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Military spending in inflation-adjusted dollars is now greater than at any time since World War II — even greater than during the peak spending years of the Vietnam War, the Korean War, and the Persian Gulf War (US Budget, FY2013, Historical Tables, Table 6.1).

Military spending (inflation-adjusted) has nearly doubled in the past 12 years, from $361.3 billion in FY2000 to $610.9 billion in FY2012 (Table 6.1). This massive increase has taken place during a time when the United States has the most powerful military ever in history and when we have no significant military enemies. The U.S. spends more on the military than the next 14 countries combined and vastly more than any possible enemies: roughly 5 times more than China, 10 times more than Russia, and 95 times more than Iran. The United States and its strongest allies (the NATO countries, Japan, South Korea, and Australia) together spend about $1.2 trillion on their militaries, representing 70 percent of the world’s total.

“There are no real seriously armed enemies left in the world that can possibly justify an $800 billion national defense and security establishment.” — David Stockman, former budget director for President Ronald Reagan
The automatic “sequester” enacted by Congress last year and set to take place in January will only cut defense spending back to 2006 levels, adjusted for inflation.

We must end what former defense secretary Robert Gates called the Pentagon’s “culture of endless money.” Here are some easy things to focus on:

* End the Afghanistan war. This war cost us $113.7 billion in FY2012.

* Reduce overseas bases. The US has over 1,000 bases in foreign countries, many in places like Germany and Japan. Maintaining those bases and transporting troops to and from them is very expensive. The savings from closing half of our foreign bases range from $8.5 billion to $125 billion per year, depending on which bases are closed and what assumptions are used in counting savings.

* Reduce the size of the officer corp. The US military is overstaffed with high-ranking officers.

* Eliminate mercenaries. The US pays shadowy private companies (such as Academi aka Xe Services aka Blackwater, and DynCorp) to do the work that US soldiers could be doing. Some of these soldiers-for-hire make as much as $250,000 per year, and they are essentially unaccountable to the military — or anyone else — for their actions. Those actions have in many cases damaged US security by causing our former friends to turn against us.

* Reduce or eliminate outdated weapons. Many weapons programs are relics of the Cold War and unneeded, such as Ballistic Missile Defense, Virginia-Class Submarine, V-22 Osprey, Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle, F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, and Offensive Space Weapons. Cutting unnecessary weapons systems could result in a savings of up to $302 billion by 2020.

* Reduce waste, fraud, and abuse. The DoD has never had a successful audit. The US military managed to lose at least $2 billion worth of equipment in Iraq. And who knows how much is wasted elsewhere.

Anyone who is serious about deficit reduction would focus on the bloated military first. That Republicans and the Fix the Debt coalition don't even mention the military goes to show that they actually care little about debt reduction.

See also Our Taxes Off to War – 2012 Edition.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Any budget cutting needs to specify (9+ / 0-)

    That it comes FIRST from those areas you mentioned.

    Unfortunately, the tendency to cut benefits and support from military families first is very real in the army.

    One of the reasons many Army personnel vote Republican is that they fear the personal hit that often occurs whenever the military budget is cut.

    Cut from the TOP, not the bottom, and we'll see more support among the rank and file.

    I don't blame Christians. I blame Stupid. Which sadly is a much more popular religion these days.

    by detroitmechworks on Wed Nov 28, 2012 at 09:12:38 AM PST

  •  Get rid of the Osprey? Really? (0+ / 0-)

    Where I work, I see those things fly past from the local military base practically every other day.  For outdated equipment, they sure seem get a lot of use.

