Defense Spending

The Bloated Military

Donald Trump promises massive military spending increases, but he used to say military cuts didn't go far enough.


Donald Trump once wanted to cut military spending.

Before running for president, he said Congress' automatic "sequestration" cuts didn't go far enough, that they were "a very small percentage of the cuts that should be made."

Then he ran for office and said he would "make our military so big, so powerful, so strong that nobody—absolutely nobody—is going to mess with us." He promised to provide 50,000 more soldiers, 74 ships and 87 more fighter jets.

This week, he followed through. He proposed increasing military spending by $54 billion per year.

Why did he change his mind?

Even libertarianish Republicans, like Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.), call for increased spending at election time. It's assumed voters like hearing that.

But maybe they don't.

When Americans were asked, "If one additional tax dollar were raised in the U.S., where should that dollar go?" just 12 percent said the military, according to a new poll by the Charles Koch Institute and the Center for the National Interest.

Asked if U.S. foreign policy over the last 15 years made Americans more or less safe, 51 percent said less. Only 11 percent said more safe. The polls were consistent over time. In October and December, the majority also said the last 15 years of American interventions made us less safe.

What will the mission of America's bigger military be? I don't know. Trump hasn't clarified that, beyond saying that he will "obliterate ISIS." How? He doesn't say. But he will spend billions more.

This is not good. America is going broke, and our military already spends almost $600 billion dollars. That's more than the next seven nations spend—combined.

I fear Russia, but America spends 10 times more on our military than Russia does. Russia couldn't compete even if it wanted to. What America spends now on the military equals almost half the cost of everything produced by the entire Russian economy.

Trump says the military was "devastated" by President Barack Obama. This is absurd. Democrats spend more on everything. Obama wanted to increase military spending by $35 billion.

He was stopped only by the sequester, that automatic budget-cutting law passed by both parties in Congress in a pathetic admission that no majority of legislators will put their name on spending limits.

The sequester delayed our bankruptcy a little.

But Obama and Congress have mostly done away with it, and now Trump and Congress will reverse what little is left of military sequester cuts.

Bad idea. The military needs cuts just like every other government bureaucracy.

They waste money on administrators, overpriced contractors, and even on those occasions when they want to do the right thing and cut some waste, Congress insists they spend the money anyway.

The Defense Department asked Congress not to spend more on "Super Hornet" aircraft, calling it "unnecessary funding." Congress appropriated the money anyway.
The military says a quarter of their bases serve no military need. Congress appropriated the money anyway.

Even the Democrats aren't immune. Democrats supposedly want fewer wars. They complained about military spending when George W. Bush was president. They jump at any opportunity to oppose Trump, but not this time. Democrats want military money, too.

Military hawks, like Sen. John McCain, demand even bigger increases.

At least the president, like Paul, and unlike McCain, promises to fund military increases with cuts to other parts of government. But will his proposed cuts of things like NPR funding really be made? All have interest groups ready to bribe congressmen to keep their subsidies.

America's going broke. But the president will not touch entitlements, the biggest threat to our solvency. The $608 billion military is the next biggest.

Trump was right when he said he wanted cuts, not increases. He was right to point out that just five NATO countries meet the minimum spending they promised—two percent of GDP. Germany spends just 1.19 percent.

Why does America subsidize Germany's defense? Campaigning, Trump said that "the U.S. must be prepared to let these countries defend themselves."
Good idea. What happened to that?


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  1. Well, at least the military is designated as a federal responsibility in the constitution.
    And there is a difference between military spending, and foreign policy spending, which Trump wants to cut. As a percentage of GDP, we are spending much less than before. It is the history of our country that the military has always been cut too far after a war, and then we were unprepared for the next war. Each time in the past, the technology has let the two oceans keep us from the consequences of that folly until we could draft a bunch of cannon fodder, and build up the weapons and logistical systems to join in after a period of months/years. The next war will not give us that much time, thanks to technology, and the diminishing role of massed troops. The spending has been directed by politics, not effectiveness, as John pointed out. That does not mean we should stop spending, just that we should provide the military what they need, not what politicians want built in their back yard. The sequester just perpetuated that particular madness. There are enough federal agencies not specified in the constitution that can be cut to pay for all of the military increases.

    1. Why are you normalizing by GDP? That’s like saying, “now that I’ve become an executive, I’m spending a lot less on car insurance than I used to.” It’s a non sequitur. Spending is spending. The fact is that the US spends more on the military than it has in nearly a century, even if you take into account inflation.

