Guns vs. Butter, or: The Pentagon Is Insane

          Is there any U.S. governmental agency that spends money as recklessly and with as little oversight as the Department of Defense (DoD)? Considering the amount of money that is allocated to the DoD, they operate with far too little scrutiny.  Military spending represents approximately 20% of the total federal budget.  Only the Department of Health & Human Services and the Social Security Administration have larger budgets than the DoD.  Lately, there has been a lot of talk about the ‘devastating’ budget cuts that are in store for the DoD as a result of the budget sequestration agreement.  The table below shows that the ‘devastating’ cuts are so small as to be unnoticeable.  The primary cost reductions in the DoD’s budget are only achieved as a result of ending the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.  The American Military Industrial Complex is not being reduced in any meaningful manner.  Anyone interested in a closer look at the amount of money America spends on ‘defense’ should look here: DoD FY 2013 Budget Request.

 

 

DoD Budget (Billions)

FY 2011

Actual

FY 2012 Enactment

FY 2013

Request

FY 12 – 13 Change

Base

528.2

530.6

525.4

-5.2

OCO*

158.8

115.1

88.5

-26.6

Total Budget

687.0

645.7

613.9

-31.8

 

 *OCO -  Overseas Contingency Operations 

 

          In this age of austerity when elected officials casually discuss raising the eligibility age for Social Security and Medicare benefits, why has the Pentagon been allowed to spend 65 billion dollars developing a plane that is neither necessary nor affordable?  The F-35 fighter plane was once hailed as being both affordable and technologically advanced.  The reality for both claims has proved far different.  The F-35 has been in development for more than a decade.  During test flights conducted this year, the special coating that is applied to the plane to allow it to fly undetected by enemy radar, or in ‘stealth’ mode, was peeling off.  After a decade, the pilot’s helmet is still not functioning properly.  The Pentagon has already calculated that the total cost of a fleet of 2400 F-35s over a 30 year period (projected life of the plane) will exceed 1.1 trillion dollars.  Assuming that their cost estimate is correct, that works out to approximately 400 million dollars per plane.  Based on the Pentagon’s history of wildly inaccurate cost projections, is there any reason at all to doubt that their estimate for this program might be far too low? 

          The F-35 is but one of many wasteful and unnecessary programs that make up U.S. military spending.  The Virginia Class Submarine, the U.S. Navy’s next generation of nuclear attack submarines is currently projected to cost more than 2.5 billion each.  Deeming it unaffordable, the Navy voluntarily removed this program from their budget. Since there are numerous politicians fighting for this program, it is unlikely to be cancelled.  The U.S. Navy also wants to upgrade their fleet of aircraft carriers.  Anyone that has ever been on an aircraft carrier realizes that these vessels are simply enormous.  They are also expensive. The government has already placed orders for three new aircraft carriers at a cost of 10 billion dollars each.  They will be delivered over the next decade; a decade in which it is likely that spending on social programs will be severely reduced.     

          Most people are aware that the American military budget exceeds that of any other country on the planet.  No other country even comes close to matching the amount of money that America devotes to military spending.  In 2012, the combined military spending of all the nations on the planet amounted to 1.74 trillion dollars.  Of that amount, America accounted for 42% of the total spending.  Amazingly, even as we are being told that there is no longer the money to spend on social programs; America is still able to find the money to account for nearly half of all global military expenditures.

          For the last several years the Pentagon has been desperately pushing the idea that China is a military competitor of America.  A look at China’s military expenditures indicates that the Pentagon is crying wolf.  In 2012, China’s military budget was approximately 140 billion dollars.  America outspent China 5 to 1 in 2012.  During the 2012 presidential campaign, Mitt Romney called Russia, “our No. 1 geopolitical foe”.  I wonder if he knows that Russia’s military budget was 70 billion dollars in 2012.  That’s right, Mr. Romney, America outspent, “our No. 1 geopolitical foe” by a ratio of 10 to 1. 

          What drives America’s military spending?  Do the security threats that America faces justify the amount of money that is spent on our military?  When a single country accounts for 42% of total global military expenditures it seems rather obvious that the spending priorities of that country do not reflect reality.  American politicians on the left and right are demanding cuts in spending for social programs.  Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security are facing cuts that will affect the poorest and most vulnerable in society.  I simply cannot take seriously any person that demands cuts in social spending but remains silent on America’s out of control military budget.  Those interested in reducing the size of the federal budget should consider looking to the DoD.  

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Rumsfeld, Cheney et al

geomoo's picture

I wish I could remember the name of the film that documents the conscious decision of a small group in the intelligence and military community to sabotage the emerging cold war detente.  Included is a video of a much younger Rumsfeld telling lies on television about the extent of the Soviet threat.  The movement was successful and these fear mongerers have been controlling what is laughably called foreign policy ever since.  There is money in fear.

I wonder how many people have seen the latest Bond film.  I wish I could excerpt the Judi Dench/M speech.  She implores the nation to ask themselves, "Do you feel safe?" assuming the answer will be no.  She is pleading for the voting citizens who presumably determine policy to understand that the old warrior ways are still necessary.  All in all, a sickening bit of propaganda embedded in popular entertainment.  And so it goes.  We are dominated by a paranoid world view intentionally promoted in opposition to the emerging metanoia movements of the 60's.

There's gold in them thar lies.

