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Funding the U.S. Department of Offense

Republicans are all hypocrites when it comes to Defense cuts.

SoldierDreamstimeIf you want to know how serious Republican presidential candidates are about fiscal responsibility, just look at their positions on the spending caps put into place by the Budget Control Act of 2011.

The caps, which largely cover domestic discretionary programs and the defense budget, brought a modicum of restraint to the federal spending train that careened out of control under the Bush and Obama administrations. But for the special interests that live off the largesse—particularly weapons manufacturers and lobbies for foreign governments that don't mind U.S. taxpayers footing the bill for their defense needs—restraint on the Pentagon's war chest is unacceptable.

Though the caps aren't perfectly constructed, the goal should be expanding them to cover all budget areas. Instead, GOP presidential aspirants are tripping over one another to declare support for turning the military-spending spigot on full blast while also making promises to control the federal government's bloated finances. This incoherent position demonstrates that the GOP field isn't serious about constraining the size and scope of the federal government.

National defense is, indeed, a legitimate function of the federal government, and I concede that defense spending isn't the main driver of our future debt. However, fiscal responsibility demands that defense spending be on the table for review and potential cuts like everything else. That's because politics drives many of the bad spending decisions in government, including on the defense budget. So it's no surprise that there's a lot of reported waste, fraud, and abuse in the Department of Defense.

And contrary to what defense hawks might have you believe, not every dollar spent on defense actually increases national defense. One could argue that higher spending has instead led to national offense—with some undesirable results. The military spending binge that occurred toward the end of the Cold War led to greater American military adventurism abroad, which led to even more massive military spending over the past decade. Indeed, even with the spending caps on defense, the Pentagon will end up spending more inflation-adjusted dollars this year than it did at the peak of the Cold War.

So how do the candidates feel about lifting the defense caps? According to Rebecca Shabad, a reporter at The Hill, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush recently affirmed, "I do believe that we ought to end sequestration for the military." Ohio Gov. John Kasich said Congress must "get rid" of sequestration for defense. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina stated that any candidate who "doesn't understand that the cuts are killing us, in terms of defending ourselves," isn't "ready to be commander in chief."

Shabad reached out to billionaire Donald Trump's team but didn't get an answer, though she notes that Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie also "support reversing sequestration for the Pentagon and increasing defense spending."

Meanwhile, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida called for not only lifting the defense caps but also returning outlays to the budget guidelines established by then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates in 2011. That would skyrocket the Pentagon's budget and all but guarantee that the U.S. government (the same outfit that struggles to deliver the mail on budget) could find even more opportunities to stick its nose in areas of the globe where it doesn't belong.

Back in March, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky offered to increase defense spending above the caps and "pay for it" with offsets—for example, providing less funding for the National Science Foundation and climate change research. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas also favors increasing defense spending. He wouldn't support some of Paul's offsets, but he did introduce an amendment with Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), that would require Congress to offset increases in defense spending with budget reductions elsewhere and without increasing taxes.

Sadly, just as Democrats erroneously act as if throwing as much taxpayer money as they can at welfare programs makes them the defenders of the downtrodden, Republicans mistakenly act as if shoveling money into the Pentagon's coffers makes them the champions of national security. It's to live in a land of make-believe to insist that big government at home doesn't work but that the success of big government abroad is predicated upon enlarging it and going further into debt.

Photo Credit: Dreamstime

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  • Fist of Etiquette||

    National defense is, indeed, a legitimate function of the federal government...

    One could say it's one of the few.

  • DJF||

    But what about the US paying for other countries defense. I don't see that in the Constitution.

  • DJF||

    The Constitution does give the US government the duty to protect against invasion but we now know that is a silly idea since invasions are wonderful since they consist of the best thing in the world, foreigners who want to bring diversity to the US.

  • BambiB||

    But is it necessary for us to spend as much as the next 16 largest militaries combined? And of those, 14 are allies!

    We could cut our military budget by 50% and, combined with those allies, STILL outspend China and Russia by a factor of six. What we might NOT be able to do is waste as much money on boondoggles like the F-35, or start a dozen wars around the world all at once.

    And the military might do with fewer women, less dead weight and better quality men as the force is downsized by 30% or more. No more "military as welfare" for women who sign up for a four year stint, have four kids (all paid for by the taxpayer), only actually serve 7 or 8 months of active service (the military won't even let expectant mothers put gas in a vehicle) and leave with a nice nest egg for college. No more women who load empty ammo boxes on trucks to impress inspectors (because they are physically incapable of loading full ammo boxes). One physical standard for all. Meet it... or beat it! A REAL military - not a pussified military.

