Bloated, Redundant Military Spending in an Era of Shutdowns and ‘Tight Budgets’


Reason‘s Nick Gillespie weighed in on a government shutdown debate hosted at the New York Times called “What Federal Spending Are We Better Off Without?” Here’s an important passage:

The U.S. accounts for 40 percent of global expenditures on military might and, in real dollars, our defense spending rose nearly 80 percent between 2001 and 2012. As the shutdown entered its second week, The Dayton Daily News reported that the Pentagon is sending half a billion dollars’ worth of “nearly new” cargo planes to a storage facility in Arizona, where they will join $35 billion worth of other unnecessary aircraft and vehicles.

This is one of the most illustrative features of the general corruption in Washington and kudos to Gillespie for bringing it into the pages of the New York Times. Unsustainable entitlement programs are eating up a greater and greater piece of the budgetary pie, threatening the viability of overall fiscal viability into the future. And in this context, politicians continue to allocate billions of taxpayer dollars for Pentagon programs that, often times, even the top military brass say are superfluous.

This summer, the armed services committees in both the House and Senate rejected Defense Department requests to shutter military installations in the United States that the Pentagon says it doesn’t want or need. The infamous F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, to take another example, costs almost $400 billion and is the Pentagon’s most expensive weapons program in history. Military officials have told Congress for years to scrap it, but it has all fallen on deaf ears.

In April, Gen. Raymond Odierno told The Associated Press that a $436 million program to build updated versions of 70-ton Abrams tanks is unnecessary.  “If we had our choice, we would use that money in a different way,” he said.

“The Army,” Gen. William Phillips told a House subcommittee “is buying more [Abrams tanks] than it actually needs at this point.”

That’s when politicians from Ohio, where the Abrams tanks are built, went haywire. Rep. Jim Jordan insisted the tanks are necessary for the defense of the country, despite what Pentagon officials say.

“Look,” said Jordan, the plant that builds the tanks “is in the 4th Congressional District and my job is to represent the 4th Congressional District.” Um, by robbing taxpayers blind?

The government is spending into oblivion, saddling an entire generation with an enormous burden of unfunded liabilities, all so they can secure continued support from corporate welfarists like Lockheed Martin. What’s worse is that this kind of corruption and profiteering occurs in sectors well beyond the military industrial complex, as wealthy farm companies, Wall Street financiers, and corporate giants like General Electric know full well.

And yet, as Gillespie points out, we’re supposed to believe “there’s no more cuts to make.”

20 thoughts on “Bloated, Redundant Military Spending in an Era of Shutdowns and ‘Tight Budgets’”

  1. Much the same thing happened during the 1980s. The Pentagon was flush with cash thanks to Reagan and Weinberger, but thousands of enlisted troops were discharged early or forced to re-up early every year — supposedly due to lack of money to pay them. Meanwhile, a modest proposal to trim the Air Force's overmanned officer corpse corps by 6% over three years was denounced in Hindenburg-style terms ("Oh, the humanity!").

    1. Whoever said the Air Force was composed of "humanity"? Only stupid, mindless drones there–the two-legged kind, not the flying kind.

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  3. Couldn't the US government have the military industrial complex do something useful like make solar panels and install them on people's houses, businesses, hospitals. If Uncle Sam has to provide welfare to corporations at least have them do something useful besides manufacturing unneeded tanks. They can call it Abram's Tank Solar Panels.

  4. As I understand it, Roosevelt ran WW2 with a War Department consisting of some 40-odd individuals, military and civilian. That's less manpower than a modern-day platoon of infantry.

    Think about that, and look at how many people the "Department of Defense" (which seems to be involved more in making wars than defending against invaders) has on the job on any given day, including holiday weekends. Maybe it's time to go back to some old-school methods and have fewer people on the job, but hold those people accountable for actually DOING their job.

    As for the saga of the M1 Abrams tank, just who exactly is manufacturing any combat vehicle capable of defeating it? The Russians? Okay, they're good but they're not exactly our enemy until we decide to make them our enemy. Who else is making any comparable? The Israelis have decent tanks- but they are (officially at least) not hostile to the US and in any case they lack the ability to attack us. So who exactly are we 'upgrading' these 70-ton monsters to fight?

    We've got tons of perfectly good, readily available, and battle-proven M-60's and even some older M-48's in mothballs- for what? Pull them out, refurbish them, and put them on the line and save a PILE of cash.

    Just like the "joke" about our nukes goes: Why are we buying new ones? We should be getting more use out of the ones we already have!

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