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Sounds like Power of Nightmares

chipmo's picture

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
 

Funnily enough, this is less disturbing than 2 of Adam Curtis' other BBC documentaries, The Century of the Self and The Trap.  All three of them, along with his most recent film 'All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace', are used to illustrate an overall theme of people unwittingly creating the enemy they feared in the first place.

I enjoyed Adam Curtis' films greatly, and still recommend them highly, but as I've mentioned before, Scott Noble's Meta-noia films take it to the next level.  Watch Psywar if you haven't.

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Thanks, chipmo

geomoo's picture

It was the Power of Nightmares, and yeah, I watched the "machines" one.   This is the way to understand the world we live in, not chasing after daily news phantoms.  Thanks for the links and info.  I will watch more of those.

 

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Between all the unnecessary jobs in the MIC and

Glinda's picture

the healthcare insurance industry, busy work where people make billions of dollars for something our society doesn't need, imagine if those dollars were spent on jobs that actually improve people's lives, i.e., education, healthcare, infrastructure, clean energy - just to name a few.

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just for fun, imagine if the money we gave the MIC went to

sartoris's picture

Just imagine where this country would be if our government approached climate change with the same zeal it approaches military spending.  Think of what could be done with infrastructure, green energy, education and so many other programs if the DoD's budget was cut in half.  The unemployment rate would be seriously reduced if some of the money that is spent for 'defense' was re-allocated to more rationale purposes.

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Not doing the job ...

BruceMcF's picture

... is not about analyzing the rules of how the system work, but about adressing the folkviews that rationalize and legitimize the system.

The "keep you and your kid safe from the bad peoples" is how it rationalizes the money flows ~ for the beneficiaries, its about keeping up the story to keep the money flowing.

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When the bugiman de jour dies

traveler's picture

another is created to take it's place.

The public, indoctrinated from an early age to worship the military, is easily duped by this fear mongering BS delivered by the establishment media on behalf of the establishment while as we watch our civil liberties being steadily eroded in the name of national security.

Can't people see where we are heading with this?

Foreign policies which support corrupt and oppressive regimes and seek to overthrow others that offer no threat other than to impede "US interests".

Blowback from our military misadventures creates more enemies. The D's challenged these policies when the R's were in power. Both sides support it now that the D's own the presidency, a major coup for the oligarachy.

It's part of that well-known racket that retired General Butler told us about. Money and power for the well-connected, creating more enemies with no end in sight.

 

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If they couldn't see where that was heading in the 1950's ...

BruceMcF's picture

... then for larger numbers to see where we are heading with this today would require something different about how they get their information.

The main difference seems to have been fewer people watching national news, the audience still watching national news being more fractured, and those watching national news getting more of it from sources that take dictation from one corporate party or the other, and the replacement of the isolationist wing of the Republican party with a hyper-Imperial wing, which makes quite egregious warmongering look tame by comparison.

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Great essay, Sartoris

priceman's picture

This needs to end even though military spending is down 22.2% and curtailing GDP growth but as Marcy Wheeler said the solution is not to restore these ridiculous outlays but to build something else besides outdated military equipment, Star Wars programs that don't exist and other waste in contracts with the homeland security bubble.

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Guns vs Butter

traveler's picture

Let's put the blame at its source, the policy makers.

Policy makers are those unelected individuals who represent the moneyed interests of banking, of large international corporations represented by influential organizations such as CFR and the think tanks like Brookings which is run by a gang of wealthy neoconservatives, arm-chair warriors scheming to find ways to destroy countries that stand in the way of US global hegemony and full-spectrum military dominance.

Thus far their plans have resulted primarily in bloody blowback and large profits for the MICC. They have demonstrated over and over again that they have very little understanding of basic human nature.

The military is their primary tool. Real diplomacy does not work when we attempt to create a world that will exist to serve our interests above all others. It takes lots of money and time and full-time propaganda aimed at the public in order to gain political support for the actions required to achieve their goals. The destruction, death and misery in their path appears insignificant to them.

Congress has become less and less important, bought and paid for by special interests, many such interests being those who support the goals of empire and the means by which empire, in their view, can be achieved. Those who aren't in on the game might well find themselves in a situation of having poor chance of being re-elected because of a lack of funding.

The public is becoming wise to this and we can expect future actions aimed at limiting dissent. We have witnessed it in the making since we experienced our "New Pearl Harbor". There was the Patriot Act and others limiting civil liberties which have followed it.

Our government exists to serve the ruling establishment and they believe that they deserve it.

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And there it is in a nutshell

geomoo's picture

So sad.  I quoted Assange in a short post today similarly laying it out.  In terms of where to lay the blame, I would blame human nature.  The first time I heard it said that love of money is the root of all evil I was just a kid and I thought that was the most shallow and stupid religious teaching I had ever heard.  I thought, who is stupid enough to place money that high on their list?  Other things, like passion and lust seemed more culpable.  But I'm older and wiser now--seems like a pretty good saying.

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And there it is in a nutshell

geomoo's picture

So sad.  I quoted Assange in a short post today similarly laying it out.  In terms of where to lay the blame, I would blame human nature.  The first time I heard it said that love of money is the root of all evil I was just a kid and I thought that was the most shallow and stupid religious teaching I had ever heard.  I thought, who is stupid enough to place money that high on their list?  Other things, like passion and lust seemed more culpable.  But I'm older and wiser now--seems like a pretty good saying.

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