    The road to Hell is paved with pragmatism.

    by TheOrchid on Wed Nov 28, 2012 at 09:23:47 AM PST

    •  Expensive, costly to maintain (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      pdx kirk, kyril, TheLawnRanger, redlum jak

      The Osprey has been a very expensive system:

      The V-22's development process has been long and controversial, partly due to its large cost increases.[49] The V-22's development budget was first planned for $2.5 billion in 1986, then increased to a projected $30 billion in 1988.[31] As of 2008, $27 billion had been spent on the Osprey program and another $27.2 billion will be required to complete planned production numbers by the end of the program.[24]
      Its [The V-22's] production costs are considerably greater than for helicopters with equivalent capability—specifically, about twice as great as for the CH-53E, which has a greater payload and an ability to carry heavy equipment the V-22 cannot... an Osprey unit would cost around $60 million to produce, and $35 million for the helicopter equivalent.
      —Michael E. O'Hanlon, 2002.[50]...
      ...Between 2008 and 2011, the estimated lifetime cost for maintaining the V-22 fleet grew by 61 percent, mostly from increased maintenance and support costs.[73]
      There also appear to be on-going safety concerns.
  •  When I look at the data on sites such as SIPRI and (6+ / 0-)

    GlobalFirepower, I am struck by how much we pay for what we get. Its hard to parse and sort through all that data....

    ...but to my eye it seems we pay more for what we get than other sophisticated militarises such as in the UK, France or Israel.

    I feel we know and talk about the big weapons systems that have so often gone over budget and sometimes are not even wanted by the Pentagon as a source for this high cost per unit military of ours. But I think a good look at common contract and purchase process (like lunch trays, paint, socks, door knobs and all) might show us that we pay way more than we have to for all those things!

    Lobbyists have worked their magic and there is a small favoured group of suppliers that get to charge up to 30% profits and have favoured tax breaks making our military bunks, toilet paper and drinking cups cost much more than they need to.

    I wonder how much contract reform could save?'s on the table, under the watermelon she demurred. Thanks, I was planning on shaving anyway he replied.

    by pdx kirk on Wed Nov 28, 2012 at 10:01:41 AM PST

  •  There ain't going to be money for nothing if (4+ / 0-)
    "There ain't going to be money for nothing if we put it all into Afghanistan." Rep. David Obey (D-WI)
    It is so past time to get our troops out of Afghanistan, to end this seemingly endless war.

    300 Million dollars per day going up in smoke in a war that can not be won.

    "Who are these men who really run this land? And why do they run it with such a thoughtless hand? David Crosby.

    by allenjo on Wed Nov 28, 2012 at 10:04:23 AM PST

  •  Thanks RandomNonviolence. How any politician (4+ / 0-)

    can justify reducing Medicare and Medicaid before looking to the much bloated defense spending is beyond me.

    Democratic politicians who do so will be betraying our middle class, working class, and poor voters after promising to be their champions.

    And, we also appear to be weak and stupid as every Republican presidential strategist since Lee Atewater on through Karl Rove has publicly written of their strategy of slashing taxes, and boosting military spending in order to squeeze out social spending especially on Medicare and Medicaid.  The Democrats who go along with this are either being duped or duplicitous.

    My young son one time asked me why many Democratic political leaders  don't have any "stones."  I had no answer for him, but could only look down in shame.

    The means is the ends in the process of becoming. - Mahatma Gandhi

    by HoundDog on Wed Nov 28, 2012 at 11:08:35 AM PST

    •  "stones." (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RandomNonviolence, HoundDog, pdx kirk

      I blame the press for not telling the truth.

    •  Question: ... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      pdx kirk

      What will be the corresponding increase in unemployment and loss of tax revenue if the military budget is stripped to its bare bones?

      "Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity, and I am not sure about the universe." -- Albert Einstein

      by Neuroptimalian on Wed Nov 28, 2012 at 08:58:09 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Employment would go up (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        pdx kirk

        If the money that currently goes to the military is instead spent on education, healthcare, social services, or transportation in the US, then employment would go up and the unemployment rate would go down. Military money spent overseas does not help our economy very much. If that money is spent domestically, then it would bolster our economy. And money showered on rich defense company CEOs provides little boost to the economy. Distributing the same amount to teachers, nurses, and construction workers would help the economy a lot.

        Also, non-military jobs help to build the physical and social infrastructure of our society. Building weapons does not. Blowing things up destroys the infrastructure.

        Tax revenue would probably be about the same, though more if it goes mostly to lower paying jobs.

        •  I concur R.N. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          I do not have a link but I have seen more than one study that shows that a dollar of public money spent on infrastructure, education, energy conservation and the like creates more jobs than a dollar spent on overpriced toilet seats.

