Recently, a fake conservative named Reihan Salam claimed that “[Like] a growing number of conservatives, including Sen. Tom Coburn, I’m concerned about profligacy in the defense budget.”
Firstly, he’s not a conservative, and neither is Tom Coburn. A genuine conservative doesn’t protest against a strong defense nor against a large defense budget (which is necessary to finance a strong defense).
Secondly, the DOD’s budget is NOT profligate. It amounts to a mere 3.65% of GDP, which, excluding the record-small defense budgets of the late 1990s, is the LOWEST level of defense spending since FY1948. In absolute terms, the $534 bn DOD budget for FY2010 (the current fiscal year) is smaller than the defense budgets of WW2 and of FY1985, FY1986, FY2005 and FY2006. As a percentage of the federal budget, defense spending constitutes only a minor proportion – 14.44% (18% if you include the GWOT supplemental). Whichever of these 2 figures you choose, this is the lowest proportion of the federal budget devoted to the US military since the post-WW2 drawndown of the military.
In other words, if you examine the FACTS, rather than the false claims of liberals like Reihan Salam, you’ll notice that today, American defense spending is miniscule.
During the 12 years of the Peace Dividend Era (1989-2001), defense spending was dramatically reduced to its lowest level since FY1941, to 3% of GDP and $369 bn (in 2010 dollars), and the people who did this didn’t even care about the consequences of such low defense spending. They imposed a “procurement holiday” on the military – a holiday that continues to this day. The relatively small increase of defense spending by Bush ended in FY2009 and since then, President Obama and SECDEF Gates have been reducing defense spending and weakening the military, ignoring the inevitable consequences of such low defense spending. Under Obama’s plans for the next 10 FYs, defense spending would DECLINE in real terms (although it would grow in inflation-unadjusted terms by a smidgen) and as a percentage of GDP (down to 3% of GDP, the Clinton-era level of defense spending). The US military lacks $100 bn to replace obsolete equipment, according to the Heritage Foundation. Plus, the HF’s analysts have written that
“Compare for a moment the size of the Obama stimulus package in 2009 — nearly $800 billion — with the more than $300 billion Gates has already cut from the Pentagon’s budget and the planned “flat-lining” of defense expenditures in the years ahead. … Defense spending has gone up. But never in our history have we fought wars of this magnitude as cheaply. Take, for example, the percentage of the federal budget allocated to defense: In 1994, two years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Pentagon spending amounted to slightly more than 19 percent of the budget.”
So any claim that the DOD’s budget is “profligate” is a blatant lie.
Are there a few unneeded items in the DOD’s budget? Yes – the Alternative Engine Program and additional VIP jets. All of these things have been imposed by the Congress on the Pentagon, however, even though the DOD didn’t request them and doesn’t want them.
As for the huge bureaucracy that the DOD is, I’m proud that I’m the ONLY person on Earth who has devised a comprehensive DOD reform blueprint, which would entail significantly reducing the DOD bureaucracy and would redirect 100% of the resulting savings to military equipment.