FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The New Pentagon Budget

by WINSLOW T. WHEELER

The new budget now being trotted out for the Pentagon is a tired old document, bereft of the many significant changes needed to revive our decaying defenses. Worse, the Pentagon’s masters and its peanut galleries in Congress, the press, and think tanks opine delusions that anything significant is changing.

Much will be made of a few reluctant acknowledgements of reality and old news painted as noteworthy. The Navy won’t plan on, for now, a new cruiser it can’t afford even under the wildest budget growth assumptions. The Army will continue redesigning the vehicles for its “system of system” target hunting technologies that we now know can’t find even primitive enemies. The Air Force will press on for a new bomber to try, yet again, to attack what it called decades ago “critical nodes.” The Marine Corps will declare a return to its amphibious warfare heritage: to fight its way onto hostile shores – something it has not done since 1945.

The new spending level for the Pentagon reinforces the non-change. At $708 billion, we will witness yet another year of “real growth:” a trajectory we have been on since 1999. As usual, we will be told that the increases are because we live in a dangerous world, as evidenced by the continuing, if not expanding, wars President Obama wants to fight directly or indirectly in at least five countries. We will also be told of the “austere” nature of the Pentagon budget for its spending back home; although it is the largest DOD money plan since 1946.

A dangerous world it may be, but significantly less so than the one we saw in the Cold War when we faced hundreds of Soviet divisions in Europe and tried to address unending brushfire – or worse — wars all over the world, least some new communist regime tip the scales of perceived balance against us. The relative calm we witness today, nonetheless results in an American defense budget that is today about $200 billion higher than the average Pentagon Cold War budget.

A new report from the Congressional Research Service now tells us that the Bush/Obama wars have cost just over $1 Trillion, but that is just 19 percent of the $5.3 Trillion spent by the Pentagon in the same period. The conflicts that impel the growth in the budget actually comprise only a fifth of its size.

Excluding the cost of the wars, the “base” Pentagon budget has also gone up dramatically: 25 percent, or over another Trillion dollars. What we have gotten for that huge increase illuminates the disturbing nature of our decay. The Navy and Air Force are both smaller and equipped with major hardware that is, on average, older than at any point since the end of World War II. The Army and Marine Corps have seen increases to a few combat formations but are only marginally above their post-World War II lows. A gargantuan increase in spending has brought forth major decay in two military services and insignificant up-ticks in two others.

Where did the added money go? According to the Government Accountability Office almost $300 billion went into mismanagement in the form of cost overruns for hardware. (Expect a new GAO report this spring finding the cost overruns have grown.) Much of the rest of the money for acquisition went into “successful” hardware programs that were so much more expensive to buy and maintain than what they were replacing that we literally shrunk the force with more money, while simultaneously spending more to support this new equipment at lower operating and training levels.

With better justification, but exacerbated by a herd of politicians anxious to pander, another huge cost increase has been in military manpower. Largely indiscriminant pay increases and gigantically expensive programs for healthcare, retirement, disability, and family survivors have now set the rate of increase in military manpower spending well above the rate of increase in the rest of the Pentagon budget. The uncontrolled costs for manpower and hardware have made the two competitors for each other’s wallets: advocates for hardware try to raid the personnel budget, and the advocates of high manpower costs spend the money as a political necessity – without the slightest reflection on how to pay for it all, or the implications.

You will search in vain for rescue from these trends in the new budget. Anyone paying the slightest attention knows both of these wolves have passed the door, but no one in the Pentagon or Congress (repeat; no one) has the political spine to confront the trends and reverse them.

Instead of exploring real reform, the nation’s national security leadership spawns justifications for business as usual. Paralleling the 2011 Pentagon budget is a new national security master plan, the Quadrennial Defense Review, written by the Pentagon’s top leadership. They proudly announce that they have discarded simplistic formulas to justify America’s defense bloat and have come up with a new construct. The document reveals that the only thing they changed is the terminology.