      You could cut $20 Billion from the military tomorrow without compromising the mission of self defense.

      1. Are you saying that when you get a salary increase you don’t immediately improve your home alarm system so that its cost remains a constant percentage of your household income?

        1. That’s exactly what I’m saying. If I already spent more on my home alarm system than anybody has ever spent on a home alarm system, and it is more technologically advanced than the most advanced of criminals, (and I happen to have credit card debt equivalent to four years of salary…) — then no, I will not upgrade my home alarm system just because my salary increased.

        2. …and totally get rid of it in retirement

        3. I would increase my home security by buying and stashing more loaded and hidden weapons around the house 😉

      2. Muh Constitution!

        (and my football pre-game flyovers)

        1. Yeah, anyone who’s all “rah rah Blue Angels!” is scum in my book.

      3. I used GDP because it is an easy way to combine the effects of inflation and the growth of the government. The bigger the government, the more places to cut other than defense.

    2. Who would have thought we’d need to spend less on our military by GDP when we aren’t fighting WW2 or facing off against the Soviet Union in the Cold War? The Constitution grants Congress the power to raise armies for the defense of the country, our military spending goes well beyond that purpose (and even beyond defending allies).

  2. Anyone still think there is “a libertarian case for Trump?” Notbthat there ever was anyway.

    1. There was always a Libertarian case for Trump. Its name was Hillary. As weird, authoritarian, and off the wall as Trump is, Hillary would have been worse. Trump is a nut. Hillary is a self-important, government loving, criminal idiot.

      That doen’t mean that Trumo is good. But being all smug and saying “I didn’t vote for him” (if that is what you are saying) is saying “I would happily have stood by and allowed a corrupt twunt keep driving the country over the cliff Obumbles was headed for”.

      1. twunt

        I see that’s in Urban Dictionary but I almost spit coffee anyway. Well done.

      2. It’s been a pleasure being called smug for not voting for Trump and not voting for Hillary, because either way I was standing by and allowing (insert candidate name here) to drive the country off a cliff.

        “Hillary is a self-important, government loving, criminal idiot.”

        And those descriptions don’t apply to Trump?

      3. But being all smug and saying “I didn’t vote for him”

        Can I be smug and say “I didn’t vote for her either”? Is that allowed?

        1. That’s double secret probation smugness.

      4. Hillary is not relevant, except to Drumpfians who cannot justify the buffoon.

        1. It’s a talisman they use to assuage their conscience. “Hillary would have been worse. Hillary would have been worse.”

          And that may even be true, but it’s a very conveniently unfalsifiable premise.

      5. Hillary would have been worse.

        I’m sooo looking forward to 4 more years of “BUT HILLARY WOULD HAVE BEEN WORSE, DURRR!!” It’s gonna be so much fucking fun… /sarc, obviously

      6. I voted for Johnson, for what it’s worth. But keep telling yourself “Hillary was worse. Hillary was worse.” If that helps you sleep at night.

      7. Come out of the closet, “C.S.P. Schofield.” Like most on this so-called “libertarian” site, you’re a Trump The Hump apologist; a faux libertarian hiding behind the label because it sounds less biased and partisan than what you actually are–a conservative Republican. Listen to yourself. “Trump is bad, but that cunt Clinton is a lot worse.” This is called deflection.

        1. As if Johnson/Weld had a chance, besides the fact they were nothing to get excited about anyways.

          Repudiating Hillary and the regressive left mattered to me. That is not a ringing endoresment of the Donald.

          Balls! Talk about virtue signalling from the libertarians now. “I didn’t vote for Trump or Hillary. Neener, neener!”

          1. Libertarians are the only ones who have any business virtue signaling anyway. Let us have our fun.

  3. …our military already spends almost $600 billion dollars. That’s more than the next seven nations spend?combined.

    So it’s going to take eight of them to gang up on us. I say, BRING IT.

    1. Many military experts have agreed, that essentially if the whole world ganged up on the US, the best they could hope to do is bottle us up in North America…After we conquer Canada and Mexico.

      1. except that right now our military is spread through out the world. an excellent time for attacking the home base and destroying the military as it tries to return. this is similar to what happened to Rome they couldn’t keep up with their military needs outside of their own country.

        1. Nuclear bombs.

        2. At least Rome was defending an empire they actually claimed and, at least for a while, controlled. And Rome *was* the empire. There was Rome and there was the Roman Empire. There was no country of Rome or of Italy or anything else.

