Trump Is Hurting the Pentagon! (By Giving It Too Much Money)

Anyone who’s been in the military knows what happens as the end of a fiscal year approaches: wild spending. Any money that’s left in your budget must be spent, if only to justify next year’s budgetary appropriation. Woe to any unit with leftover money! Not only is there no incentive to economize at the Pentagon: there’s a negative incentive to save money, and a positive one to spend as much as possible within your yearly allotment, while complaining to anyone within earshot that you never have enough.

Trump has already promised to enlarge Pentagon funding by 10% next year, or roughly $54 billion. According to Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget, Trump’s budget is all about “hard-power,” a signal to “our allies and our potential adversaries that this is a strong-power administration.” At $54 billion, that is indeed a very expensive signal.

Forget about the global fight against ISIS: The big focus at the Pentagon is now going to be on spending that windfall of taxpayers’ dollars. And, unlike the ISIS fight, which is expected to last for at least another generation, the “fight” to spend lots of money quickly is one that the Pentagon will surely win. Believe me, the military-industrial-Congressional complex knows how to spend.

Want to make the Pentagon a better, more effective, place? Cut its budget by 10%. And keep cutting, year by year, while downsizing its mission. Force it to economize – force it to think.

Let me give you a few examples. How does the stealthy, super-expensive, F-35 jet fighter contribute to the war on terror? It doesn’t. Does the U.S. Navy really need more super-expensive aircraft carriers? No, it doesn’t. Do USnuclear forces really need to be modernized and expanded at a cost of nearly a trillion dollars over the next few decades? No, they don’t. More F-35s, more carriers, and more nukes are not going “to make America great again.” What they will do is consume enormous amounts of money for little real gain.

Throwing cash at the Pentagon is not the way to greater security: it’s a guarantee of frivolous military wish lists and “more of the same, only more” thinking. In case you haven’t noticed, the Pentagon’s record since 9/11/2001 is more than a little mixed; some would say it’s been piss-poor. Why is this? One thing is certain: shortage of money hasn’t been the problem.

Want to send a signal about “hard-power,” President Trump? Go hard on the Pentagon by cutting its budget. Spend the savings on alternative energy development and similar investments in American infrastructure. That’s the best way to put America first.

William J. Astore is a retired lieutenant colonel (USAF). He taught history for fifteen years at military and civilian schools and blogs at Bracing Views. He can be reached at wastore@pct.edu. Reprinted from Bracing Views with the author’s permission.

14 thoughts on “Trump Is Hurting the Pentagon! (By Giving It Too Much Money)”

  1. Wonderful article. It’s especially amusing to see Trump’s lexicon used above: “Believe me, the military-industrial-Congressional complex knows how to spend.”

    Trump’s popularity would soar above 60% were he to follow this author’s advice:

    “Go hard on the Pentagon by cutting its budget. Spend the savings on alternative energy development and similar investments in American infrastructure. That’s the best way to put America first.”

    If Trump doesn’t cut, the Democrats are going to win in landslides in 2018 and 2020.

      1. Pre-Trump, I largely ignored DC politics. I’m not a Republican. I did vote for Trump of course.

        Ideas have never been my short-coming. I haven’t the time, and Trump offers unique opportunity.

        If you say Americans are on the defensive on cultural, academic, financial, other fronts: Who has the time to master them all? Individuals are helpless in a society like this. So, we all turn to the mass culture, mass academia, so forth.

        If I had the time, I’d write a homeschooling program, or I’d post memes to express different ideas and arguments, plays that mock opponents. I’m angry at the “conservative movement” on a variety of positions it tends to take. Conservatives like to blame Marxists rather than take credit for their own failures. And echo chambers tend to arise.

        If you desire legal secession, well, once you secede, you’d have to correct the root errors that led to America’s decay. Otherwise, the polity probably wouldn’t endure.

        Jews seem to thrive in a variety of settings. So, in theory whether your group is ideological, ethnic, religious, national, whatever: Your group could also thrive, if it sought to thrive.

        If I had the time, I’d do a lot of things.

        1. Thanks for answering :-)

          I think there may come a time where not only Jews thrive, lol.

          I’m not sure how anyone would vote for Trump, he has violence where (some) other people have hearts…

          You’re surely right about the mass organisations which provide people with the feeling of power they lack as an individual. This too can change I believe. We can make new structures.

          Again, thanks for answering, I’m happy for a talk that does not turn into screaming each other down.

          1. People see Trump differently. Antiwar is proof that different political camps often want similar things. I like Nader and Rep. Tulsi, for example. I also like Ron Paul. Fringe politicians like that who are good in areas are the sort I usually like.

