South Korea. If North Korean comes over the border, 30,000 U.S. troops are not going to make much of a difference in the fighting so why put them in danger? Bring them home and tell South Korea that they need to assume full accountability and responsibility for their defense, using their economic resources, not the economic resources of the United States taxpayer.
Same argument goes for Japan. The 25,000 or so troops we have there will make no difference in any future China military activity. Japan is unlikely to attack the United States and has the third largest economy in the world. As with South Korea, let the Japanese deal with any military matters using their own economic resources.
These three examples are typical government bureaucracy fallacies. At one point in time they may have made some logical sense, (i.e. protecting against Communist aggression, protecting a weak South Korean democracy, etc.) but those are ancient needs that no longer exist. Unfortunately, like many ancient government bureaucracies, they have taken on a life of their own and continue to annually drain taxpayer resources for no reason.
Bring the troops home, reduce your military recruiting expense, given the influx of newly available military resources, and save the deployment costs. We can no longer garrison the world with U.S. troops that no longer serve any purpose. Imagine how much money we could save if we no longer had to support the foreign deployment of 130,000 or so of these U.S. troops overseas. It easily could be in the tens of billions of dollars every year.
Current Wasteful Spending
Current military costs appear seemingly easy to reduce if you think logically and with a little common sense. For example, according to a joint study from the U.S. Public Interest Research Group and the National Taxpayers Union that was released earlier this year, the Defense Department could greatly reduce its expenditures for useless military equipment in the following areas:
– According to the GAO, the Pentagon could save $184.5 billion by 2015 if they stopped buying military parts and equipment that are never used or are obsolete if they made some simple enhancements to their purchasing processes.
– The V-22 Osprey aircraft is way over budget, way behind schedule, and falling way short of the benefits it was supposed to deliver. Cancelling it and stopping the wasteful money drain would save over $6 billion by 2015.
– The Space Tracking Surveillance System satellite system has failed to deliver on its promises, is behind schedule, and suffers significant cost overruns. More importantly, its job can be handled by much less expensive, proven technology, according to an internal Defense Department analysis.
– Canceling this program would save about $5 billion by 2015.
– The same logic applies to the Expeditionary Force Fighting Vehicle which is 14 YEARS behind schedule and is viewed in its current state as “highly unreliable.” Cancel this program and save over $16 billion by 2015.
The study goes on and on with other outdated, unreliable, over cost, behind schedule, unneeded military programs that could be cancelled without harming our military’s ability to protect the country. All told, the study meticulously documents almost $300 billion of unnecessary military expenditures that could be saved by 2015.
However, as stated above, these are common sense and logical cuts to be made. However, common sense goes out the window when any government bureaucracy gets bloated and out of control. The more bloat there is the more embedded interests fight to protect their turf and bloat, no matter how insane or wasteful that turf is. Consider a report from Fareed Zakaria, who described this bloated bureaucracy known as the Defense Department about a year ago in a Newsweek article:
– While the private sector of the economy has stripped away levels of management to become more efficient and responsive, the Pentagon management levels have grown considerably, from seventeen layers a decade ago to about thirty levels of redundant management today.
– We now have almost 1,000 general and admirals in our armed forces, up 13% in the past 15 years, even though the number of people in our armed forces has shrunk over the time period.
– Every management layer at the Pentagon is larger than it was during the height of the Cold War. As an example, the article cites a study from Professor Paul Light of NYU where he estimated that there were 78 deputy assistant secretaries of defense in 1960 and there are 530 today.
– There are more military musicians in the military’s marching bands than there are members in the State Department’s Foreign Service.
– The Pentagon has ten times as many accountants than the State Department has Foreign Service officers.
– Defense Department Secretary Gates has publicly questioned whether or not we need to spend the money for an additional 100 fighter jets when we already have over three thousand such aircraft. Do we really need to build more multi-billion dollar Navy ships when we already have a navy that is larger than the next 13 navies combined, 11 of which are navies of our allies, and do we need to build more billion dollar stealth fighters when by 2020 we will still have 20 times as many such fighters as China.
