Defense Spending

Even Fake Fiscal Restraint Is Too Much for the GOP's Defense Hawks


For a sense of what the debate over military spending looks like within much of the Republican party, it's worth going back a few weeks to a letter written by House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Mac Thornberry.

The letter, which was co-signed by 30 other House Republicans, urged House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price to blow through the sequestration caps that have placed modest—and already broken—limits on the defense budget, preferably this year, and certainly next. The message was clear: End those pesky spending restraints, the sooner the better.

Even that wasn't enough for some House defense hawks, however. Rep. Randy Forbes, who heads the "seapower and power projection" subcommittee, declined to sign the letter because, according to Breaking Defense, "the amounts Thornberry and co. requested were not high enough."

This is the sort of pressure that Rep. Price was facing in the run-up to the release of this year's House GOP budget plan.

So at first glance you might think it admirable that the proposal, released this week, sticks to the sequestration spending caps.

Except, of course, that it doesn't. Not really.

Oh sure, it technically adheres to the caps, but it lards the defense budget through an obvious workaround, by putting a whopping $94 billion into the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) fund, the "emergency" slush fund for war operations. As a comparison, that's $36 billion more than what President Obama requested in the White House budget this year. It's also $43 billion more than the $50.9 billion requested by Thornberry and his fellow hawks.

It's not only an obvious gimmick, however—it's an obvious gimmick that is built to lead to even more defense spending gimmicks in the future. As Politico notes, the proposal sets up a dramatic drop in OCO spending the following fiscal year, dropping it down to $27 billion. That makes the budget look leaner going forward, but it's not terribly plausible, except as a setup for another emergency-spending end run around the sequestration caps. It's a path to permanently ditching the sequestration restraints even while pretending not to.

And yet that still doesn't work for Sen. John McCain (R-Az.), who has suggested he would not support a budget that didn't increase defense spending. "I don't like it because OCO is a gimmick," he said of the plan, according to National Journal. For the party's most outspoken defense hawks, it seems, even pretend fiscal restraint is too much to bear. 

NEXT: Missouri Set to Execute Man Who Is Literally Missing Part of His Brain

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.


    I knew there was no sense in discussing this. The US has a navy no one can touch, more carriers, than, like the rest of the world put together, plus planes to put on them….but if we cut even SOME spending, CHINA WILL ANNIHILATE US!!!!

    And I kept wanting to ask, “Why on earth would they want to do that? Do you have ANY evidence China wants to fuck with us?” No – the US fucks with everyone else – so I think it’s just projection from these Retardiconz.


    1. You’re just a pacifist! Have fun being faceraped by SINOMUSLEMOFACISTS!



      2. Maybe I WANT to be raped by SINOMUSLEMOFACISTS, SF.

        YEAH, I SAID IT!

        1. Their tiny, swastika-shaped penises writhing across your face as they murmur jihad into your infidel butthole…

          1. go on….

    2. The worst of it is that we could probably cut 50% of our defense budget and still maintain the exact same operational capacity. That would take a very judicious exercise of budget cutting, which literally no one in government has any incentive to do.

      1. I believe you may be correct. Sad, innit?

        1. It seems like modern political philosophy is about addressing the question “who can we best tolerate being held hostage to?” and the answer is always “the taxpayer”.

          1. Or perhaps alternately phrased, “who can we piss off the most without being held hostage to their whim?” but the answer is the same.

      2. The worst of it is that we could probably cut 50% of our defense budget and still maintain the exact same operational capacity.

        50%? Sorry, but that’s complete and utter nonsense. As it stands, over the last dozen years we’ve had guys rotated back into the war zones again and again and again.

        Defense spending as a share of GDP is now down to around 4.5%, and in five years from now it’ll be below 4%. Once you start getting down close to 2% (where it was in the thirties), you have almost no real operational capacity left to speak of at that point.

        Also, you need to realize that any money that gets cut on defense is just going to be spent on other shit instead (which is what happened with the so-called “peace dividend” in the ’90s). Cutting defense down to the bone to support an ever-increasing welfare state is the western European way, and you may have noticed by now that it doesn’t work at all, as most of those countries are in even more dire fiscal straits that we are.

        1. That would take a very judicious exercise of budget cutting, which literally no one in government has any incentive to do.

    3. Why is the presumption always that bigger is better?

    4. Maybe 5 – 8 years ago I was talking with my boss. His brother is (was?) a helicopter pilot in the Marines. He said his brother told him the Chinese have a million man army and could launch a ground invasion of the west coast at any time. I literally laughed in his face.

  2. OT: I was a bit let down by Rand Paul’s attempts at playing hawk last week. He needs to quit trying to play nice with the neocons and start channeling Robert Taft (minus the segregationist politics, obviously).

    1. I think the Hawks have a strong hold over conservatives everywhere. It’s disappointing to say the least. I feel like a moderate on this issue compared to some here, but if you compared me to your average republican voter I look like a fucking pacifist.

      1. Unfortunately, TEAM Red voters worship simultaneously fear government tyranny while worshipping at the altar of the “War Hero/Veteran.” TEAM Red then tends to frame their warmongering arguments as “support our troops.”