  4. Cut the commitments and cutting the military budget is easy since defending the US will cost much less

    As long as the US has commitments to defend all over the world then the costs are going to be high. Not only do they have to fight thousands of miles from home but they must pay to get troops and equipment there and back again.

    1. Cut the commitments and cutting the military budget is easy since defending the US will cost much less

      It’s amazing how often this little detail gets overlooked. We could probably get away with the personnel levels that we currently have, and maybe even less, if we weren’t stationed all over the goddamned planet.

      I don’t have a problem with keeping token forces in Europe for NATO purposes and in Japan to counterbalance China. But there’s no legitimate reason to maintain anyone in Southwest Asia or North Africa at this point, and pulling out of there entirely would be almost like a BRAC.

      1. I’d pull out of aNato and Japan they are fully capable of building up the needed militaries for defensive purposes

    2. Are we a Hegamon?
      Or just the run of the mill ‘Great Power’ (The Greatest!).
      No one is putting that little choice out there. The Hegamon needs to obsess over every dust up in every shithole around the World. The Great Power can pick and choose whose security and prosperity is guarunteed with it blood and gold.

  5. Frankly, if the budget is a fixed pie, I’d rather see it all go mostly to military. At least the military isn’t fucking with my personal liberties like all the other federal dollars are.

    1. Right, because it wasn’t the National Guard (military) that shot 4 students protesting (exercising their personal liberties) at Kent State. It also wasn’t the US military used to keep the south in the country during the civil war. News flash: The military can be used against you just as they can be used our enemies.

      1. Man, it’s so nice to see one of you admit that you supported the wrong side with both of those.

        Thanks. Godspeed on your way to Hell

    2. The problem with that, is that if you give the state a large tool to use, they will find a way to use that tool towards some ends, and however they decide to use it, chances are it will be injurious to liberty.

      If you read some of the more fevered swamp blogs of the right, they are demanding that the military be used to patrol the southern border (evidently they have not heard of Posse Comitatus), because you know, illegals sneaking across the border are exactly like a foreign power launching a land invasion, or something. That WOULD be injurious to our liberties if they ever decided to do that.

      The state should only have the minimal set of tools needed to do their narrowly-defined jobs and that’s it. We don’t need a big military just for the sake of having a big military.

      1. Oddly you are right, and those people have on more than one occasion made the case that the free flow of peaceful people is the same as a foreign invasion.

      2. The military seems to have enough money to give military hardware to any police force that requests it.

    3. I can’t remember the exact quote, or which founding father said it, but I seem to recall one of them saying something along the lines of the tools of war becoming the tools of oppression at home. Contemplate this on the tree of woe.

  6. When Americans were asked

    SSD*, but polls like this don’t mean a consarned thing.

    *Standard Stossel disclaimer

  7. As with most things, the question is what is the money being spent on. If it’s going to the hangar queen F-35, then its waste. If it’s going to maintain equipment we have been using that has been neglected, there’s an argument. Saying we spend as much as the next seven nations combined is meaningless. For one thing, does anybody really believe the Peoples Republic of China is telling anybody anything true?

    1. If it’s going to the hangar queen F-35, then its waste.

      The active duty F-35s are producing Mission Capable (MC) rates approaching 90%.

      For comparison purposes, legacy fighters had MC rates in the upper 70s lower 80s and the aircraft that I flew, the B-1, was in the upper 60s lower 70s range (and often worse).

      You’re information is incorrect.

      1. The stats on Marine aircraft (and I think Navy as well) are much lower than that. I forget the active Air Force numbers. As an Air Guard dude with a number of deployments and temporary duties under my belt, it is my *personal* opinion that President Trump is generally right about the current state of our military readiness and equipment condition.

    2. when slaves I mean when citizens work for free the price for military spending is pretty low

  8. Congress appropriated the money anyway.

    The military is every bit an interest group like any other – and like the rest, the money that Congress lavishes on it bears no relation to what is actually needed.

  9. even on those occasions when they want to do the right thing and cut some waste, Congress insists they spend the money anyway

    This actually happened when Cheney tried to cut the V-22 as Bush I’s SecDef. Cheney was playing reindeer games by doing the bare minimum of spending on the program since he wasn’t able to kill it like he wanted, and he was basically told by the courts, “Congress appropriated this money for the program, you are legally obligated to spend it.”

    1. yes, Congress doesn’t insist they spend the money anyway. The 1974 Budget Act insists they spend it anyway. If the author of this piece wants to write about budget issues, he might try learning how the budget and spending work.

