Pork by the Barrel
of the media are trying to make the very difficult case that in
boosting defense spending President Bush is starving domestic programs.
Unfortunately, too few people are questioning the defense budget
itself. We're at war, after all, and the military probably needs
the money, right? We know we've dropped a lot of bombs, lost a few
helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles, and at the very least
those will have to be replaced. And we'll probably need some more.
So what's an extra $48 billion, more or less, among Americans.
here are just a few reasons the increased military spending is questionable.
Of the $48 billion increase, only $10 billion is designated for
the war on terrorism, and insofar as it represents a blank check
for the executive branch it would be prudent to question even that
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's reassurances that this budget
reflects broad rethinking, most of the rest of the "baseline"
military budget and of the $38 billion in added spending is for
Cold War-era weapons whose usefulness has been dubious since the
fall of the Soviet Union. The increases essentially reflect the
gold-plated wish lists Pentagon bureaucrats, defense contractors
and armchair warriors have had for years, not an intelligently targeted
assortment of weapons, personnel and training to meet the needs
that military planners view as essential in light of recent experience
in Afghanistan and elsewhere.
appetites of the armchair warriors are especially insatiable. In
a recent piece for the New York Post, Weekly Standard
editor Bill Kristol and his war-whooping cohort Robert Kagan were
unusually frank about what they think will be needed. This increase
is just a down payment on the increases of next year and the year
after and the years after that. The war on terror will continue
for the foreseeable future, and Americans will just have to be ready
to pay and pay and pay.
is all very satisfactory. There was always something a little halfhearted
and more than a little contrived about the neocons' effort to justify
big-government conservatism by babbling about "national greatness"
conservatism, with its need for ambitious projects and edifices.
Wars were always the preferred neocon route to greatness.
course, I expect to see Kristol and Kagan volunteer for service
any day now.
beefing up all the weapons and personnel systems the keepers of
the status quo at the Pentagon hold dear misses the lessons such
as they are of the war in Afghanistan. Not that I thought it
was necessary or necessarily appropriate to fight the war the way
that the United States chose I still think letters of marque
and reprisal, as
Rep. Ron Paul suggested early on, would be more useful against
decentralized bands of terrorists but there are some strictly
military lessons to be learned from the conflict.
war in Afghanistan was won by precision weapons and special forces,
with an assist from unmanned aerial vehicles. The United States
also chose to deploy and outfit surrogate forces, such as the Northern
Alliance bands, which were already in the field against the Taliban
regime but benefited from some strategic advice, military assistance
these weapons are relatively cheap. They could be funded easily
by closing unneeded bases,
reconsidering unnecessary deployments (Europe, South Korea), and
eliminating expensive old weapons systems, particularly the trouble-prone
Osprey. The F-22, the latest Pentagon effort to develop an "all
purpose" aircraft and thereby reap savings which will almost
surely never be realized rather than building more "stock"
airplanes that are quite serviceable, also needs rethinking.
current Quadrennial Defense Review still calls for structuring U.S.
forces to be able to handle two major wars simultaneously. As defense
policy analyst Charles V. Pena notes in a
recent Cato Institute paper,
kind of requirement (i.e., fighting two major wars) made no
sense in the post-Cold War environment in the absence of the former
Soviet threat and makes less sense not for the war on terrorism.
If Afghanistan is the 'template' for future military operations,
then we should use that template: an Air Force with more emphasis
on long-range bombers; an Army with lighter forces designed to fix
the enemy in place to be destroyed by airpower; a Navy with less
emphasis on continuous forward deployment and carrier-based air
power; a Marine Corps designed to be more than just an amphibious
an era when the threat is from terrorist groups the "two-war"
doctrine certainly deserves hard-nosed reassessment. I would also
argue that when it comes to intelligence, the United States would
benefit from abolishing the CIA and building a new organization
from the ground up, designed from the outset to meet the challenges
of today. That wouldn't have to mean losing whatever "institutional
memory" might be of value. But it would be easier than reforming
a creaky institution with altogether too much institutional memory
OF THE STATE
in all, the military budget reflects the interests of military contractors
and the Pentagon old guard more than the changing defense needs
of the United States. But the first wartime Bush budget also builds
other aspects of the state structure well beyond the kinds of
incursions on civil liberties many analysts have already protested
with little effect.
is a sign of how deeply entrenched is the culture of spending, not
just in the government itself but among the chattering classes,
that so many of the stories about President Bush's budget proposal
have focused on "deep cuts," as a Washington Post
headline put it, in domestic spending.
been through the Office of Management and Budget Summary
Tables and quite frankly I've had a hard time finding anything
that even remotely resembles a deep cut. This is hardly surprising,
since the Bush budget calls for overall spending to increase 9 percent
from fiscal 2002 to 2003, a period when the Congressional Budget
Office forecasts probably overly optimistically that the Gross
Domestic Product will increase only 4.1 percent.
To be sure, the Post found a highway spending program that
will decline by $9 billion from last year since gasoline tax revenues
are down. But overall Department of Transportation spending is slated
to rise by 19 percent.
three agencies will see spending decreases. Department of Justice
spending will decline by 1 percent, Labor will fall by 7 percent,
and the Army Corps of Engineers will see a 10 percent budget cut.
Defense spending will increase by 12 percent, Health and Human Services
spending will rise 12 percent and the Federal Emergency Management
Agency will get a boost of 114 percent.
BUT STILL THERE
of the features of the Bush budget that might or might not bode
well for the distant future is that fact that it includes designations
of "effective" and "ineffective" for certain
programs. But hardly any of those judged "ineffective"
took serious budget hits and none were zeroed out.
this is a big spending federal budget overall, despite some modest
reductions. But to hear the howls from some members of Congress,
you would think that the Departments of Agriculture and Energy had
been eliminated (finally), or that old people were being lined up
howls will define the politics inside the Beltway, of course. The
smart bet is that instead of being trimmed, this bloated budget
will be increased once Congress gets through with it.
contribution of $50 or more gets you a copy of Ronald Radosh's out-of-print
classic study of the Old Right conservatives, Prophets on the
Right: Profiles of Conservative Critics of American Globalism. Send
520 South Murphy Avenue #202
Sunnyvale, CA 94086
Contribute Via our Secure Server
Credit Card Donation Form