The Pentagon Can Have Whatever It Wants. As Long As It's Not Less Money.

Yes, that's right: Congressional leaders are forcing the Pentagon to take more money than it asked for.


Mercatus Center

There is a lot of defense spending in your future. 

The proposed defense budget is $554.2 billion, including $64 billion in war spending. The important number is the $490.1 billion "base budget." It is $3.3 billion larger than the amount allocated for fiscal 2014 and $3 billion higher than the Pentagon itself requested. Yes, that's right: Congressional leaders are forcing money on the Pentagon.

According to Politico Pro, that extra $3 billion is not only packed with "goodies for the military's top defense contractors, including aerospace giants Lockheed Martin and Boeing," it's a sign that the commander-in-chief is already a lame duck.

President Barack Obama is losing some of the control over the defense budget that his administration clawed away from top military commanders early in his presidency, with the service chiefs and Congress once again openly conspiring to undo tough spending decisions made by the White House and the Pentagon.

The result: an omnibus spending package for this fiscal year that includes money to buy lots of weapons the Pentagon didn't request but top commanders signaled they wanted anyway.

Here are some examples of the stuff Congress added above the Pentagon's requested:

The bill would reject some of the Pentagon's major cost-cutting efforts and shift money to congressionally popular programs such as the A-10 close air support aircraft, called the "Warthog;" Boeing's radar-jamming EA-18G Growlers; and Raytheon Co.'s Tomahawk missiles and ships, including the preservation of the aircraft carrier USS George Washington.

The bill also includes four more F-35 planes than the Pentagon requested, for a total of 38 planes. The F-35 is already more than a decade overdue, more than 100 percent over budget, and it currently can't fly at night, in clouds, or near lightning.

This sort of profligate spending is consistent with what we saw during the Bush years. A recent report from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) found that inflation-adjusted base funding jumped from $384 billion in fiscal year 2000 to $502 billion in fiscal year 2014. That's an increase of 31 percent. 

However, even that fat increase doesn't do full justice to the tremendous splurge in defense spending during the Bush years. There was a 52 percent increase between 2001's base budget (the lowest of the decade) and 2010 (its peak level). These numbers exclude the trillions of dollars spent on wars since 2003. Nor do they account for all the defense-related spending that goes through other departments such as the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Defense contractors have benefited handsomely over the past 15 years. They were somewhat frustrated by the minimal caps placed on defense spending via sequestration, but they shouldn't have worried. Spending caps, especially when they are tied to defense, are meant to be broken. Contractors are poised to keep doing well, despite the ending of most operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

 The fastest growing share of the Defense budget is pay and benefits for military and civilian Defense Department employees, which has increased 46 percent in real dollars. And of course, it is worse than it looks since there are also substantial personnel costs contained within the operations and maintenance component (O&M) of the budget. That jumped 34 percent in real dollars between 2000 and 2014.

As with other parts of the federal government, health care and pension costs for Defense workers are well on their way to bankrupting us all. As we explained over at Mercatus:

About one-third of this increase was driven by increases in federal civilian employee pay and benefits, excluding health insurance. The cost of the Defense Health Benefits program doubled, which accounted for another third of the increase in O&M. As the CBO notes, "primary reasons for that growth are the new and expanded TRICARE benefits that lawmakers authorized, including expanded benefits for reservists and their families, and the very low out-of-pocket costs of TRICARE relative to other health care plans." The rest of the increase in the O&M component can be attributed to rising fuel costs, operations support, and "other." 

Congress clearly has no intention of refomring these bloated programs. What's make it even worse, Pentagon officials—who understand that more health care spending means fewer tanks and bombs—tried to include changes that would slow the rate of growth in benefits in the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act. It turns out that the military can get anything it wants. As long as it's not less money.

In 2012, Reason TV outlined "3 Reasons Conservatives Should Cut Defense Spending Now!" Watch below:

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  1. Judging from those numbers, the terrorists have won.

    /every NeoCon evar

  2. *lights the Cytotoxic signal*

    1. Please don’t.

      1. I threw the little jihadi into reasonable a long time ago. I don’t understand why you guys fret about him.

        1. *lights the Bo signal*

        2. A tiresome individual does not a fretter make.

          Don’t you get bored after a while?

          1. A tiresome individual does not a fretter make.

            Exactly. No one is biting their nails while praying he doesn’t show up.

          1. You shouldn’t be so judge-y of their unique cultural heritage, man

          2. HM,

            Many times it seems to me as if they desperately want most of the world’s people to gather against them.