  • Brian||

    "the Pentagon will end up spending more inflation-adjusted dollars this year than it did at the peak of the Cold War."

    Yeah, it's still a government program, with self-interested actors. Growth is a goal in and of itself.

  • NotAnotherSkippy||

    In the very near future Medicaid alone will be larger than the defense budget. She admits as much but still trots out that little chestnut of peak defense dollars.

  • Eric Bana||

    What's your point?

  • DJF||

    Its the defenders of the bloated Pentagon spending equivalent of "Hey, look, Squirrel!!!!!!!!"

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    Can the Defense Budget be usefully cut? Sure. The Pentagon is entirely too fond of very expensive toys that don't perform. The F-35 should have been dropped at least one scrutiny cycle ago. But beware of the "Pentagon Waste" narrative; it depends a good deal on blaming the Military for accounting and spending practices imposed on them by Congress. A lot of "x-hundred dollar screwdriver"s are accounting phantoms balanced by an equally cheap item covered in the same purchase, with the cost decided evenly by the number of items. Competitive bidding rules mean that the military must write up specifications blind, rather than get a catalog and look for some already made thing that will do, so they end up paying tool-up costs for a lot of things that could be off the shelf. And if Congress decides to extend the life of, say, the F-14, all of a sudden the supply of spares, ordered 20 years ago, is too small, and somebody has to tool up to make them.

    What we really need is a President and Congressmen who are willing, even eager, to say "Yes, that's a great looking program, and it would be wonderful to have it. But we Don't. Have. The. Money. Christie of New Jersey started his Administration as Governor saying that to the New Jersey legislature, on multiple occasions. Pity that he seems to have been captured buy the system, or is a complete a$$hole on all other subjects, or both.

  • Eric||

    It's not just the Pentagon. The MIC is insidiously spread throughout the country to ensure that Congress keeps the $ flowing towards projects that produce jobs. The Pentagon has gone rounds with Congress regarding the allocation of defense spending.

  • retiredfire||

    " insidiously spread throughout the country to ensure that Congress keeps the $ flowing towards projects that produce jobs votes.
    There FIFY

  • Procrastinatus||

    "rather than get a catalog and look for some already made thing that will do, so they end up paying tool-up costs"

    I was an AVI tech in the Marines and spent a lot of time with the Depot level contractors. We'd spend 25k, 50k or more ordering a single circuit card. I was talking to them about why our gear costs so much, and there's a lot of factors that most people don't factor in to it, apparently. Exclusivity is a big one. Because we don't allow them to have other customers for most of our defense goodies (or at least the best, classified gear) we have to pay all of their tool up costs, and have to give them enough return on the small amount of units they supply their sole customer to keep R&D ahead of everyone else.

    The isn't an argument for a millions man military or rationale for hundreds of billions in defense budget mind you, but if you want to be a single or sole customer for a product you're going to pay for it. That's the catch 22 of wanting a technology that you don't have to share with anyone.

  • SQRLSY One||

    Until the last stellar system of the entire Local Galactic Cluster is either firmly under the control of the USA Government Almighty, or is a "satellite" entity thereof, we will need MOAH-MOAH-MOAH USA Offense spending, Government Almighty dammit!!! It's a matter of Inter-Galactic security!

  • ace_m82||

    National defense is, indeed, a legitimate function of the federal government, and I concede that defense spending isn't the main driver of our future debt.

    Well, not really. The 2nd amendment is the device by which the nation is defended. All else is smoke, mirrors, and federal power grabs.

    If Oregon really thought it was going to be invaded, it would buy an aircraft carrier.

  • JWatts||

    "If Oregon really thought it was going to be invaded" ... it would sue for peace.

  • DJF||

    Protecting the States from invasion is one of the US governments responsibilities

    “”””Article. IV. Section. 4.
    The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government, and shall protect each of them against Invasion”””

    “””(Congress) Article I, Section 8 To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;”””


    Though the State can do defend itself and even declare war if invaded.

    “”””Article I, Section 10 No State shall………………engage in War, unless actually invaded, or in such imminent Danger as will not admit of delay.”””””

  • Wesley Mouch||

    I live in Eugene and, believe me, it's already been invaded.

  • Don'tTreadOnMeChipper||

    Not east of the Cascades they won't.

