Defense

Republicans and Democrats Spar Over Whether Defense Spending Should Increase by $20 Billion or $30 Billion

The depressing bipartisan consensus on ever-increasing defense spending shows no sign of breaking down anytime soon.

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A bitter policy fight is brewing on Capitol Hill over exactly how much money Congress should spend to keep the country safe.

At the heart of this contentious debate is the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), a major piece of defense legislation that must pass each year in order to keep the lights on at the Pentagon and to fund America's numerous, occasionally constitutional conflicts overseas.

Last year's NDAA—passed in August 2018—spent $716 billion on various defense programs, which was more than twice the combined military spending of Russia and China that year.

This princely sum is apparently inadequate to deal with the security threats faced by the U.S. in fiscal year 2020, however, as lawmakers from both parties are now angling for a funding boost.

In the Democratically controlled House of Representatives, Rep. Adam Smith (D–Wash.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, has put forward a proposal that would spend $733 billion on defense, which is in line with what the Pentagon was expecting to get this coming fiscal year.

In March, the White House upended that expectation by requesting a $750 billion NDAA, which would include roughly $675 billion for discretionary defense spending, plus another $75 billion for overseas military operations.

The Senate Armed Services Committee agreed to the larger NDAA in late May. Now Republicans are pressuring Smith to boost funding in the House's bill to match it.

"In pursuing an arbitrarily lower budget, the proposal reduces or eliminates vital programs," warned Rep. Mac Thornberry (R–Texas) in a statement to The Hill.

Smith's bill in the House, according to Breaking Defense, saves money by scrapping plans for more nuclear subs, and spending less than the White House is demanding on new fighter planes and warships.

So far, the Washington representative is sticking to his guns, arguing that spending more than $733 billion might be fiscally irresponsible.

"I think we have enough history with the Pentagon to see it in the past, when they've been given more money than perhaps they expected, there is a lot of inefficiency and waste that follows," Smith told reporters on Monday.

Despite the sparring, Smith stressed to reporters that the vast majority of the defense spending that Congress is now considering is controversial with neither party. "The amount of stuff that we disagree on is probably about 2 percent of the bill," he stated.

This bipartisan consensus is a problem, says Christopher Preble, Vice President of Defense and Foreign Policy Studies at the Cato Institute.

"It's absurd that the U.S. thinks the only way we can be secure is if we spend $750 billion or $733 billion," says Preble. "The problem is we have defined our grand strategy very broad so that the only way we can be secure is if the whole planet is secure."

Securing the whole planet is a costly endeavor. The reason why current budget debates are so marginal, explains Preble, is that both parties largely agree on this expansive role for the U.S. military.

So long as this consensus exists, not only will U.S. defense budgets continue to grow, but arguments about them in Congress will largely center around how quickly such budgets should expand.

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  1. Although as a libertarian I generally want to reduce government spending, I think this is a bad time to argue for weakening our military. Soon we’ll have a Democratic Commander in Chief, and he / she / they will need the most powerful military on the planet to confront Russia.

    #LibertariansForGettingToughWithRussia

    1. LOL!!!! You are about as Libertarian as the Pope is Jewish!!!

      1. why dullard?

    2. You can easily afford to close down a few of its golf courses. It won’t ‘weaken the military.’

    3. Not for nothing… among the very few duties our Constitution allows our government to do are regulate interstate commerce and defend the country against invasion, Foreign and Domestic. It does not allow for welfare, ETB handouts or the Crimalien invasion the Left feels it is their right to foist upon us. Even taxation was not part of the plan until 1913 when the FED stole this country from it’s citizenry.
      Yeah, we spend a lot on defense. Don’t like it? Change the Constitution.

  2. “The problem is we have defined our grand strategy very broad so that the only way we can be secure is if the whole planet is secure.”

    Earlier today I saw the head of the EPA earnestly stating that his top priority was cleaning all the plastic out of the oceans. And here I thought it was bad enough when the EPA claimed their mandate covered the gutter downspouts on my house, now they’re claiming it covers all the water on the planet? It’s not just the Pentagon Topsy-ing its way into omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent godhood.