  10. Perhaps the military is bloated. If it is, it would be nice if reason would bother to explain why that is. Sorry but a single reference to the Super Hornet doesn’t cut it.

    More importantly, military spending might be wasteful and unnecessary. It is not, however a threat to the nation’s solvency the way entitlements are. Entitlements are increasing at an exponential rate and will if nothing is done eventually exceed the entire budget capacity of the country. The federal government collects over two trillion dollars in taxes. Sorry but a $600 billion dollar defense budget is not a threat to the sovereignty of a nation whose government collects that much in taxes and will for the foreseeable future.

    The truth is that both the hawks and the doves are half right. The hawks are correct that the military is facing serious equipment and readiness issues. The doves are right that the military is also bloated and wasteful. No one seems to understand that you can’t fix the former without fixing the latter.

    Like immigration, reason seems unable to offer a serious position on defense issues. Constantly demanding cuts and claiming nothing is wrong that spending less money won’t solve is no better than constantly claiming we need to spend more money.

    1. “The hawks are correct that the military is facing serious equipment and readiness issues”

      What equipment would have made the Iraq and Afghanistan adventures a success? In the case of Afghanistan they have been fighting an enemy, a militia of part time goat herders with no navy or airforce, and they still can’t manage to pull off a victory. What equipment is it you think they need and how much are you willing to pay for it?

      1. They did pull off a victory. What they have not pulled off is getting the Afghans and the Iraqis to get their shit together and make a country capable of defending itself. That is a political failure and a failure of national strategy and vision, not a military failure.

        I have absolutely had it with the claims that the US can’t win wars. Bullshit, the US has won every war it has fought. What the US has not done is get Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan to become functional countries. And that is not a valid military objective nor a valid standard for judging a war. If the military failed in any of those cases, it was due to it failing to achieve goals that have nothing to do with fighting and winning wars and should have never been established in the first place.

        1. “That is a political failure and a failure of national strategy and vision, not a military failure.”

          The military mission was nation building, and they failed in both cases. If you feel the mission was illegitimate, then no amount of spending on new equipment is going to change that.

      2. And to answer your larger point, the equipment is broken and needs to be replaced. We have spent 15 years in the field fighting wars without any significant investment in equipment. Things wear out when you use them.

        1. That is factually false. We have build bases, bought extra aircraft, build MRAPs and several other different versions. My time it was the MRAP but they made severl M____ whatevers with different missions in mind.

          We made the MRAP becuase the AAV is a total piece of shit and you die from any mines/RPGs. Its a fucking aluminum can.

          Bradlys and strikers and LAV had several major upgrades to not be shit in this type of war.

          We tried to make the EFV which was a massive boondogle….it would have been an awesome vehicle if it worked. Billions were wasted on the EFV. The AAVP7 is going throught another upgrade (its the same vehicle from like the Korean war or earlier (like 50 or so years the exact date).

          We made many serious equipment expenses for this type of mine/gorilla warfare. New plate carriers because the Interceptor was total useless shit.

          There are tons of equipment bought and made for these 2 wars specifically.

          This is only what i recall off my head and i am far far from an expert.

          1. The MRAPs are worthless in any conflict other than Iraq. And the upgrades to the Bradleys and such doesn’t change the age of the frame. You can only upgrade so many times before you need a new one.

            Beyond that, we spent a lot of money adapting to fight a war that is both over and we are unlikely to fight again. We now need to spend the money to go back to being able to fight traditional force on force conflicts or we risk losing such conflicts should one arise.

            1. Exactly who the fuck is a serious contender for a “traditional force on force conflict”? China? Give me a fucking break.

        2. The equipment we left behind that ISIS grabbed up seems to be working OK.

          1. It’s not their equipment that makes ISIS fighters such an effective fighting force, however unbelievable it seems. It’s their resolve and willingness to sacrifice for the cause, something that Americans seem to have lost over the years. What really brought this home to me was the sacking of the American consulate in Benghazi: a terrible slap in the face which Americans responded to by partisan back-biting and little else.

            1. Amen to that conclusion, brother. If there’s no support at the top other than ass covering, who are our soldiers dying for again? If we can’t put better humans in command, then the whole fucking thing should collapse. Why should our guys die to prop up some false political narrative for assholes who never put it on the line?

    2. Isn’t the burden on the pro-spending crowd to more convincingly justify that more spending is necessary?

      [this is true for any topic]

      1. Sure. But that doesn’t alleviate the anti-spending crowd from making any case at all. Everyone agrees some spending is necessary. And both sides have an affirmative duty to demonstrate why their preferred amount of spending is necessary.

