The US Military Budget Debate

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The US military budget is roughly $700 billion  a year and defense leaders are being asked to cut costs of this sizable and growing budget.    According to a recent article published by NPR, the defense budget represents approximately 50% of total discretionary federal spending.   While the Department of Defense has committed to cut $450 billion in spending over the next ten years, the sad reality is that overall military spending is likely to remain at very high levels when measured as a percentage of our Gross Domestic Product (“GDP”).

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has suggested that any further cuts would most certainly undermine our defense capabilities, but would they?  Several months ago, SFTT contributor Jim Magee offered his suggestions to cut several useless programs and bureaucratic fluff from our military budget and indicated that there were plenty of other programs that deserved the axe.

When it comes to a debate about our serious cuts if it were to compromise our military security.    When considering the large numbers involved, how is one to know if we are more or less secure by adding $100 billion or cutting $100 billion from current levels of spending.     Do more expenditures mean improved security?  It is impossible to answer that question without knowing where the incremental expenditures will be made, but most Congressional leaders are not prepared to be on the side of a debate to demand a more efficient accounting of military expenditures when the safety of the US is at stake.

For this reason, the proponents of increased military spending will always win the debate even if there is credible evidence that our military procurement system is broken.   How do we know?   Well, no less of an authority as the Department of Defense Chief of Acquisition says so.

While one doesn’t want to minimize the challenges ahead, particularly the escalating medical costs of treating our war veterans for PTSD and other medical ailments, Congress and our military leaders must make some tough and realistic decisions without raising the specter of compromising US security.  Do I think this will occur?  Of course not.


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