            After reading Professor Freamon’s article (there is a link in your source) my thoughts seem slightly reinforced.

            1. There is an apocalyptic, final battle-type eschatology within radical Islam to be sure. And that these end times shall occur during a period of strife.

              1. More material for me to research this weekend, if for no other reason than to add to a knowledge base.

                Personally, I predict three uninterrupted winters, widespread famine, a few scattered plagues, great wars wherein brothers kill brothers, and a world-cleansing fire.

                Either that or the Coming of the Great White Hankerchief.

                1. We’re getting close to the nine-billionth name of God.

          3. “If she is a virgin, (her slave owner) can have intercourse with her immediately,” ISIS explains, according to the MEMRI translation. “However, if she isn’t, her uterus must be purified.”

            I’m afraid to know what’s involved in purification.

            1. I’m a little surprised that Hayden, Rumsfeld, et al, of MEMRI didn’t elaborate in order to further disgust and anger us.

              Then again, in my opinion ISIS doesn’t need any outside help.

      2. *pours gas and throws a propane tank onto Cytotoxic signal fire, stares at sarc*

        1. *pours another cup of coffee, sits in comfy chair to watch show*

          1. Did you have to mention The Comfy Chair, Florida Man?

          2. *reaches for the popcorn*

  3. $64 billion in war spending is a lot of money for a country that hasn’t declared war on anyone.

    1. Why do you love the terrorists, Hero? WHY?

  4. The bill also includes four more F-35 planes than the Pentagon requested, for a total of 38 planes. The F-35 is already more than a decade overdue, more than 100 percent over budget, and it currently can’t fly at night, in clouds, or near lightning.

    Can’t we just buy some Textron AirLand Scorpions, since they can actually fulfill one of the roles the F-35 can’t?

    1. Sure! Add them to the order!

      1. They’re cheap ($20 mil) we’ll take it out of petty cash.

        1. Would you like to supersize that?

    2. It can’t even fire it weapons at a target. They jury rigged something up to allow it to drop a bomb but they could have done the same thing with a piper cub.

      1. Do you have a link to a succinct article, DJF? I don’t recall reading/hearing about those failings.

        1. I don’t have a direct link but google f-35 software and helmet

          The problem is in the software. The are still trying to get the flight version of software working properly and then the version supporting weapons and sensors is suppose to be installed and tested. Since everything goes through the integrated computer system they can’t even test the production weapons system until the next software is installed.

          So any weapons they are testing now are not using the software its suppose to be using and software is huge on these planes

          Also the weapons system is suppose to be integrated with the helmet display and that is behind schedule too. The first versions had too much latency and the pilots could not use it

          1. That’s quite the dismal summary, DJF.

            Thanks for the information. I will use the terms you suggested in my search.

          2. I think the root problem is that the pilots have to think in Russian.

            1. Clint Eastwood did it.

              1. With PTSD.

    3. In the Pentagon’s defense, we don’t really need the F-35 to fly at night, in clouds, near lightnting… or ever.

      So would Krugman consider the F-35 to acceptable as a broken window?

      1. Only if we were using them to fight off the alien invasion.

    4. Yeah, funny that they are making a bargain fighter for pennies that will have way more bang for the buck.

      The F-35 program makes the Osprey look brilliant. Now keeping the A-10 around or a make some sense.

  5. As somewhat of an aviation enthusiast, I find it difficult to admire anything done by either of the two taxpayer-money-grubbing-teat-sucking major manufacturers.

    What about Embraer? How much teat-sucking do they do? Of course, they don’t produce a jumbo.

    1. Embraer is a Brazilian company, so probably a no-go for US military aircraft.

      1. And Airbus is a Euro company, but it’s still a teat-sucking entity. Just wondering how much teat sucking Embraer does in Brazil. But it doesn’t really matter because Boeing and Airbus are the only two companies making jumbos.

        1. Looks like only one is making super-jumbos.


        2. I thought Ilyushin was still making the IL-96, but I see I’m wrong.

          There is a Russian company planning a new wide-body:


          A few years ago I read about a Chinese company working on a wide-body, but I can’t find any references to it.