Neither the new budget nor the new QDR bring anything significantly innovative, or even original. The decay — at ever increasing cost – continues. There will be a reckoning; the longer we dither, the worse it will be.

WINSLOW T. WHEELER spent 31 years working on Capitol Hill with senators from both political parties and the Government Accountability Office, specializing in national security affairs. Currently, he directs the Straus Military Reform Project of the Center for Defense Information in Washington. He is author of The Wastrels of Defense and the editor of a new anthology: ‘America’s Defense Meltdown: Pentagon Reform for President Obama and the New Congress’.

 

More articles by:

Winslow T. Wheeler is the Director of the Straus Military Reform Project at the Project on Government Oversight.  He spent 31 years working for the Government Accountability Office and both Republican and Democratic Senators on national security issues.

Weekend Edition
February 23, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Richard D. Wolff
Capitalism as Obstacle to Equality and Democracy: the US Story
Paul Street
Where’s the Beef Stroganoff? Eight Sacrilegious Reflections on Russiagate
Jeffrey St. Clair
They Came, They Saw, They Tweeted
Andrew Levine
Their Meddlers and Ours
Charles Pierson
Nuclear Nonproliferation, American Style
Joseph Essertier
Why Japan’s Ultranationalists Hate the Olympic Truce
W. T. Whitney
US and Allies Look to Military Intervention in Venezuela
John Laforge
Maybe All Threats of Mass Destruction are “Mentally Deranged”
Matthew Stevenson
Why Vietnam Still Matters: an American Reckoning
David Rosen
For Some Reason, Being White Still Matters
Robert Fantina
Nikki Haley: the U.S. Embarrassment at the United Nations
Joshua Frank
Pearl Jam, Will You Help Stop Sen. Tester From Destroying Montana’s Public Lands?
Dana E. Abizaid
The Attack on Historical Perspective
Conn Hallinan
Immigration and the Italian Elections
George Ochenski
The Great Danger of Anthropocentricity
Pete Dolack
China Can’t Save Capitalism from Environmental Destruction
Joseph Natoli
Broken Lives
Manuel García, Jr.
Why Did Russia Vote For Trump?
Geoff Dutton
One Regime to Rule Them All
Torkil Lauesen – Gabriel Kuhn
Radical Theory and Academia: a Thorny Relationship
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: The Work of Persuasion
Joyce Nelson
Why Mueller’s Indictments Are Hugely Important
Thomas Klikauer
Umberto Eco and Germany’s New Fascism
George Burchett
La Folie Des Grandeurs
Howard Lisnoff
Minister of War
Eileen Appelbaum
Why Trump’s Plan Won’t Solve the Problems of America’s Crumbling Infrastructure
Ramzy Baroud
More Than a Fight over Couscous: Why the Palestinian Narrative Must Be Embraced
Jill Richardson
Mass Shootings Shouldn’t Be the Only Time We Talk About Mental Illness
Jessicah Pierre
Racism is Killing African American Mothers
Steve Horn
Wyoming Now Third State to Propose ALEC Bill Cracking Down on Pipeline Protests
David Griscom
When ‘Fake News’ is Good For Business
Barton Kunstler
Brainwashed Nation
Griffin Bird
I’m an Eagle Scout and I Don’t Want Pipelines in My Wilderness
Edward Curtin
The Coming Wars to End All Wars
Missy Comley Beattie
Message To New Activists
Jonah Raskin
Literary Hubbub in Sonoma: Novel about Mrs. Jack London Roils the Faithful
Laura Finley
After the Parkland Shooting … Teach Youth About Dating Violence
Binoy Kampmark
Frontiersman of the Internet: John Perry Barlow
Chelli Stanley
The Mirrors of Palestine
James McEnteer
How Brexit Won World War Two
Robert Koehler
The Cheapening of Human Life
Ralph Nader
Absorbing the Irresistible Consumer Reports Magazine
Ted Rall
Never Mind Millennial Apathy, Here’s Generation Z Inbox x
Cesar Chelala
A Word I Shouldn’t Use
Louis Proyect
Marx at the Movies
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail