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 ReaganThe 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.
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.