      2. Unfortunately, Embraer doesn’t make fighters. Their new(ish) regional jetliner is really nice inside, though (E-Jet series).
        If the US had wanted a good fifth generation fighter they should have gone with the Gripen, but, being Swedish, that would make them worse than the Brazilians.
        Of course, the best fighter around right now is the Sukhoi_Su-35, but that would really be a problem…

        1. That’s why we need the ship mounted lasers working.

          1. Thine wish hath been granted: http://news.yahoo.com/watch-u-…..18470.html

        2. I second your E-Jet review. They are quite nice inside.

        3. But how much propping-up does Embraer get from the Brazilian taxpayer? Are they surviving purely selling their planes to private parties, or does Uncle Sim?o give them a leg up?

          Because it’s obvious Airbus wouldn’t exist in any form without the taxpayers, and Boeing would probably be long-bankrupt if they had to subsist on private money only.

        4. SU-35

          Really bud, just because it’s better than the money pit f-35 doesn’t make it the best, we all know the F-22 is the dominant fights, but we just has to make a jump jet.

          1. Just until we can get the flying aircraft carrier program off the ground.


        5. I guess you lost your subscription to Jane’s.

          Gripen? Really? Umm, Gen 4 fighter and frankly nothing new. If we wanted more of those–and I think we might–then we should just buy more F-15/16/18’s. They are just as capable and just as cheap and with a proven track record.

          And Su-35, yeah, whatever. A decent pilot in an F-15/18 can beat that aircraft let alone an F-22 driver.

        6. We have a good 5th gen fighter. What we don’t have is a good do it all fighter that can take off vertically. The VSTOL model is a large portion of why this aircraft will always be behind the power curve.

          The other part is an overly large design team with thousands of bureaucrats overseeing it.

        7. Gripen is 4th gen.

          Nothing on this planet can mango with a raptor. F15’s have never recorded a lock on one to date.

          1. Tango not mango

      1. Do you end up covered in tar?

        1. It’s sticky and brown, I suppose you could call it tar

      2. Yeah, sure, let’s go with that and not a drink in a quiet bar followed by getting stoned and watching Hot Tub Time Machine on my couch.

        1. and watching Hot Tub Time Machine on my couch

          That, in and of itself, is the most disgusting thing you could have said. I mean, if you said the night would have ended in mutual coprophagia, I would have been less disgusted than that.

          1. You lack compassion, Mulatto. He said he is stoned and likely somewhat drunk. The mesh on the movie filter tends to expand greatly under those circumstances.

        2. You need someone to sit on your face, boo.

          1. Teabagging is a special occasion kind of thing for me.

        3. Not Airplane?

          1. Surely not.

            1. Nice.

        4. You all exhibit extremely poor taste in comedy if you don’t love HTTM. Next you’ll tell me you hate Role Models, too.

          1. What is wrong with you?

            You’re worse than Ebola, and Ebola = Illuminati

            1. OK that was fuckin’ hilarious. Funnier than 40-Year-Old Virgin, even.

              1. Did you look into HM’s earlier post (at 2:34 today)?

                ISIS = Illuminati
                Don’t believe me?

  6. What’s make it even worse, Pentagon officials?who understand that more health care spending means fewer tanks and bombs?tried to include changes that would slow the rate of growth in benefits in the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act.

    Sigh… WTF? You have the people in uniform saying “cut this” and the Congress Critters won’t?!?!

    1. It’s been that way for years. A while back I read an article where the Army was saying “We don’t need any more Abrams Tanks” but Congress wouldn’t stop buying them.

      1. Their contractor payoffs weren’t complete for that election cycle.

    2. The Congress Critters answer to the unionized defense workers who can vote them out of office, not the people in uniform who use the stuff the defense workers make.

      1. I guess that’s why they have so much crap they have to give it away to the cops.

    3. Back in 1980, the first U.S. Navy ship I was assigned to (U.S.S. Truxtun) was a ship built in 1964 that the Navy didn’t want but Congress foisted upon them. Alas this is an old story.

  7. Eisenhower said more then 50 years ago “if in 10 years, all American troops stationed in Europe for national defense purposes have not been returned to the United States, then this whole project will have failed.”

    Same could be said for US troops in many other places around the world.

  8. You know I would have been perfectly ok with more A-10 spending if it came at the expense of the F-35

    1. The a-10 was my favorite airplane as a kid.

      1. It’s too cost-effective. Congress doesn’t like that.

        1. Air Force doesn’t like that. The A-10 is a close support aircraft and the only things they like are strategic bombers and go-fast planes. Tell me again why the hell we need a new bomber? It’s not like the B-2’s are worn out.

          Fuck the Air Force.