    1. Since 9/11, America has engaged in profound War Crimes in their numerous IMMORAL & ILLEGAL wars, coups, sanctions, interventions, etc in executing this BS war on terror & Americans have lost some Constitutional rights as well…Trump said he would ramp these wars down, but instead he has expanded & intensified them! So,the DEEP STATE got to him, like they killed JFK because he wanted out of Vietnam…America has a bigger military than the next 7 nations COMBINED!!! NO MORE EXTRA $ TO THE MILITARY-INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX!!!…America is an empire in its death throes!

      “Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes; and armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few. In war, too, the discretionary power of the Executive is extended; its influence in dealing out offices, honors, and emoluments is multiplied; and all the means of seducing the minds, are added to those of subduing the force, of the people. The same malignant aspect in republicanism may be traced in the inequality of fortunes, and the opportunities of fraud, growing out of a state of war, and in the degeneracy of manners and of morals engendered by both. No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.”

      —James Madison, Political Observations, Apr. 20, 1795 in: Letters and Other Writings of James Madison, vol. 4, p. 491 (1865)

      1. Which wars have been expanded the last 2 years?

        1. War Expander was my nickname at boot camp.

        2. Syria, Iraq and Libya.

      2. “…America is an empire in its death throes!”

        And has been since the 1970s. Still waiting…

        1. I sure hope so!!!!!!!!

      3. Which wars has President Trump expanded?
        You are mistaking what Øbummer promised and then broke his word on..

        Hate and Projection is all that remains in the Left’s quiver.

  3. Republicans and Democrats Spar Over Whether Defense Spending Should Increase by $20 Billion or $30 Billion

    Let’s just split the difference and call it $50 Billion!

  4. Here our government is arguing about whether we should spend 5 or 10 billion more for defense when at the same our government wont spend even 5 billion to secure our southern border. Something is terribly wrong with the picture. We have drugs, murderers, gangs and people who have no way to contribute to our country invading the United States of America yet our traitorous politicians, both Democrats and Republicans refuse to build the wall and stop this nonsense once and for all. I say stop paying these politicians who keep voting the proposal down until they get some common sense and BUILD THE WALL bigger and better than this world has ever seen. We can do it.

    1. Anybody care what this guy thinks?

    2. Hey buddy, you get lost on the way to Breitbart or something?

      1. The intelligence of open border nuts…

    3. I say stop paying these politicians

      Hey, this guy gets it!

      until they get some common sense and BUILD THE WALL

      OK, maybe not.

    4. Even though I favor a generous immigration policy, I see your point. Keeping people from entering the country uninvited is the entire point of having a military. The bill for building that wall is much less than the difference in proposed military spending increases. The lack of a wall reflects a reluctance to control who enters the USA. So … why do we have a military in the first place? It’s role has changed to providing an honor guard to Americans staying outside the country.

      1. I think border restrictions primarily limit the freedom of Americans, but I suppose I would be ok with rows of tanks on the border, preventing us from being invaded by foreign cavalries. I have a hard time seeing how anyone who isn’t driving a tank is more ‘destructive to society’ than the average American on his/her own.

    5. 4 armed ISIS terrorists where caught crossing the open border yesterday. You have to roll your eyes when Leftists bitch about the cost of freedom at the same time so many are trying to kill them.
      If they only targeted Leftists, I might not have a problem with it.

      1. Anybody care what this guy thinks?

  5. So I have always mixed feelings about this. This is one of the few constitutionally mandated things that the US government is supposed to do. And I don’t care how much the rest of the world spends, I would just as soon as our country have the biggest stick.
    Having said that, there is absolutely no question that so much of the money given to the Pentagon is wasted. Either on pet projects that won’t actually provide the promised benefit, or decisions on bases based primarily on which senator has the most favors owed him.
    If there was some legitimate accountability in the Pentagon, we could probably maintain the same level of defense with half of the money we spend. (That is ignoring the question of whether or not we need the current level of defense.)
    But when the Pentagon’s budget has been lowered (or lower than it asked for), the results don’t tend to be cuts to BS weapons systems and programs, but go to hurt the front line readiness of our troops.