        1. I think the case has been made pretty concisely in two areas. 1) we’re broke, we have to trim. 2) aggressive use of the military has increased costs greater than any other measure, and reduction of that use — which is nominally what Trump proposed in his campaign (although who believes him?) — will naturally reduce costs. Obviously there is a lot more detail to both arguments.

          Justifying increased expenditures is at odds with both of those points, and I’m not sure a cogent argument has been made to address either of them. Usually point #1 is dismissed under the guise of the US being in a perpetual, 100-year-long state of emergency. And point #2 is typically ignored altogether because anti-interventionism in any form is off the table.

  11. I understand that defense spending is not PBS or the NEA. Reason should, however, understand the impression they create by publishing articles that argue against cutting PBS and the NEA and then only publishing articles in favor of cutting defense. The relative size of the two agencies aside, it seems a bit curious that reason can find an excuse not to cut PBS and the NEA, two functions that most Libertarians would say are beyond the proper constitutional scope of the federal government, but forever argue for cutting defense, one of the few explicit functions of the federal government.

    1. publishing articles that argue against cutting PBS and the NEA


      The first hit I get for “PBS” is an article arguing to defund it.

      The first hit I get for “NEA” is an article that says its funding is tiny but in no way argues against cutting it.

      1. I was speaking of the NEA article. It basically says you shouldn’t bother with cutting it.

        1. I finally found out what this “reasonable” browser extension is. John needed to be banned for sheer idiocy years ago. Now I can add him to the troll list!

    2. ^ This x 1000!

  12. “This is not good. America is going broke, and our military already spends almost $600 billion dollars. That’s more than the next seven nations spend?combined.”

    Not good at all. I just looked at the 30 top-spending countries in the world, and when you add up all the baddies (China, Russia, Iraq, Iran, etc.) you get a number that is approx HALF of what the U.S. spends.

    Liberals never quantify what they mean by “fair share” when it comes to taxing the rich, and the hawks never quantify what they mean by a “strong defense.” Personally, I think the chance of every single “adversary” in the world ganging up on us is pretty slim, and therefore spending twice their combined budgets is adequate. And even that assumes that our allies would stand quietly on the sidelines and watch WW III.

    1. “And even that assumes that our allies would stand quietly on the sidelines and watch WW III”

      If my ally spent what the US does on the military I’d just assume they were fine without me.

    2. Libertarians and hawks talk past each other. Libertarians never support any kind of foreign intervention or any war that doesn’t involve the direct defense of US territory. If you see the military’s mission as defending US territory and nothing else, you are never going to see a need for a large military.

      Hawks, in contrast, do support foreign intervention to one degree or another and do see a need for the US to fight wars other than just defending its home territory. When you see the problem in that light, the US necessarily must spend much more money than its enemies. This is true for two reasons. First, the enemy has home field advantage. It is not enough for the US to just build a military, it has to be able to project that power. And that is very expensive and something really only the US can do these days. Second, if it is going to intervene, it must have a military large enough to do so in two places simultaneously. Otherwise, it can’t intervene without giving up the ability to deter aggression in other areas. The country cannot in practice intervene at all without the ability to maintain the threat of doing so in other places. All of that requires a mich larger military than just defending US territory.

      This is not to say the hawks are right or wrong. It is just to say hawks and libertarians talk past each other on defense spending issues because they are approaching the issue with diametrically opposed assumptions.

      1. “Hawks, in contrast, do support foreign intervention to one degree or another”

        I’d say that they support it a lot more than just one degree. Or another.

    3. ” Personally, I think the chance of every single “adversary” in the world ganging up on us is pretty slim”

      That’s not how it works. The US’s total military dominance has likely saved millions, perhaps billions of lives. It’s the reason Europe exists today, instead of a glassed over wasteland due to Stalin’s madness. It’s the reason that for 70 years we have not had a single large-scale war. We’ve only had proxy-wars because the Russians were never crazy enough to take us on directly.

      Global politics revolves around the known balance of power. Putin rolled into Ukraine because he knew he could get away with it based on current global power. US was drained from Iraq and Europe is utterly beholden to Russian gas. But he didn’t roll into Poland, because it would have been a step to far and he feared a US response. Play that scenario out dozens of times of the last few decades. China projects power non-militarily because of the US total dominance. Absent that, and you can be darn certain that China would have been militarily moving against its neighbors.