          1. Same reason we need net neutrality, to solve a problem that hasn’t been created yet.

  9. The Pentagon Projects: Where our more nasty and irritable patriots go to build torture chambers, shitty jets, and gamble confiscated billions in the terrorism casino.

  10. OT: In episode 976 of “I told you so”, cracks begin to appear in Pioneer Square and buildings have sunk an inch.

    When do I get my apology? And I want ex-mayor nickels in my office first thing in the morning. And tell him to bring his checkbook.


    1. Who cares about historic buildings? We’ve got an expensive tunnel to dig.

  11. On Penn Jillette:

    If I were the officer that choked Garner to death, I’d also not be into punishment.

      1. No, no. Do go on…

  12. You can’t even start talking sense about a budget for anything until you know what the purpose is that you are trying to accomplish.

    So, what the hell is our military for? Fighting declared wars against hostile sovereigns? Protecting our borders from invasion? Keeping the sea lanes open? Or policing the world?

    The budget we have is way too big for any but the last. It can never be big enough for the last.

    1. So, what the hell is our military for? Fighting declared wars against hostile sovereigns? Protecting our borders from invasion? Keeping the sea lanes open? Or policing the world?

      Wrong on all counts. The purpose of the military is to garner votes for politicians who promise to kill people on the other side of the world, as well as getting votes from soldiers and contractors who want to keep receiving a regular paycheck.

      1. Well, and this, too.

        So – again – spend more! Write more checks, man! FREEDOM ITSELF is at stake!

        1. Think of the Chi’dren

    2. So, what the hell is our military for? Fighting declared wars against hostile sovereigns? Protecting our borders from invasion? Keeping the sea lanes open? Or policing the world?

      Yes. Yes, yes, yes.

      All that and more.

      Spend more and write more checks, FFS! Freedom ITSELF is at stake, man!

      1. “The bank called – you’re broke”

        “How can I be broke, there are still checks in the checkbook!”

        1. OK, fine. Tell the bank to get bent. I still have my credit card.

    3. “Protecting our borders from invasion”

      This one is also completely open-ended from a spending perspective. It costs infinity dollars to predict and prepare for every possible threat.

      1. “It costs infinity dollars to predict and prepare for every possible threat.”

        Seems like our nation’s zeitgeist, doesn’t it? From “defense” spending to “protecting the children” to, well, just about everything else.

    4. In reality it may be a welfare program…

  13. I’m not sure why, but this made me think of the Pentagon.

    It was missing a few things. Like an overprotective mom (congress) who keeps buying it expensive toys it doesn’t want.

  14. You wouldn’t know it if you Googled Pentagon, budget, slash, or anything to that effect.

  15. The F-35 is already more than a decade overdue, more than 100 percent over budget, and it currently can’t fly at night, in clouds, or near lightning.

    Nut hey – the Marines needed a Harrier replacement (though the F-35 won’t do the Harriers *actual* job as well as the aging Harrier – but hey! The marines get a new air superiority fighter they so *desperately* need to fulfill their primary mission of . . . door-kicking), the navy wants a new multipurpose attack/fighter (though why you can’t simply reduce payload and strengthen the structure and add catapult gear (which is what the naval version of the F-35 does) to the F-22), and the Air Force? Fuck the Air Force. Sure, you guys got your F-22, but we sold the F-35 as a *multi-service* craft, with PARTS COMMONALITY! so you will , by God!, make this shit-heap work.

    1. McNamara’s Whiz-kids wanted a multi-service fighter too, and we ended up with the FB-111 which was too heavy to operate off carriers – but whose swing-wing did lead to the F-14.

      1. Meh, the F-4 is a closer comparison. It sorta succeeded but was never a great aircraft. The good news is that it lead to the fighter mafia and the brilliant F-15.

    2. F-22 production line was mothballed in favor of the “cheaper” F-35. And the F-35 is supposed to be more of an attack jet versus the F-22 air dominance. I think we should build some more F-22’s, buy more 15’s/16’s/18’s in the interim and focus on unmanned stealth drones for the attack role. The F-35 will be a better aircraft than the Harrier, but it’s still not worth the cost.

      1. Debatable. The F-35 VSTOL version is going to be a fiasco. The lovely part is its still single engine which is why every harrier EP involves ejecting (sarcasm but not by much).

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  17. Since the “Pentagon Leaders” are a bunch of WH toadies that are under instruction to scale back defense spending, I don’t put much stock in the fact that a GOP led Congress wants to spend more than the current Prog Defense Leaders other than: Duh!

    1. So what does that make congress? Lockheed toadies?

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