Now consider an article by Boston Globe writer Peter Canellos, that was summarized in The Week magazine in the August 27, 2010 edition:
– Our current defense budget of $700 billion is six times larger than our nearest competitor.
– Our current defense budget is more than the next 18 largest defense budgets of other nations.
– More than $130 million of lobbyist money is spent ever year in an attempt to maintain and grow the country’s spending on military hardware and other expenses, much of it unnecessary.
Much of this excess bureaucracy is unneeded to keep us safe but remains in place to only self sustain itself, wasting untold billions of dollars in the process. Why does a failed military program like the Expeditionary Force Fighting Vehicle hang around for 14 years despite its horrendous track record? Somebody in the bloated bureaucracy needs it to stay alive to sustain their job.
Thus, common sense makes no sense if you are defending your job. Until we streamline and shrink the military bureaucracy, the silly and wasteful military programs will continue.
Another current military waste that exists outside of the above discussion is the continued deployment of military personnel in Iraq. President Obama campaigned on the promise that he would get our forces out of Iraq quickly. He has failed miserably on that promise, with almost 50,000 troops still in country with discussions underway with the Iraqi government to extend their deployment. Not good, not good. Bring them home and save the tens of billions of dollars it costs us to deploy them in Iraq.
According to a CBSnews.com report that was summarized in the July 15, 2011 issue of The Week magazine, the final taxpayer bills for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to a Brown University study, will come out to between $3.7 and $4.4 TRILLION. This estimate takes into account the so-called nation building efforts, ongoing medical care and benefits for our veterans and interest on what the U.S. borrowed to fund the warfare. To make that number real, that estimated cost of $3.7 TRILLION comes out to over $32,000 for every American household. Disgraceful expense for virtually nothing in return.
Illegal Wasteful Spending
Many Americans still do not understand how the military operations going on in the Mediterranean against Libya are not illegal, both from a Constitution perspective and a War Powers Act perspective. The Obama administration tries to spin this illegality as a non-war since we are only, theoretically, “supporting” the actual fighting NATO forces.
But news reports back in the spring estimated at that time the U.S. had already expended about $700 million in military costs on that operation. A recent article in the July 15, 2011 issue of The Week magazine reported that the Air Force Times estimates that the U.S. role in the conflict is not minimal, as Obama would have us believe. The U.S. military itself has flown nearly Air Force 3,500 missions over Libya since March 19 and over 800 of them were strike sorties, which appear to be actual live firing missions.
So, how can this not be a war if we are flying thousands of Air Force sorties and being involved in live firing? Libya holds no strategic interest for us, we get very little, if any of our oil from it, and up until the spring, Libya was not viewed as a terrorist threat to us. Seems like not only a wasteful and unnecessary war, with probably over a billion dollars having been spent by this time by the American taxpayer, but also an illegal war.
Let’s see: ancient, current, and illegal warfare that gets us nothing in return but wastes unholy amounts of taxpayer money every year. Does not sound like a good deal. But it illustrates how large and wasteful our government has become. Cutting Defense Department spending can be be done judiciously, safely, and quickly. The three categories of waste cited above would save hundreds of billions of dollars in just the next few years.
Rather than cutting a measly $400 billion over the next 14 years like the Obama administration has proposed, cuts can be made that could save many multiples of that. $400 billion over 14 years comes out to less than $30 billion a year, less than 5% of the current military budget. That will not cut it. We can no longer deploy in Europe, Iraq, South Korea, and Japan, we can no longer support a bloated Pentagon bureaucracy, we can no longer fiddle around with doomed military hardware processes and programs, and we can no longer allow the political class to arbitrarily involve us in wars.
But most importantly, we need to force the political class to look beyond their own self interest, and the companies and lobbyists that feed politicians re-election campaign coffers, and make the right strategic cuts that are necessary to make our military more efficient and effective. Hitting the panic button at the mere mention of cutting our military budget is not a mature, intelligent, and effective way to cut unnecessary government costs.
We can no longer afford the bloat and the historical waste. The military industrial complex in this nation is not so efficient that a mature discussion and coherent plan to cut out the inefficiencies cannot and should not occur.