          This argument about lost jobs due to trimming the fat in military spending is a misdirect created by the M/I complex.

          My personal experience involved a project for a non profit that was setting up a crafts section at our State Fair. It was in the trees and grass and we wanted to create temporary paths that would be ADA accessible. I had to use an approved vendor (the Fair is a State agency bound to purchase from approved vendors only) so I found ones that supplied rubber mats (from recycled tires). When I talked with them they were not interested in the business because they could sell to the Pentagon at 12$ a sf all day which was more than we could afford. When pressed they said they were just brokers who buy from a manufacturer who makes the product for equestrian uses. I tracked that down and found it retail for 5$ a sf! Further I found that the maker was doing all the fulfilment for the above broker. The broker company I was talking to was a store-front in suburban Chicago with two owners a receptionist and a modest web site. Yet they were making about 7$ or more a sf being middle men sending temporary side-walks to Iraq. How many jobs would be 'lost' if they were told they could only make 4$ a sf brokering this product? Would our military be diminished if they were so limited? And this applies to every little item the Pentagon purchases!

's on the table, under the watermelon she demurred. Thanks, I was planning on shaving anyway he replied.

          by pdx kirk on Thu Nov 29, 2012 at 11:10:58 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  Yes, but what about ... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          pdx kirk

          the tens of thousands (if not more) of non-executive defense company employees, all the engineers, secretaries and grunts?

          "Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity, and I am not sure about the universe." -- Albert Einstein

          by Neuroptimalian on Thu Nov 29, 2012 at 11:12:19 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  I believe your are right if (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            there were large cuts in items such as the big weapon systems purchases. IE, stopping the F-35 development outright would lead to a quick lay-off of thousands involved.

            My point is that if the favoured breaks and profits that Pentagon suppliers enjoy were reformed, excessive profit margins reviewed and tweaked, finding a sizeable savings (5%?) in procurement costs would not be hard and would not put one company or worker out of business. It would simply make the profits of those suppliers move from super sweet to merely very good. (This is a group of approved suppliers that is hard to join. Its often a crony guild)

            Another example: I was at a BBQ in PDX where two middle managers from Precision Castparts were working the grill (P.C. is a medium size manufacturer in PDX that makes high end metal items for Boeing and such). They were high fiving each other about the recently won contract for some military parts. "Big bonus for us this quarter", they crowed. I asked why? They said to win a non military contract they can only expect about a 5% profit, but with military contracts its a guaranteed 30%!! (more high fives ensued).

            What if that guarantee was 15% instead? Would there be lay-offs? Would the military not be able to buy what it needs? Doubtful imo. However there would be smaller bonus's for some.

             I believe there is fat in this system and it should come out long before we start even talking about cutting Medicaid!

  's on the table, under the watermelon she demurred. Thanks, I was planning on shaving anyway he replied.

            by pdx kirk on Thu Nov 29, 2012 at 11:39:41 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

          •  Spending = jobs, but more for non-military (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            pdx kirk

            Here is a 2009 report from the University of Massachusetts with a nice graph on page 5. Jobs per $billion:

            Military = 11,600
            Tax Cuts = 14,800
            Clean Energy = 17,100
            Healthcare = 19,600
            Education = 29,100

            If the military is cut back, there will of course be job losses. But if that money is shifted to the spending outlined above, there will be more jobs created. If Medicaid is cut back, then there will be more job losses than if the military were cut back.

            •  excellent info R.N. thxs for the link (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              It bothers me when I hear the concern about job loss from cutting the military, but no one brings up job loss when there is talk of cutting Medicare or wind credits or infrastructure.

              Its a well played game by the M/I complex. So well played that even progressive types often don't know the depth of the inefficient spending we get from those dollars.

    's on the table, under the watermelon she demurred. Thanks, I was planning on shaving anyway he replied.

              by pdx kirk on Thu Nov 29, 2012 at 04:08:25 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

  •  I wish diaries like this got more rec's and (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    attention. sigh.
    thxs for trying RN's on the table, under the watermelon she demurred. Thanks, I was planning on shaving anyway he replied.

    by pdx kirk on Thu Nov 29, 2012 at 04:09:48 PM PST

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