    1. Most of that spending increase is to pay those troops. Personnel costs are what are shooting up.

      1. Are the college tuition fees that many ex-service persons are entitled to included in that? Are the medical expenses included? Would it make more sense if we expected them to cover these costs themselves instead of parasiting off the tax payer?

        1. After AOC and her friends make college free for everyone and gets Medicare for everyone, we can save the money we’re spending on troop education costs and healthcare.

      2. Half of the dod budget is for troop pay and healthcare. Something the anti defense nuts refuse to recognize.

      3. Our military personnel are underpaid from what I’ve read. I would like to see their compensation increase.

  6. Having said that, there is absolutely no question that so much of the money given to the Pentagon is wasted. Either on pet projects that won’t actually provide the promised benefit, or decisions on bases based primarily on which senator has the most favors owed him.

    About 25 years ago, a book came out called “Fall From Glory”. Among other things, it details how Reagan’s 600-ship fleet was built with political favors, and was financially unsustainable. There’s a pretty direct line between his fleet expansion and the decimation the Navy experienced in the mid 90s.

  7. “I think we have enough history with the Pentagon to see it in the past, when they’ve been given more money than perhaps they expected, there is a lot of inefficiency and waste that follows,”

    No shit – that’s why the military craps their pants whenever an audit is mentioned.

  8. “Ever increasing”

    But whatever you do, don’t look behind the curtain of entitlements. Then you might actually impact the fiscal situation of the country.

    1. At least there’s more old people now. The world is getting safer every year.

  9. Last year’s NDAA—passed in August 2018—spent $716 billion on various defense programs, which was more than twice the combined military spending of Russia and China that year.

    Fact: The Chinese have 4x our population in a country roughly the size of the continental US and are on a second generation of men that currently outnumber women by 42 million.

    42 million men and boys who really have nothing to lose.

    It is pretty clear that we spend far more than we need to on defense. We should spend like a drunken sailor on submarines (first-strike platforms), a reasonable amount on air defenses and cut the rest. Other than nukes, there is no technology that is going to overcome the advantage if the Chinese decide to field an army against us or Russia.

    As an aside, does China allow prostitution? If not, I would say that it is just a matter of time until the incels explode.

    1. From what I’ve read, China is currently handling that problem by encouraging members of the majority ethnic group to move to the southwest of the country and breed the local women. The reeducation programs there can insure a favorable gender balance among the Muslims living in that region. Your logic is faulty, because you assume that all residents are equal in the eyes of China’s communist government.

    2. While I think China is getting aggressive because their foreign policy factors in future conflicts based on said policies, China is not expecting to project its military power very far.

      As with Japan in WWII! china will seek to grab as much land in Asia and the Pacific and fortify their positions.

      China can send a billion soldiers into battle and there will be a billion dead Chinese if they cannot be properly supplied.

  10. ” Other than nukes, there is no technology that is going to overcome the advantage if the Chinese decide to field an army against us or Russia. ”

    Apparently AI is set to really take off in China given its government’s promotion of it and the enormous amounts of data they harvest through their cell phones.

    And China does allow prostitution. The catch is it’s illegal.

    1. I don’t foresee China invading us with an army of incels. A more likely scenario, if I want to indulge in that line of thought, is the creation of some video game that brings American men off the dating market through hours upon hours of gaming. Combine that with vacations for Chinese men in Tijuana (America’s perpetual spring break destination) and there’s no more sex shortage for Chinese men.

      1. Do you offer a newsletter?

  11. Are reason writers still refusing to normalize data? Now normalize against GDP.

    1. Can’t do that because then you’d have to show that all of the fiscal problems and spending increases have been a result of the welfare state (and none of those cute “militariez induztrialz duplexes.”). The last time the US had a real budget surplus (not the fiction of the Clinton years) was in 1957. Defense spending was 10% of GDP then. It’s 3.75% now. That really fucks up the narrative.

