Recently, the representatives of a number of libertarian “limited government” organizations have sent a letter to GOP Leaders Mitch McConnell and John Beohner. In that letter, the libertarian organizations’ reps attacked defense spending, and only that kind of spending, and called on the Congress to reduce America’s defense investments.
These ignorant people have written this for ideological, not pragmatic, reasons. They’re simply opposed to a strong defense. There is no reason to reduce defense spending.
The letter starts with a false premise:
“We write to urge you to institute principled spending reform that rejects the notion that spending cuts can be avoided in certain parts of the federal budget. Department of Defense spending, in particular, has been provided protected status that has isolated it from serious scrutiny and allowed the Pentagon to waste billions in taxpayer money. A new Congress, with a clear mandate to cut spending and the size of government, should signal its fiscal resolve by proposing cuts for all federal spending.”
The claim that the budget cannot be balanced without defense spending cuts is ridiculous. The claim that DOD spending has enjoyed “protected status” is a blatant lie which will be debunked below. As for the claim that it has been isolated from “serious scrutiny”, and that the DOD has been allowed to waste billions of taxpayers money – again a lie. The DOD’s annual budgets are scrutinized every year by the Congress and by the media, debated, and voted upon. When defense spending is the subject, members of Congress are unafraid to ask tough questions. Moreover, the Congress requires hundreds of reports of the DOD, requires a quadrennial defense review, debates it, and has often closed or cut programs it deemed unnecessary. The DOD, like every government agency, wastes some money every year, but no more than any other government bureaucracy.
The letter then says “Proponents of a larger Department of Defense budget have argued that security outlays should be weighed against mandatory spending levels, suggesting that explosive entitlement growth serves as an appropriate metric for defense spending.” That is also a lie. We, the proponents of a larger DOD budget, never claimed that the growth of entitlement programs serves as an appropriate metric (or example to follow) for defense spending. What we did claim, and rightly so, was that defense spending must be counted in proportion to the total size of the federal budget, the economy, the discretionary budget, and other big government programs, including entitlement programs. These numbers reveal inconvenient truths for the opponents of defense spending, which is why they dismiss them. Defense spending is tiny compared to the annual costs of entitlement programs, which grow on autopilot.
The letter then says that “This not only ignores the unsustainable nature of entitlement spending but also the reality of defense spending, which has increased by 86 percent since 1998.” No serious person is denying that entitlement spending is unsustainable. But America’s defense spending is not. The claim that defense spending has increased by 86% since 1998 (I presume they meant FY1998) is a blatant lie. The FY1998 DOD budget was $277.2 bn in FY2001 dollars, i.e. $342.33 bn in FY2010 dollars. The FY2010 DOD budget was $534 bn. That is only 55.98%, not 86%, larger than the FY1998 DOD warchest. Someone could ask, “only 55.98%?!”. Yes, only 55.98%, because FY1998 was the nadir of 1990s, the era of drastic defense cuts which rendered the US military decrepit (a fact acknowledged by not only defense conservatives but also defense spending skeptics such as John Kasich and the Brookings Institution, which called for defense spending to be inreased by $100 bn in FY2000 dollars in CY2000). The FY1998 defense budget was the smallest since the 1970s. It was microscopic. The source: http://126.96.36.199/forum/showthread.php?t=24215&page=30
It is ridiculous for these ignorant people to use FY1998 as a benchmark for defense spending.
The letter further says:
“Defense spending, like the rest of the federal ledger, has grown substantially over the past few years. Under President Bush, military spending averaged 3.9 percent of GDP. Under President Obama, it has averaged 4.9 percent a full percentage point higher.”
Those numbers are false. President Bush’s military spending did not average 3.9% of GDP, and the 4.9% of GDP figure for President Obama is also false. His first total military budget (the FY2010 military budget, i.e. the core defense budget + the GWOT supplemental) constituted 4.5% of America’s GDP ($14.61 trillion as of 2008, according to the CIA World Factbook). His only second proposed military budget (the core defense budget + the GWOT supplemental) would constitute 4.72% of a GDP which today amounts to $15 trillion. Obama was sworn in as President on January 20th, 2009. The FY2010 budget was his first.
The liberarians’ letter further says:
“It is outrageous to assume spending under the president who launched the War on Terror, started the Department of Homeland Security and began the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is not sufficient for even the most hawkish member of Congress.”