      1. Perhaps there are plenty of areas for cuts…for a leaner military and a policy that doesn’t involve getting caught up in everything around the world, let alone ventures like Iraq.

        But….dominance is a value in itself and the benefits are enormous. There’s likely a strong argument to be made that the US economy has enjoyed untold success because of the military expenditures and that there is inherent economic value in what we spend.

        1. “There’s likely a strong argument to be made that the US economy has enjoyed untold success because of the military expenditures and that there is inherent economic value in what we spend.”

          That argument most certainly has been made, but I wouldn’t call it strong.

          1. Peace is profitable. War is incredibly costly to the open exchange of goods and services, beyond just the material/people/infrastructure cost.

            Hard to put a $value on it, but it isn’t insignificant relative to the 600billion/year expenditure

            1. Right. But the military expenditures during peace time are every bit as much of a drain. If we take the extreme example where there is absolute peace and that military expenditures are never used (not even the threat thereof), then the military expenditures may as well have been digging-holes-and-filling-them-in expenditures. — which are still potentially beneficial in a Keynesian view, but not in a market view.

              This is not to say that useful progress doesn’t come as a byproduct of military expenditures. I’m sure we can think of numerous examples. But that’s a very inefficient way of achieving that.

              We may be saying the same thing.

      2. Do you think maybe there is the smallest chance that in doing all of this good, we over shot?

        You don’t need a .300 winmag to hunt squirrels.

        1. No, certainly. There is probably lots of opportunities for a better balance, but I doubt anyone here has the chops to point to areas that are appropriate.

          1. Oh, well, if nobody who disagrees with your prior assessment has the “chops” to do so, then I guess I’ll just rest on the moral conclusion that you’re a shitheel.

            1. (*For being an interventionist who insists on advancing a utilitarian defense of that position and then asserting nobody has the “chops” to make a utilitarian analysis, except apparently you.)

      3. But he didn’t roll into Poland, because it would have been a step to far and he feared a US response.

        Well, Poland is a NATO member so it definitely would have resulted in a US response.

        You know who else took things a step too far by invading Poland?

  13. JEFFERSON BEAUREGARD SESSIONS III. Thems fightin’ words to a yankee. Yo, Jeff, turn it down it a notch.

  14. I don’t know what the “right” amount to spend on the military is but if nobody’s going to even attempt to root out the vast amounts of waste we all know infests it, then why should I agree to throw even more money at it?


    Fuck you, cut spending.

    1. The DoD is *literally* un-auditable! But apparently that isn’t a big deal regarding our “gutted” (as Sean Hannity labels it) defense spending.…..dec21.html

    2. I worked for the US Navy for a couple of years back in the ’80s. The going meme back then was “why does it cost $500 for a toilet seat?” Well, because it’s made of stainless steel and meant to be in service under rugged duty for 30 years. The cost of maintaining and repeatedly replacing a painted wood toilet seat would be higher. Minutia like that works out to be a tricky a engineering problem. I had to quit that gig because it was wildly overstaffed, not because the engineering was wrong.

      1. It also doesn’t help that a lot of the “Why is that so expensive” is because it must be bought through Congressional procurement rules; in other words, no buying “Off the shelf”; everything has to be spec’ed and then you end up paying tool-up costs. Then there are the costing rules: The infamous “$700 screwdriver” was part of a jet engine rebuild ‘kit’. The way you rebuild a fighter jet’s engine in the field is you pull out the broken engine and replace it, sending the broken one to a depot. The rebuild ‘kit’ contained a replacement engine and the tolls to swap them. By Congressional legislation, the cost of the ‘kit’ was divided evenly between all the parts. So you get a $700 screwdriver, and a $700 replacement jet engine.

        Defense spending often makes no goddamned sense whatsoever, but as a rule if a politician is caterwauling about some “Obvious waste” like an $X000 whatsit, the politician is full of dung.

        1. I think we can all agree that every other government department is larded up with wasteful spending. Why would the military be any different? So if it’s not the $700 screwdriver that’s a waste, what is?

          1. “So if it’s not the $700 screwdriver that’s a waste, what is?”

            An 18 hole golf course at Bagram air base. The generals can make do with a 9 holer.

        2. To buttress CSPS’s point…This is the military acquisition process as dictated by Congress.

          Congress makes the rules, which cannot possible be complied with while bringing in a quality product on time and under budget, AND THEN gets to both blame the military for the failure AND spend yet more money on their cronies to bring the program up to specifications.

          It’s a wonderful thing…if you’re a Congressman. Not so much if you’re a taxpayer or an acquisition type.