  3. By the way, Lucy thinks H&R commenters have turned into a bunch of warmongers. Of course, I bet that after you hang out with Raimondo enough, everybody looks like a warmonger.

    I don’t see it myself. All you have to do to dispel that idea is look at how popular Cyto is around here.

    1. I’ve noticed some of our erstwhile concern libertarians say the same thing. I’m really not seeing it.

    2. I think most of the people here are pretty reasonable, it’s just our conservatarian friends are less dovish than others.

      In any case, I regard Lucy, Raimondo and Richman as being pretty out there on this issue. So their perspective is a bit skewed.

      1. Richman as being pretty out there on this issue.

        that’s one way of saying it.

    3. “I don’t see it myself.”

      Something about fish and knowing its in water comes to mind…

    4. We have a dedicated core of people who wants a war with Islam. Cytotoxic is simply the most honest one of the bunch. Read the earlier thread on “Islamophobia.”

      1. Fine, but (1) I don’t think the proportion is any higher than it used to be (e.g. during the Bush era), and (2) it’s much different from claiming that the rest of us have turned into warmongers.

        1. (1) Yes and no. Mostly they seems louder because people have grown so tired of arguing with their emotion-driven arguments.

          (2) Yes it is, see my reply to (1).

        2. True story*: I was walking down the street to the Dixie Queen when I got beaned in the head by a huge walnut from a squirrel in the tree above. It was at this exact moment that my skin began to glow. Red at first and then white hot. Fire sizzled and jumped around my eyes as the hate of 1,000 burning suns filled my being. Soon the cool night air slowly brought me back to the present and I knew I had been transformed into a warmonger.

          *Obviously not a true story.

      2. “Allah Ackbar”

        “Death to the apostates.”

        On a side note does saying that combo of words more likely to put me on a list or should I just assume everyone who posts here is already on that list?

        1. If you refuse to recognize the difference between defending the country and a genocidal war against an entire religion for the actions of a few, you go onto a list of moral imbeciles.

          1. I appreciate and concur with your point, however I would have to concede that I probably belong on that list anyway.

          2. Let’s be honest, NutraSweet, you were going to end up on that list eventually anyway.

            1. Nah. I’m really more of a “duh-duh” sort of idiot.

      3. Wow. The morons were really out in force on that thread.

    5. Lucy thinks H&R commenters have turned into a bunch of warmongers.

      LOL WUT.

      I bet that after you hang out with Raimondo enough, everybody looks like a warmonger.

      Jesus crap on a cracker. Lucy, if you needed a place to live, you could have come to live with me.

    6. Speaking for myself, I am exhausted and disheartened when it comes to discussing the never ending war.

      At one time I cared enough to sally forth and argue for non-interventionism. I’d put on my naval officer’s hat and expound on geopolitical matters. I got a lot of stuff wrong, but I think I did better than most.

      And one day I realized it just doesn’t matter; the 11th time I make an argument, it’s going to be as if I am making it for the 6th time. The hours of effort debating stuff was (a) not fun anymore, (b) totally ineffectual.

      Moreover, it’s all depressing; the U.S. government acts like a bunch of well armed gibbons shooting clips containing hollow points, incendiary rounds, and rounds made of pressed dried poo. There is no rhyme or reason than the actors’ immediate self interest. They lie their asses off. As a spectator sport, the U.S. governments state craft is like the Expos in the final years in Montreal, boring, occasionally comically hapless, and often unwatchably awful. There is no strategy, no intelligence, just embarrassing and cringeworthy flailing about.

      1. Your last paragraph is probably the most succinct synopsis of every american foreign policy prescription I’ve been around for.

      2. We are now always at war with Eastasia.

      3. Very well said. About the only constant will be “assume the push for war will be the dominant strain in any discussion”.


      1. I broke the first rule of H&R.

        But the second rule is that THERE ARE NO RULES WOOOOOOO

        1. See – libertarians are all just anarchists! I KNEW IT!

  4. Can you guys imagine the cannibals-and-catamites postapocalyptic wasteland the world would become if the United States spent one dollar less on the military next year than they spent last year?

    1. I, for one, welcome our future catamite overlords.

      1. More gunsels == less crime.

    2. If the post-apocalyptic wasteland looks anything like Fallout: New Vegas, sign me up.

    3. And they will meet my .357

  5. my neighbor’s mother makes $86 /hour on the internet . She has been fired from work for 8 months but last month her check was $12427 just working on the internet for a few hours. see it here…………..


  6. Fuck you cut spending.

  7. Republicans, democrats with bibles.

  8. And yet that still doesn’t work for Sen. John McCain (R-Az.), who has suggested he would not support a budget that didn’t increase defense spending.

    Tell you what, John, how about we have a big, old, increase in defense spending.

    And finance it with a tax on beer distributors in Arizona.

  9. OCO isn’t defense spending. It’s offense.

  10. You know the issue isn’t the level of defense spending. It’s the level of military commitment we are bound and determined to make around the world.

    We, as in the US, are also so captured by the military-defense industry that we cant break away from ridiculously expensive programs … Talking the F-35 when I say that.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.