FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

The Pentagon Slush Fund

Back in 1959, President Eisenhower and Soviet Premier Khrushchev took a break from their summit and walked in the woods around Camp David.  Khrushchev, in his memoirs, relates a conversation in which the president complains of how hard it is to resist the military’s demands for more money.  Military leaders, said Eisenhower, invariably insist the US will fall behind the Soviet Union unless he gives them the money for this or that weapon system.  “They keep grabbing for more, and I keep giving it to them.”  He asked Khrushchev if that was also the case in the USSR.  “It’s just the same,” said Khrushchev, who went on to describe virtually the same script.  “Yes,” said the president, “that’s what I thought.”

Congress members are very much a part of the military-industrial complex, which is why someone long ago suggested that the more accurate term is MAGIC: the military-academic-governmental-industrial complex.  Most people elected to Congress, and certainly any among them who serve on the armed services committee of either house, think two things when it comes to national security: the more weapons produced, the more secure we are; and the more money allocated to “national defense,” the better.  These folks never met a weapons system they didn’t like.  And when, in relatively lean times, they have to decide between social well being and the Pentagon’s wish list, well, they don’t have to think twice.

These days Congress members, mainly on the Republican side, are busy finding clever ways to hide stuffing the Pentagon’s stocking with strategically senseless, duplicative, exceedingly expensive weapons and related items.  Remember sequestration in 2013?  It was supposed to cap military and other spending in order to help bring the overall budget back to balance.  Clearly, in the minds of the military-firsters, this effort was never meant to apply to the Pentagon, as evidenced by the much larger budget hit that social welfare programs took compared with the military, and by the little publicized Overseas Contingency Operations fund, which is not subject to sequestration. Yes, military spending has gone down a bit over the last three years, but at over $600 billion (not counting veterans’ benefits and interest on the national debt from past wars), it’s around 54 percent of all US government discretionary spending and still close to 40 percent of global military spending.

All the whining in Congress and the Pentagon about how the US defense posture is undermined by sequestration and compels a leaner military is just so much theatrics—not just because the US military is bloated both in money and weapons, and continues to fight and prepare for wars on several fronts, but also because in Washington (including in the White House) the tricks are well known for giving the military everything it wants and then some.  The fundamental problem isn’t budgetary, it’s US globalism.

Reporting on the “Pentagon slush fund,” the New York Times notes that the next military budget, as voted in the House of Representatives, will have a dozen more nuclear submarines at $8 billion apiece, a $348 billion modernization program for nuclear weapons over the coming decade, billions more for missile defense and faulty jet fighters, and, by the way, funding to maintain the Guantanamo prison-base in Cuba that the president had long ago promised to close down.  US military leaders have not asked for all this money, and probably would prefer that more be allocated for conventional warfare and humanitarian missions such as in Nepal.  But it’s hard to rein in the military big spenders in Congress, especially when they couch their check-writing in patriotism.

It’s funny: the Pentagon is forever complaining that China has no reason to keep increasing its military spending.  It needs to look in the mirror.

Mel Gurtov is Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Portland State University, Editor-in-Chief of Asian Perspective, an international affairs quarterly and blogs at In the Human Interest.

More articles by:

Mel Gurtov is Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Portland State University, Editor-in-Chief of Asian Perspective, an international affairs quarterly and blogs at In the Human Interest.

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
December 05, 2019
Colin Todhunter
Don’t Look, Don’t See: Time for Honest Media Reporting on Impacts of Pesticides
Nick Pemberton
Gen Z and Free Speech
Bob Lord
The U-Turn That Made America Staggeringly Unequal
Josh White
The Most Important Election in British History
Daniel Warner
The Hillsborough Soccer Tragedy: Who is Responsible?
Dean Baker
The Big Deal in Warren’s Prescription Drug Plan
George Ochenski
Another Utility Disaster Headed Our Way
Binoy Kampmark
Spying on Assange: the Spanish Case Takes a Turn
Victor Grossman
Big Rallies and Big Differences in Germany
L. Ali Khan
A Playboy Misrules Pakistan
William J. Astore
How American Exceptionalism is Killing the Planet
Susie Day
The Mad Activist Impeaches Western Culture
Andrés Castro
Look Out for the Drift
December 04, 2019
Jefferson Morley
RIP Fred Hampton: a Black Visionary Assassinated by the FBI
Vijay Prashad
Wealthy Countries’ Approach to Climate Change Condemns Hundreds of Millions of People to Suffer
Kenneth Surin
The Tory Election “Campaign” to Date
Maria Paez Victor
Indians Shall Not Govern
Peter Lackowski
Bolivia’s Five Hundred-Year Rebellion
Dave Lindorff
Billionaire Entitlement Run Amok: the Case of Michael Bloomberg
Doug Johnson Hatlem
Is Corbyn for Christmas Just Another Stove Pipe-Dream?
Howard Lisnoff
Elizabeth Warren: Savior of a Fallen System?
Robert Fisk
The Remembrance Poppy is Becoming a Weapon Against Immigrants to Canada
Dean Baker
NAFTA was About Redistributing Wealth Upwards
Richard Greeman
French Unions and Yellow Vests Converge, Launch General Strike
Binoy Kampmark
Legitimised Surveillance: Kim Dotcom’s Case Against GCSB
Walter Clemens
Goodbye Law and Morality, Welcome Pretend Tough!
Sam Pizzigati
Football Without Billionaires? Why Not?
Anthony Giattino
Royal Forests of America
December 03, 2019
Richard Lachmann
Can the US Get Out of Its Endless Wars?
Ramzy Baroud
Israel’s Unfinished ‘Coup’
David Rosen
The Dialectics of Postmodern Sexual Identity
Robert Fisk
Reporting Syria: I Talked to Everyone, Except Assad
Patrick Cockburn
Why the Resignation of Iraq’s Prime Minister May Not Stop the Mass Uprising on the Horizon
Norman Solomon
For Corporate Media, It’s ‘Anybody But Sanders or Warren’
Bob Scofield
Uruguay Turns to the Right
Joe Emersberger
Talking About Ecuador’s Political Prisoners: an Interview With Marcela Aguiñaga
Medea Benjamin
Trump Was Right: NATO Should Be Obsolete
Nyla Ali Khan
Lesson in Diplomacy for India’s Consul General Sandeep Chakravorty
William Gudal
The Bubble Machine
Gaither Stewart
Dirty Hands
Peter Certo
End the Wars, Win the Antiwar Vote
Binoy Kampmark
The Liveris Formula: Dow’s Inclusive Capitalism
Dan Bacher
California Freezes New Fracking Permits – But All Oil Drilling Permits Still Outpace 2018
Kay Sather
Can’t Get No Satisfaction?
December 02, 2019
Rob Urie
Ukraine, the New Cold War and the Politics of Impeachment
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail