The Pentagon Budget: Aim High!

As a candidate, Donald Trump occasionally tossed a few rhetorical grenades in the Pentagon’s general direction. He said America’s wars wasted trillions of dollars. He said he was smarter than the generals on ISIS (“Believe me!”). He said the F-35 jet fighter cost way too much, along with a planned replacement for Air Force One. He said he’d be much tougher on companies like Lockheed Martin, Boeing, and other major defense contractors.

Instead of toughness, Trump as president has proven to be the Pentagon’s lackey. Recently, he opined the Pentagon’s budget was out of control (“crazy”), and he suggested a 5% cut in fiscal year (FY) 2020. That trial balloon was shot down quickly as Trump directed Secretary of Defense Mattis to submit a record-setting $750 billion budget for FY 2020. This is roughly $50 billion more than the FY 2018 budget for “defense.”

Trump’s big boost in spending put me to mind of a famous quip by Winston Churchill in the days of “Dreadnought” battleships. Prior to World War I, Britain was squabbling over how many of these very expensive battleships needed to be built to deter Germany and to keep command of the seas. Churchill’s famous quip:

“The Admiralty had demanded six ships; the economists offered four; and we finally compromised on eight.”

In this case, the Pentagon had postured they needed roughly $733 billion in FY 2020, Trump had suggested $700 billion, and they compromised on $750 billion.

Once again, Trump proves his mastery of “the art of the deal.” Not.

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 Reprinted from Bracing Views with the author’s permission.

7 thoughts on “The Pentagon Budget: Aim High!”

  1. Here’s a little tidbit from the life of the late Sen. S. I. Hayakawa:

    A year into his term, Hayakawa wrote an essay for
    Harper’s Weekly in which he gainsaid the wisdom of his
    own appointment to the Senate Budget Committee.
    “This was ironic because I have the greatest difficulty
    balancing my own checkbook, and my wife handles our
    investments,” Hayakawa noted. “Putting me on the Budget
    Committee when I don’t understand money at all seemed
    to me to be appallingly irresponsible on the part of the
    United States Senate.” He added, though, that after being
    on the committee for several months, he discovered that
    work on a committee that he described as being comprised
    of free spenders only involved simple math. “It’s all simple
    addition,” Hayakawa deadpanned. “You don’t even have to
    know subtraction.”

  2. war dept is salvating as the budget nears the mind blowing $1 trillion DOD waste. As America goes we are getting screwed.

    1. If you count the Veterans Administration, and off budget spending for wars and the national security state, it already exceeds $1 trillion. It is absolutely outrageous.

      It looks like you are a little older than I am. If you were protesting back then, I wish to thank you, as your efforts and those of your contemporaries allowed me to escape the draft completely, as I was just young enough that I didn’t even have to register because of the end of conscription.

  3. Well, ok. But a buildup of ships could allow continued American force projection while withdrawing bases from around the world, removing the irritant of empire from many countries that rightfully object to it.

Comments are closed.