III. Military and Militarily-Related Spending Run Amuck

The Air Force online magazine published an article in the October 2000 issue which did a backward projection of military spending starting with President Carter. Spending was shown in FY 2001 dollars. Seven of President Reagan’s eight military budgets were at least $390 billion and four exceeded $400 billion, with a high of $436.40 billion in FY 1985. None of the other three presidents, Carter, Bush I and Clinton, had military budgets in the $400 billion or higher range; furthermore, none of President Clinton’s charted budgets reached even $300 billion, based on FY 2001 dollars.

The decade of the 1990s saw some cutting back in military spending under George Herbert Walker Bush and, especially, under Bill Clinton. Due to the demise of the Soviet Union, the 1990s also inspired a number of long-term projections of military spending. The defense analyst, Randall Forsberg, published two military budget models, designed to be phased in over 10 years. When fully phased in, one model totaled $79 billion and the other, $86 billion.

Forsgerg’s more costly model would have reduced the actual FY 2003 military budget by about 75 percent.

Forsberg’s $86 billion budget called for a fairly robust military, with 10 strategic submarines carrying 240 nuclear warheads; five active and three reserve Army divisions; eight tactical air wings, with three being the U.S. Navy’s; and over 130 ships and submarines.

The new century ushered in George W. Bush and a sizable uptick in the base Pentagon budget. The Congressional Budget Office calculated a 74 percent increase in the base Pentagon budget, or an average of 8.22 percent a year during President Bush’s two terms.

Finally, we come to President Barack Obama. Although Obama promised in the campaign that he would include  Iraq and Afghanistan in the base Pentagon budget, he has continued to finance these wars through supplementals, as did his predecessor. President Obama’s first two fiscal year military budgets more than halved the average annual increase in the base Pentagon budget under Bush II.

As for the Pentagon’s future funding under President Obama, it appears the Pentagon will never need to hold a yard sale. Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates could find only $78 billion in miscellaneous savings through 2015, and another $100 billion in reduced war costs and having military personnel pick up more of their medical costs.

It was previously noted that Obama’s 10-year projection for the base Pentagon budget, submitted with the FY 2012 budget, calls for accumulative spending of $6.5 trillion.

When President Obama rolled out his 12-year budgetary plan, designed to cut the deficit by $4 trillion, he counted only $400 billion in military spending reductions; however, when he accepted the 10-year plan named after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, he also accepted the estimated $1 trillion in war spending cuts. It is not certain if the $400 billion is in addition to the $1 trillion in war savings, or if the l2-year plan is still viable.

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute put global military spending at $1.6 trillion for 2010. U.S. military spending was put at $698 billion, or 43.6 percent of global military spending by a nation that has about five percent of the world’s population.

The Stockholm group considered only the base Pentagon budget and the costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Some defense spending analysts contend that a category called militarily-related spending is a more accurate indicator. These analysts would include the cost of the nuclear weapons complex, which is mostly in the Department of Energy; part of the intelligence budget; that part of the State Department budget devoted to security at U.S. embassies and other security needs; and that part of the interest on the national debt which pays for underfunded past wars.

The cost of this militarily-related spending is put in a range of $800 billion to $1.2 trillion in the FY 2012 budget — the latter figure is from the National Priorities Project, Inc.

The magnitude of this militarily-related spending, pegged at $1.2 trillion for FY 2012, is that if carried forward at a three percent annual cost of living increase for the duration of Obama’s proposed 12-year budgetary plan, would be a cumulative spending total of $17.5 trillion, of which Obama’s proposed $400 billion in military spending cuts would constitute a reduction of 2.3 percent.

Those commentators who focus almost exclusively on cutting Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid as the way to bring down the deficit, are ignoring the frightful long-term cost of military and militarily-related spending. As will be developed later in this blog, President Obama is on course to increase long -term spending in the militarily-related category.

President Obama has not taken any visible action to cut down on the large army of contractors that serve the Pentagon. The Pentagon says that it employs 766,000 contractors at an annual cost of $155 billion. The Washington Post says that when you add in private intelligence operations it comes to 1.2 million contractors.

The Pentagon’s invisible army consists of 70,000 cooks, cleaners, construction workers, fast-food clerks, electricians and beauticians from the world’s poorest countries. This privatization has produced convoluted chains of foreign subcontracts that often lead to cost overruns and fraud.

A researcher named Sarah Stilliman has interviewed hundreds of T.C.N.s (third country nationals) and has seldom met workers who had paid less than a thousand dollars for his/her job.

When I was in the U.S. Army during the Korean War, Army cooks prepared the meals, soldiers pulled KP (mess hall duties), guard duty was carried out by soldiers on a scheduled basis and troops were transported by Army drivers.. If we were to go back to this in-house taking care of business we could largely eliminate this large army of highly-paid contractors.

The next blog will develop the incongruous mission paths that the Pentagon is following; describe how significant savings could be achieved in military and militarily-related spending; and explain why spending so much on the military is bad for the nation.

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