            Regarding Trump, I’m a trade protectionist, and I oppose the wars. The ideal trade protection would be a flat tariff or the WTO legal BTT, which is essentially the same thing. After such is passed, government should otherwise remove itself from trade, except perhaps for safety checks of imports. Most of our trading partners use trade protections in some form, so we just don’t have free trade.

            I also want a reduction in immigration, which I do believe lowers wages, hence the wealthy donors who support immigration. And I’d hoped Trump would reduce the empire. We have troops in 177 foreign polities when we should only have them in the US. Also, I’d hoped Trump would default on the debt, haha. And I’d hoped he’d at least audit the Federal Reserve, if not close it, and otherwise act in that area (end fractional reserve banking, ideally also end usury). A return to commodity-backed currency would be nice. Inflation is part of what destroys real wages.

            Sadly, it is not clear Trump will live up to what he ran on. He hasn’t seemed to connect the dots on what he ran on. The Trumplican ideology is to grow the middle class without welfare, for Americans to be wealthy but also independent. America First is radically opposed to American Empire.

            You write: “We can make new structures based on fairness and honesty.”

            My reply: Structures tend to grow corrupt. I’m conservative, so my view of the world is things decay over time. Liberals tend to be more positive :)

            It is possible to improve things, but man is fallen, and change is risky. A balance of power would at least limit the exploitation and oppression that’s possible, resulting in more freedom and fairness. (My goal in these statements is just to express conservative ideas, not to preach as if I know all things.)

            One example: I’m a believer that Obamacare was designed to lead to single-payer. I should say I “suspect” this to be true. I haven’t studied the matter, but this sounds like a true statement. I also suspect the lending to students is intended to bring about free education. I would prefer to expand the middle class so that most people can afford healthcare and education, can afford to give to the impoverished.

            While it sounds nice to give things to people, I’m concerned that ultimately less will be distributed. The Internet can greatly reduce education costs (for many, not all professions) if the market is allowed to work there. And healthcare works very well in areas. If we could make it so doctors are only sued when truly guilty of malpractice, which is to say fix the court system, then costs would fall there. And there are other ways to reduce costs.

            Obama (via Yellen) used QE and ZIRP to expand the wealth gap, and eventually we’ll have inflation from this. I expect stagflation. And this will impoverish Americans. As for why Obama would seek to expand the wealth gap: It will intensify the demands for socialism. Also, the reflation in stocks made Obama look good. @thebubblebubble on twitter is devoted to writing about… asset bubbles! He seems to make a living from just writing about them.

            I’m not a “Capitalist”. I consider myself more of a “Distributist”. Belloc (a Distributist) wrote in his book “Servile State” that socialism is slavery, and I agree with him. So, I do want a better distribution of wealth, just not via socialism. Belloc also warned that capitalism leads to socialism. And many others, Aristotle and Machiavelli to name two, have taught how positive it is to have a large middle class. So, it isn’t a new idea to want a reduced wealth gap. It’s just an idea that was forgotten.

            Conservatives in the US thought the best way to prevent socialism was to praise and uphold wealth gaps… They didn’t realise that wealth gaps are how socialists come to power, at least in abstract theory. So, Conservatives and Libertarians have actually aided the transformation of the US to becoming more socialist. For years I’ve been yelling at them, but they always just assume I must be a socialist myself. Because it would be impossible for Margaret Thatcher/Ronald Reagan style conservatism (quasi-classical liberalism) to be in error.

            In England, some there actually believe English genetics incline a person to become classically liberal, that this makes them somehow superior. It’s the craziest thing. The very notion that any of them could be wrong about anything: impossible! (in their eyes) They blame Fabian and Marxist socialists, never themselves.

        2. What would be the harm of using both methods, homeschooling AND public education, for each child, or adult for that matter? The schools have more resources and the home has the heart and soul of the student.

          I can see a point where it could drop the level of Elitist Crap in America or elsewhere in a measurable and palpable amount. One thing the notion has is that it’s voluntary. Home School alone brings the risk of isolation. And the hazard of Public Education is the homogenization of thought, like in Brave New World and Nineteen Eighty Four, both books have been periodically banned in Public libraries and schools. Probably for that reason. The latter describes a Communist dystopia and the former a Capitalist. I can see an advantage in weighing the concepts against each other. Critical Thought which isn’t to my knowledge actually taught in either Public or Private schools. Maybe it would stem the tide of Flat Earth beliefs.

