Congress and military at war over spending

"Given America's difficult economic circumstances and perilous fiscal condition, military spending on things large and small can and should expect closer, harsher scrutiny."

If you think those are the words of some blue-state liberal, think again.

That was Defense Secretary Robert Gates in May, throwing down the gauntlet at a symbolic location, the Eisenhower Presidential Library in Abilene, Texas.

His intended audience: a U.S. Congress addicted to military money.

It was President Dwight D. Eisenhower who warned, on his way out of office in 1961, of the expanding influence of the "military-industrial complex" in the American economy.

For the younger set, Eisenhower was the supreme commander of Allied forces in Europe during World War II, a five-star general who knew a thing or two about the nexus of military and political power.

Eisenhower died in 1969, but we doubt he would be much surprised to find the military-industrial complex alive and well and coming off a "gusher" of a decade.

Again, that's Robert Gates' word — gusher — in May as he promised to slow the flow of spending that has gone to military contractors, defense manufacturers and civilian military bureaucrats.

Gates has ordered Defense Department leaders to find savings of 2 or 3 percent per year — about $10 billion in an overall Pentagon budget of about $550 billion.

His goal would not be to cut defense spending, but to curb increases and shift more money to the troops actually fighting our wars.

It's likely to be the toughest fight of Gates' career, and he fired the first volley Monday — proposed elimination of the U.S. Joint Forces Command, which employs about 6,000 military and civilian bureaucrats in Virginia.

That has the powerful Virginia congressional delegation in a lather.

This, of course, is the pattern: fierce congressional delegation opposition to any reduction in military spending.

Congress usually defers to military leaders, but only until it comes to cutting spending in members' home districts.

Which points to the root of the problem. There is nothing military about local military spending to a member of Congress. That money means jobs, campaign contributions and votes back home.

To hell with what the military says it wants or needs; your local congressman suddenly knows better.

But, at some point, all Americans need to ask themselves a few questions:

Do we really need a defense budget that totals — even before Iraq and Afghanistan spending — as much as the rest of the world's defense spending combined?

Does it need to be nine times larger than the next largest military budget — China's?

Do we need as many battleships as the next-largest 13 navies combined, 11 of which are considered our allies?

Can we truly sustain a defense budget that has increased an average of 10 percent per year and has almost doubled since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001?

Our own defense secretary, our expert on all matters military, says we cannot. Can Congress, which professes the importance of cutting budget deficits be convinced?

That's the billion-dollar question.

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Military Budget

Right on editorial board!

 's picture

Cuts are fine

WideStanceRepublican, you shock me. I agree cut the military budget, cut the number oc contractors, cut the number of soldiers and sailors, cut nuclear weapons below START. Funding the military is anti-growth. It diverts funds from more productive purposes. Leave us with the best military by a factor of 2 and we will be safe

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Except when we're confronted

Except when we're confronted by a factor of 6...aka Communist China.

RONALD RIML's picture

Like China is really 'Communist' any longer....???

They've always been the shrewdest businessmen in the world.

And that's why they're going to own our ass.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Yup, and if we don't pay them

Yup, and if we don't pay them back what we owe them when they want it; watch out. They are to be--I won't say feared, but watched very carefully.
Top government leadership is still very much communist. Quite a paradox; capitalism thriving in a communist society.

RONALD RIML's picture

China IS the largest foreign holder of U.S. debt....

As of May, about $4 Trillion of our debt was held by foreign interests - over a $1 Trillion of that held by mainland China and Hong Kong, Japan holding almost $800 Billion.....


And people really think of them as a 'Communist' country, while our capitalists have shipped how many jobs over there.... Pity.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Well put, Bill

Well put, Bill

RONALD RIML's picture

So let's figure it out.......

We account for almost half of the world's military spending....

So we're attacked on 9/11 - 3,000 killed. It is masterminded by a Saudi (bin Ladin) and the nineteen hijackers consist of fifteen Saudis, three citizens of the United Arab Emirites, and one Egyptian. They train in Afghanistan, so we attack there. OK - that's fine. And just as we're on to bin Ladin, we pull troops out to preposition them for an attack on....Iraq??

Where in the hell did that come into the equation??

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Show me where Iraqui oil has

Show me where Iraqui oil has benefitted us since the invasion of Iraq?

RONALD RIML's picture

It was never intended to benefit 'Us'

Dick Cheney's old company, Haliburton, was given a $7 Billion contract to to repair Iraq's oil infrastructure. And a five-year military contract was awarded less than a month before the invasion, under a clause which allowed for no-bid contracts in the case of a "compelling emergency, for military support by Haliburton.

We've spent what, now, on Iraq? Well over $750 Billion. Think how much of that has gone to defense contractors. The total cost will be well over $2 Trillion by the time the Vets are all cared for fifty some years from now.

All because Bush had a war hard-on and Cheney could make some money for he and his cronies.

I'm going to the Togus later this month for some new hearing aids after my hearing got blown to shidt shelling gooks in 'Nam 40+ years ago. We're still paying for that one. The old hearing aids were like 'Rice Crispies' - all they did was 'Snap, Crackle, and Pop' - The new ones are supposed to be pretty good.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

The parrot and I hope that

The parrot and I hope that goes well for you.


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