Conservatives have long seen the military budget as “off the table,” yet if we are seriously going to take on our massive deficits, it has to be cut, and cut drastically for that matter.
In fact, our current military budget is simply absurd. Currently, our military budget for 2010 was $693 billion, 44% of the world’s military spending! No other country even spends a quarter of what we do. Furthermore, this doesn’t include the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan or Libya. And if you include everything related to the military outside the defense department, such as veterans benefits, it almost certainly exceeds one trillion dollars a year. Robert Higgs came up with $934.9 trillion in 2006:
…during the period from 1947 through 1987 [the Pentagon] used (in 1982 dollars) $7.62 trillion in capital resources. In 1985, the Department of Commerce estimated the value of the nation’s plants, equipment, and infrastructure (capital stock), at just over $7.29 trillion. In other words, the amount spent over that period could have doubled the American capital stock or modernized and replaced the existing stock. (Rollback, pg. 87)
But forget about all that, it’s even worse. The Pentagon is the only federal department exempt from an audit. And the primary reason is probably that the Pentagon’s books are so out of order that they don’t even know who’ve they’ve paid or where the money’s gone. Tom Woods again:
…after all this spending, the end result has actually been a smaller military with older equipment. Since the attacks of September 11, 2001, more than $2 trillion has been added to the 1999 baseline Pentagon budget. Roughly half went to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, while the other trillion went to non-war military spending. What did Americans get for that trillion bucks? A smaller Navy and Air Force, and a trivial increase in the size of the army. (Rollback, pg. 113)
This money appears to have simply disappeared into thin air. Way back in 2001, then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld admitted that “According to some estimates we cannot track $2.3 trillion in transactions.” Given that another trillion seems to have been added to that missing money since 2001, it appears that no serious attempt has been taken to rectify these accounting issues that would make even Arthur Andersen blush.
Perhaps this all has to do with the well understood games played by military contractors. One method is known as “front loading.” Basically, the contractor puts forth a small initial bid, then finds all sorts of ways to increase it, often drastically, once the tax payer spicket has been turned on. Or perhaps it’s outright fraud, like when it was discovered that the Pentagon paid $998,798 to ship two 19 cent washers to an army base in Texas. Read that again, yes the Pentagon actually did that.
It’s time for conservatives to wake up and realize the only way we’re going to realistically balance the budget is to significantly cut our enormous, bloated military budget.
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