          I mean, that last is a short rebuttal, and poof, it will just Piss-a-deer, I learned map reading, orienteering, in ROTC and Scouting and some other youth paramilitary groups. The longitude lines start to noticeably converge to the north or south relative to the equator. And those maps are very accurate, and wouldn’t work if the world is flat nor if magnetic north, map north and true north weren’t all used to orient your compass and chart. Mapmakers noticed that long before Columbus or more importantly the circumnavigation of Magellan’s crew. The standard of quadratics and algebra, PERSIAN inventions, was banned by the Church because it posits a starting point of 0 as a number, as in the central position in three dimensions is 0,0,0 and what really freaked out the Popes was the negative numbers. It’s why Copernicus and Galileo were consigned to purgatory.
          Look at that, less than a thousand words and most of it not directly relevant = Flat Earthers PWN’ed.

          Speaking of banned books, getting back on subject, the book Catch-22 by Joseph Heller (sometimes I attribute my sources, thank me very much) states if any money is left in the budget at the end of the fiscal quarter it will make the War Department (they started using Defense later than WW2) believe you don’t need as much money so you get less in the next budget.

          1. Well said! The short version is that the US isn’t striving for socially responsible capitalism. That’s capitalism with a mix of socialism included. Good government is capable of doing what is right for the people. Bad government, or greedy capitalism is not.

            Americans have been burned by bad government but they don’t turn away from it and head in the right direction. Instead they seem to want to turn to libertarian fantasies. Turning to Trump was the most stark evidence of that that’s ever been witnessed in your country. Indeed, perhaps nowhere else in the world has such a bad choice ever been witnessed in desperation over capitalism’s failure.

            A solution for all the problems you mention can be found in that knowledge alone.

            Trump may be a learning situation that could cause something good to happen in your country. All that is necessary is that you are able to escape disaster on the domestic scene or nuclear war on the rest of humanity.

          2. Regarding homeschooling vs. public education: It would vary with the child and the situation.

            Man is a social being, and children seem to fare best when they grow up with a group of friends. So, you do want that social atmosphere. A homeschooler would seek that social atmosphere with children outside of school.

            Ironically, Hillary Clinton was right when she said, “It takes a village to raise a child.” But a “village” means a small group of people, a community, friends, family: not a global society as she intended.

            I actually read both 1984 and Brave New World at my school. Ironically, George Orwell was a socialist. I kid you not. You can find his writings on Amazon. “Everyman’s Library Classics” is the brand I usually seek. I rather like Orwell, but I certainly have many disagreements with the man. He’s an example of how Socialists/Communists/etc. can be good, well-intending people. I always dislike grouping people into Good vs. Evil camps. Usually political opponents have some good to them. I can’t bring myself to think well of the Neocons…

            My schooling was a waste of time. I learned most of what’s useful outside of school. However, you seem to have learned a great deal.

            The Satanic Bible was popular at my school. Many were Democrats, but I didn’t learn much about politics in high school. Private schools can be a dumping ground for troubled children, haha. They’re not always better. And public schools let you see a more complete picture of the local society, so you meet people from all walks of life, including those with handicaps. So, in a sense public school might give one a truer education of society.

          3. When I was in 4th grade I was told I could skip the 5th if my scores and aptitude test were good. So for the better part of three months I busted the proverbial butt getting homework done. I passed tests easily but never did the homework or class assignments, and in 8th grade PASSED with a failing score. Because they knew that I knew. The long string of 100% A+ test scores didn’t raise the average to a D for the whole year. Also I was usually the only in class who consistently made 100s on the tests so that ruled out cheating. But, they made the mistake of telling me, until like 3 months in the 4th grade, that i could skip a grade. Then they told me ‘oh, by the way you can only skip ONE grade.” Which to quote Dudley Do-Right “upped my dander”.

            They had the notion that I should be with my age peers rather than intellectual, that I would be isolated without normal play with my young comrades. As you say, it would be really easy for us to group up after school, on the weekends and in summer vacation. I don’t know of any other country’s rules similar to summer vacation, it’s a big thing in America because up until the early 1930s most Americans were in rural areas. The kids were needed for tending the fields.

            The “stay with your age group” might have only been in Texas as far as I can tell. And they adopted a program called Head Start about the time I enlisted. Which would have given a bit more flexibility in the age rule.

            There was a TV show “Doogie Houser” about a 12 year graduate from medical school. Makes me grip just thinking about it. There are a lot of very young college students nowadays and it wouldn’t make the news if a twelve year old graduated with an advanced degree.

            Learning that nobody was held back or promoted above or below 1 year of their age group, well, I just stopped thinking about doing my homework or class assignments. It was only after the Draft was suspended 4 glorious years that I realized that people would get deferments if they were in college and I probably blew off any hope of a scholarship. Maybe even admissions.