      2. Yeah, even a stainless steel toilet seat designed to last 1000 years shouldn’t cost $500. That’s waste no matter your engineering criteria.

    3. You’re not allowed to root it out. You see, all this spending does incalculable good around the world, and you just don’t have the “chops” to say otherwise, even in specific instances. So just STFU and give us more, because FYTW.

      1. /MikeP2

        1. Fuck off, dead thread fucking troll.

  15. I think if Trump kept even just half of the promises he made to reduce foreign policy he’d be a fine enough president.

    Then again, I thought the same of Obama, who kept none of his promises.

    So we’ll see.

    1. Trump has already kept more of his campaign promises in two months than Obumbles did in eight years.

      That may or may not be a good thing, mind.

      1. Trump hasn’t keep a single decent promise (yet), and so far seems gleefully ready to keep all the bad ones. So, definitely a bad thing.

  16. I agree totally with John Stossel!

    Somebody pinch me, I’m dreaming!

    Still, I wish the guy would write longer paragraphs.

    Who edits his copy, Lorena Bobbitt?

    1. Cut it off! Cut it off!

  17. Thanks John for once again calling out the obvious BS that surrounds military expenditures.

  18. This article is great, and the facts are sound. One more fact to add: The military accounts for nearly 57% of our budget, with the next largest item(s) being 6%.

    This is exactly what Eisenhower feared, our military and government are irreparably intertwined at the expense of the common person. The wars we fight are not to keep us safe but to assert our will. America has not been a country interested in merely keeping its borders defended but one that wants to spread our dominance to every corner of the world. This was the case with Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and some might even say WWI, and in all cases Americans have paid for it with taxes and bodies.

    It cannot continue. Though there are some things Trump has done well, this is a glaring mistake. Rather than expanding the military why don’t we consolidate it, make it more efficient, cut taxes for it, and eliminate archaic policies that should have died with the Cold War?

    1. The Military of 57% of the discretionary budget. That is to say, it is a huge proportion of the spending that the Politicians haven’t decided to protect themselves from having to explain by calling “mandatory”. If you look at the Military’s proportion of the actual whole budget, it is only about 16%, and that includes “Homeland Security”, which I doubt would actually help much in the event of a shooting war.

      Since the 57% figure actually has some foundation in fact, I’m not calling “lie!”, but I would suggest you check your assumptions and your sources because one or the other spun that on you.

    2. Military spending accounts for about 16% of the total budget. It is 57% of discretionary spending. SS and health care programs account for about 25% each of total budget. Debt service is 6% by itself.

  19. Update the NSS, NDS and NMS to reflect a hands off defensive posture and you can cut the military by at least 50%. But, of course, that would require reducing military function from one of providing politicians the capability to dictate terms to every nation in the world to one of protecting the rights of US citizens.

    There needs to be a change in strategy before there is a change to spending.

    1. “defensive posture” isn’t adequate. Force projection capability is what keeps the world at (relative) peace. Those bases, carriers, and subs are quite expensive.

      1. You confuse defensive strategy with the capability to project force. Attacking another country isn’t necessarily offensive in nature (strategy wise), provided you didn’t initiate the aggression.

        e.g. We are sitting here minding our own business and Canada invades Montana to obtain our lucrative trout fisheries. We expel them, they reattack… It becomes apparent that the only way to prevent the goddamned Canuckistanis from continuing upon this course is to eliminate either their ability to do so or remove the source of such policy. That requires an expeditionary force to attack Canadian assets on Canadian soil.

        The strategy is defensive in nature but offensive in execution. I propose a defensive strategy.

        1. I don’t confuse anything. I think perhaps your initial comment didnt’ express what you were trying to express.

          Force projection doesn’t require attacking others. It requires to ability to attack others. That’s what provides the deterrent. I don’t see that a 50% cut in expenditure is possible without severe cutbacks in the very bases, carriers, air power that is what makes up the basis of our force projection.

          The NATO countries largely sacrificed force projection when they decided to underspend. They have militaries of a solely defensive posture, that have a complete inability to project that force beyond their borders. No heavy lift aircraft and negligible sea power. Which is why no one gives a fart what the Euros say on the world stage, and why Putin had no concerns about his invasion of Crimea and Ukraine relative to Europe. Germany/France couldnt’ do anything even if they wanted.

          1. In my initial comment I referenced the National Security Strategy (NSS), the National Defense Strategy (NDS) and the National Military Strategy (NMS). Keyword strategy. These documents let the military/acquisition system know when, where and how the US is likely to go to war. They build the force structure upon this guidance.