No, it isn’t outrageous, it’s factually accurate. Bush did launch the GWOT, including the Iraqi war and the Afghan war, but he never even tried to rebuild America’s defense after 12 years of continous defense cuts. These 2 wars have consumed a large part of the US military budgets passed after 9/11/2001. The US military still uses obsolete weapons produced during the 1950s, the 1960s and the 1970s. As for the DHS, it is a nonmilitary, civilian bureaucracy which has nothing to do with the US military. Bush’s total military spending, by their own admission, averaged only 3.9% of GDP. That is a smaller amount than the amount the US spent on its military during the entire Cold War era except FYs 1947-1949. Even during the early 1990s, the US spent a larger percentage of GDP on its military than now.
The letter further states:
“And yet, defense spending continues to enjoy protected status. The Pentagon is slated to spend $6.5 trillion over the next ten years equal to the current projected deficit spending in the same time period. Ignoring the burden military spending places on the taxpayers promotes the same reckless spending ethos that led to failed “stimulus” policies, government bailouts and a prolonged economic recession.”
All of these claims are utterly false. They are lies deliberately made up by the authors of the letter. Defense spending has NEVER enjoyed “protected status” and does not enjoy such status now. It has been dramatically reduced in real terms, and as a percentage of GDP, numerous times during the last 65 years alone: year-on-year during the late 1940s, during the 1950s (after the Korean War), during the entire 1970s, and during the entire 1980s (actually, from FY1987 until FY2000, when defense spending grew slightly for the first time since FY1986). And even during periods when the Congress did not reduce total defense spending, it did close or cut many crucial weapon programs – even during the Bush era when the Comanche, XM2001, E-10MCA, and J-UCAS programs were closed and many other weapon programs (e.g. the F-22, F-35, Zumwalt class and San Antonio class programs) were significantly reduced. And, as everyone knows, during FY2010 the Congress closed or cut over 30 DOD programs, including over 20 weapon programs. Defense spending has NEVER enjoyed “protected status”. Not this fiscal year. Not during the previous fiscal year. Not during the Bush era. Not ever. The claim that “defense spending continues to enjoy protectd status is a blatant lie”.
Likewise, the claim that “the Pentagon is slated to spend $6.5 trillion over the next decade” is a lie. Firstly, the Pentagon is never slated to spend anything – it needs the Congress ‘ cosent to spent any taxpayers’ money. Every annual defense budget needs to be authorized by the Congress every year. Secondly, the $6.5 trillion figure is false. The DOD has not, so far, requested any money for post-FY2011 periods, nor has it published any projections for the 2010s. Projections are mere assumptions, not requests nor approved budgets. The $6.5 trillion figure is a lie made up by the letter’s signatories, plain and simple.
The claim about “the burden that military spending places on taxpayers” is another lie. Total American military spending amounted to 4.5% of GDP as of FY2010. This is an amount smaller than the vast majority of America’s Cold War erra’s military budgets. FY2010 military spending amounted to just 18.5% of the total federal budget, which means that only a paltry 18.5 cents out of every dollar every American taxpayer pays to the fedral government is spent on the military, and the rest (81.5 cents out of every dollar paid by taxpayers) is spent on purely civilian purposes. The military spending burden on taxpayers is very light.
It is ridiculous and insulting for these ingorant libertarians to equate military spending with bloated federal domestic spending and to claim that military spending represents “the same reckless spending ethos that led to failed “stimulus” policies, government bailouts and a prolonged economic recession.” The DOD was not responsible for this.
“Leadership on spending requires commitment that aims to permanently change the bias toward profligacy, not simply stem the tide in the short-term. True fiscal stewards cannot eschew real spending reform by protecting pet projects in the federal budget. Any such Department of Defense favoritism would signal that the new Congress is not serious about fiscal responsibility and not ready to lead.”
The claim that the DOD is profligate is false. As stated above, total US military spending amounted to a tiny 4.5% of GDP and only 18.5% of the total federal budget as of FY2010. A budget that would spare the DOD from budget cuts would not be a sign of “DOD favoritism”, merely proof that the Congress treats the federal government’s #1 constitutional duty – defense. The claim that defense is a pet project is a lie. Defense is not anyone’s pet project, it’s a constitutional duty of the federal government (vide the 4th Article of the Constitution), and simoultaneously one of the reasons why the federal government was established in the first instance (vide the Preamble to the Constitution).
Unfortunately, the signatories of the letter ignored these facts – or are ignorant of them.
Defense is not an option, but rather an obligation of the federal government. The Congress should not even consider any defense spending cuts.