            Yesterday’s gone. I’m filling in my gaps in computer science, especially now when just anybody can get a computer for the small cost of knowing how to repair one. And people actually throw away cell phones, which have a huge RAM, lots of processor speed and built in bluetooth and wifi.

            And elementary schools are participating in A Laptop For Ever Kid. Exciting times for I.T. I’m going to root a few cell phones, run Linux without Google ownership and see if I can put together a neural network on less than a month’s pay.

            The army runs a tv ad with what starts off with what appears to be their perception of a Rogue Hacker and then a group of I.T. Specialists in an Army computer room giving each other high fives. Then they got all scared speech mode just a couple of weeks ago when it was revealed that Russia has a similar program. DUUUHHH! Any human system down to the individual should have as much cyberwar knowledge as possible.

            With that Cyber Squad (actually actors portraying soldiers) are slapping each others palms Yahoo has been hacked twice at least in the past 8 months or so.

            Probably wasn’t Russian government operatives, because their soldiers are as underpaid as ours.
            My grandpa did engineering on Staff Sergeant pay.

            I don’t know how many really good at logical systems I.T. folks who would sell out that low. People with destructive tendencies and a mad smart understanding of computers probably know they can get a lot more bread breaking into other folks’ computers as independent contractors.

            Which brings it back to Pentagon spending. They’re buying a chute-load of Recruiters. Being a military recruiter mostly involves the candidates have to look real pretty in their uniforms. You could call them actors and be absolutely right. People tend to trust people who LOOK trustworthy. Selling the war and low-salary military service. What’s the difference between an Army recruiter and a college football recruiter? The Army ones are allowed onto high school premises.

            It makes sense in Pentagon logic.

          4. I’ve taken *some* computer science. I wish I could do this:

            “I’m going to root a few cell phones, run Linux without Google ownership and see if I can put together a neural network on less than a month’s pay.”

            I have a redhat linux book and some other linux books. I just haven’t read much in them yet. I was going to run a Fedora ramdisk, booting from a CD, and use Tor Browser. Qubes (Linux) might be the best operating system, but it’s supposed to be difficult to use. Snowden mentioned it anyway.

            Computer jobs seem to be outsourced overseas nowadays. It’d be a dream for me to work from home doing something computer related. I hate being around people when trying to concentrate on work.

            And yea, I was a slacker, similar to you in school. I would wait last minute to read several chapters before a test, still got As and Bs. I had picked up bad values, didn’t want to appear “nerdy”. Which is silly. But I mean I’m very good at figuring things out. I’m a rather nervous person though, so I’m not someone who’s always sharp haha. If I’m focused I can figure things out easily.

  2. The masses aren’t concerned about spending money when they have been convinced that it’s a worthy cause, and it’s their party’s guy who’s doing it.

    Trump’s spending money is his way of “making America great” again by military force. In the short time which Trump has taken over from Obama, he’s made it pretty obvious that is his plan.

    Raimondo can only save Trump’s reputation for a while, not forever. There will be no improvement in US/Russia relations. Both political parties are firmly onside with Russia being the enemy and Trump hasn’t said a word about any peaceful relations with Russia since his campaign speeches.

    In the time of Obama, all the blame would have been firmly fixed on the president. This one continues to be the great white hope!

  3. Hm, the trickle down economy of sitting on a huge pile of money and distributing it downwards to everyone you want to keep befriended is pretty stable, whether it’s the Saudi state structure or the american military complex.

    If someone has the power to cut the budget, fine, but against such a powerful structure it will be very hard. I would think that the way to proceed is to convert the cut into an alternative budget that can win the participants over one by one. The participants still would be able to get their part but it would no longer pass through the military system.

  4. This is roughly 100% true – about the race by the departments to wolf down anything on the table. Craziness.
    Should get on the alternative energy bandwagon only if it means Nuclear, bigly. Yeah solar and wind are nice but..

    1. … but the Energy companies don’t own the Sun and can’t stop it from radiating huge amounts of energy which also drives the wind, which they can’t keep from blowing….
      They really don’t own the land on which coal, uranium and oil are situated. That’s one point of Donald’s agenda, take all the Native lands in america, or at least control the “resources” therein, the same way it’s been done for 525 years come October, and the foreign and domestic official policy for hmmm… when was the first U.S. budget published and enacted? Yeah, ever since then. Vietnam was and still is a “strategic resource” because Michelin has the world’s largest rubber plantations. When the French Vichy government ceded control to the Axis powers it made a really huge impact in America. No rational excuse for the takeover of the Middle East from Turkey and their allies in World War 1 and continued to the present and apparently the future.

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