            The current strategy is to play America World Police:

            The NDS describes our overarching goals and strategy. It outlines how DoD will support the objectives outlined in the NSS, including the need to strengthen alliances and build new partnerships to defeat global terrorism and prevent attacks against us, our allies, and our friends; prevent our enemies from threatening us, our allies, and our friends with weapons of mass destruction (WMD); work with others to defuse regional conflicts, including conflict intervention; and transform national security institutions to face the challenges of the 21st century.

            All that bolded stuff is World Cop shit. To do World Cop shit, you need a military the size we have today. If you want your country to play a more moral/libertarian role in the world, you establish a strategy of attacking only when attacked (preferable overwhelmingly) instead of using the threat of force to preemptively poke other nations in the chest. That allows huget reductions.

            1. You know, this may be off topic, but I feel like I learn more from reading comments on Reason than I learn from conventional news. On occasion, you guys really drill down and make some cogent points. So thanks.

  20. America spends 10 times more than Russia but Russia builds a 1000 bombs to our 1 $800,000 bullet to be fired from the only ship capable of firing it. in the next war we will loose because we won’t be able to afford enough weapons needed to fight it

    1. That is nonsensical.

      If you wanted to base a military on cost-effective expenditure, then we should have no army and just deploy lots of very nice, scaleable nukes.

      Our munitions are relatively expensive because they are designed to hit exactly what we want them to hit, to a very high percentage of the time, with the absolute minimum of collateral damage. That $800,000 single round was designed to accomplish what would have required a larger cumulative expenditure in other platforms.

      1. note they have now abandoned the $800,000.00 bullet because it was pie in the sky and doesn’t work so we now have a ship that can only do half of what it was designed to do

    2. It’s not just about the $800,000 bullet. It’s also about the $800,000 research grant to investigate the mechanisms of pancreatic cancer metastasis. This project is funded by the DoD through the CDMRP.

      There is pork everywhere. It’s noteworthy that many right-leaning people embrace a skepticism for federal spending and government programs, but they give defense spending a free pass. So much so that they actually advocate increasing spending and expanding these programs.

  21. When Americans were asked, “If one additional tax dollar were raised in the U.S., where should that dollar go?”

    Still asking the wrong question. I prefer this one:

    “If taxes are cut by one trillion dollars per year, where should the 1.4 trillion in annual spending cuts come from to balance the budget?”

  22. The US has enough nukes to destroy mankind. How much more powerful do we need to be?

  23. What is bloated in the military is the number of bases in countries that are self sustainable and the obscene financial aid given to countries that are sufficiently wealthy to be self sustaining. Close a large number of those military installations, cut out the billions in foreign aid and, for G-d’s sake, stop sending our National Guard to foreign countries to fight wars for countries that are constantly enmeshed in conflicts that they (those foreign countries) are too inept to handle. We are NOT the policemen of the world even if our politicians believe that we are. It is a lot more complex than that, I admit, but there are basics we can implement that do NOT require massively expanding expenditures.

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  25. The cause of Islamic terrorism is Western meddling in Islamic countries’ affairs. We have a military who did what it was told to do in the Middle East, and finally the Muslims of the area did what anyone could predict – they struck back. Our military is plenty, plenty big enough to defend the US, and we don’t need to be involved at all in the Islamic world. Israel is not part of the US and can take care of itself. Germany and the rest of Europe can do the same.

    By having an immense military, we have betrayed the Constitution and our values.

  26. Trump says the military was “devastated” by President Barack Obama. This is absurd. Democrats spend more on everything. Obama wanted to increase military spending by $35 billion. They waste money on administrators, overpriced contractors, and even on those occasions when they want to do the right thing and cut some waste, Congress insists they spend the money anyway.

  27. Trump says the military was “devastated” by President Barack Obama. This is absurd. Democrats spend more on everything. Obama wanted to increase military spending by $35 billion. They waste money on administrators, overpriced contractors, ????? ??? ??? and even on those occasions when they want to do the right thing and cut some waste, Congress insists they spend the money .

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  29. But then the Pres. also wants to increase nuke arsenal; & you only need to read 60-yr-old comments from people like Gens. Gavin, Ridgway to see that increased spending on nukes meant (& still means) decreased spending on troops & warfighting.

    Who’s gonna tell the Pres., tho, that increased mil. spending won’t help win wars? No one; cuz no one believes it.

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