      And the whole we spend more than the rest of the world does is the typical Reason framing. We could cut costs by re-imposing the draft. Is Reason ready to make that sacrifice? No? OK, then let’s also not compare nominal budgets but budgets at equivalent PPP. Suddenly China’s not nearly so far away.

    2. We shouldn’t be at war right now though.

  12. Last year’s NDAA—passed in August 2018—spent $716 billion on various defense programs, which was more than twice the combined military spending of Russia and China that year.

    so? why does that matter precisely?…do any Reason writers know how to make an argument?

  13. Our outrageous defense spending has almost nothing to do with keeping us safe and almost everything to do with transferring upward massive sums to wealthy elites in the military-industrial industries. Our “projection of power” across the Middle East has caused massive chaos, led to the deaths of millions, and it’s displaced millions more, who’ve fled in terror to wherever they can find some safety, Europe mostly. (Many/most Latin Americans migrating here are coming to escape the brutal totalitarian despots the USA has installed in places like Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, etc.)

    The Wall St. Journal’s Andy Pasztor’s book, “When the Pentagon Was for Sale” documented the outright yearly theft of over $100 Billion/year by corrupt defense contracting during the REAGAN YEARS! What govt. waste did Reagan ‘conservatives’ mostly complain about in that era? The $5 Billion or so that was then estimated to have been lost every year to welfare cheats.

    It’s highly likely that we’re being robbed of some significant multiple of $100 billion per year by our corrupt defense establisment, whose sole purpose seems to be to cause endless chaos in the world in order to justify boosting our military to defend us against that very chaos.

    Andrew Cockburn’s latest piece in Harper’s, ‘The Military Industrial Virus,’ lays out how relentlessly military spending has escalated, principally due to our “defenders” manufacturing calamities that they demand we pay them to fix. The mafia’s got nothing on these guys!

    1. Einsenhower warned America of the Military Industrial Complex.

      1. And yet the spending burden is less than half what it was when he was in office. Seems like we didn’t have much to fear after all.

  14. How about a 50% cut? Bring the troops home and downsize. No one is going to invade.

  15. It is funny that we still call them defense programs when they are clearly far more than we need for defense.

  16. Defense Budget? More Double-Speak, it is used mostly for OFFENSE!!!

  17. Hey! Don’t offend our military.

    You sit in your comfy house sipping whiskey whilst our bravest are protecting our freedoms on the streets of Iraq and Afghanistan.

    If it weren’t for those brave souls, our freedoms would be splatted like a fly on those dusty streets.

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  20. The article completely misses the point. Until we have an agreement to be out of Afghanistan, Iraq, even Bosnia where we still have troops from our most recent undeclared wars. Not to mention the 40,000 in Germany since WWII (they can’t defend themselves?) and many other places you can’t stop the justification for ever greater spending.

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  22. […] happened more than five years ago and ultimately ended up being a speed bump in the middle of a massive ramp-up of military spending, those dividends don’t really amount to […]

  23. […] or $733 billion,” the Cato Institute’s Christopher Preble, a defense policy scholar, told Reason back in June when was first surfacing. “The problem is we have defined our grand […]

  24. […] or $733 billion,” the Cato Institute’s Christopher Preble, a defense policy scholar, told Reason back in June when was first surfacing. “The problem is we have defined our grand […]

  25. […] or $733 billion,” the Cato Institute’s Christopher Preble, a defense policy scholar, told Reason back in June when was first surfacing. “The problem is we have defined our grand […]

  26. […] or $733 billion,” the Cato Institute’s Christopher Preble, a defense policy scholar, told Reason back in June when was first surfacing. “The problem is we have defined our grand […]

  27. […] or $733 billion,” the Cato Institute’s Christopher Preble, a defense policy scholar, told Reason back in June when was first surfacing. “The problem is we have defined our grand […]

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