  • toolkien||

    The Dems buy votes by handing out freebies/subsidies through the Department of Agriculture, the Republicans do so through the Department of Defense. The Dems solidify the, for lack of a better term, intellegentsia-bourgeoisie through the Department of Education, the Republicans - again - their bourgeoisie through the Department of Defense. And BOTH buy votes through the Department of Health and Human Services. Both secure high end financing through the Treasury and the de facto government entity, The Fed. To the tune of TRILLIONS.

    But there's that guy with the campaign finance reform idea of vouchers. THAT will put the liger back fanny pack.

  • JFree||

    You know it might help if libertarians put together a plan for achieving national defense rather than just stand on the sidelines bitching about others. Idealistic overreach is not new - been around since at least Wilson and TR. If you can't come up with actual alternatives after 100 years; then your opinions are fucking useless.

    How exactly do you reorg the 'National Guard' (militia) as the state-run emergency mobilization? How do you restruct Pentagon to do its duty to 'organize arm and discipline the militia' without simply taking over the NG - esp since history shows that most states simply 'free rode' militia duties and let them become useless and the states that took it seriously used it to oppress citizens? How do you restruct Pentagon's 'picket' functions (navy and air/space force) so that that true 'defense' function (which is purely federal) can be distinguished from the slew of other navy/air stuff which is used for projection/offense? How do you restructure recruiting of the 'defense' HQ/CinC functions (eg officers, training, special weapons units, special forces units, etc)? West Point was answer to ONE of those (restriction that states - not feds - choose militia officers) - but that resolved itself 200 years ago and since then nothing.

    Budget prattle comes AFTER you know what spec functions need to be achieved. Foreign policy (non-intervention) prattle comes AFTER you have reorg to achieve those functions. Until then, all libertarian prattle is BS.

  • DJF||

    No, reorganization is not the first step, determining what the US government should defend is the first step.

    I would argue that defending our European or Asian "allies' is now counterproductive since it allows them to minimize their own defenses while forcing American business and labor to subsidize their economic competitors.

    As to the US's Middle Eastern 'allies" its hard to imagine a group of countries which would stab the US in the back faster then them.

  • JFree||

    I have outlined some of the exact issues that need addressing purely to defend the US itself. And any 'budget' that is required to do that follows from those specific issues.

    The second people like you start prattling on about Europe/Asia/Middle East as a lazy diversion; then I can guarantee you that you will lose all the arguments. Because in any budget/policy argument between someone who only has some vague ideological rhetorical notion of what needs to happen v some crony who knows EXACTLY what they want out of policy/budget; then the latter will win. Always. Period.

    And there are enough corporatist whores among libertarians so that the latter cronies can even get them to go along with overreach with idealistic rhetoric of their own. eg - we are protecting 'freedom of the seas and free trade'.

  • DJF||

    When a huge part of the US military is deployed to defend Europe/Asia/Middle East 'freedom of the seas and free trade'.then to ignore it and worry instead about how the militia is to be organized is someone ignoring what is driving the defense budget.

    If the Government thinks that its job is to make the world safe for Kuwaiti dictatorship then that is what they will do whether you call it the US Army, the militia, or even the Coast Guard.

    Remember when the Georgia/Russia was going on the first US ship to arrive in Georgia was a US Coast Guard Cutter. The powers that be don't care what name they give to the military, as long as they think that Georgia (country)is something the US should defend they will send whatever they can send. It couild be the Militia, Border Patrol, the Coast Guard, or 3 divisions of the FBI Hostage Rescue Team and a wing of the Secret Service drone strike aircraft

  • JFree||

    And if libertarians can be specific about how we can/will deploy ourselves in actual defense; then libertarians can make a specific valid objection to all of that excess stuff - including budget - as NOT in actual defense. And more significantly, that objection will also tap into popular resistance to such deployment because a militia type deployment necessarily involves elements of conscription and that is wildly unpopular.

    As long as libertarians remain vague and purely rhetorical; then they will be pushed around the fringes of any policy debate and be considered irrelevant.

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  • gordo53||

    The Defense Department budget is the single largest source of illicit political money. It is pigs feeding at the trough. Both Ds and Rs participate in conspiracies to embezzle DD budget money. Any congressman with defense contractors in his/her district is almost certainly playing the quid pro quo game. It works like this. If you want to keep getting invited to bid on DD contracts, you better ante up or you're out. It's that simple. And yes, there's all sorts of nefarious stuff going on in the way contracts are awarded. Quit voting for incumbents my friends. They're stealing your tax money.

  • Rockabilly||

    Team America: World Police
    Fuck Yea !!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U1mlCPMYtPk

  • AD-RtR/OS!||

    No one wants to be put into a position where, after a major geo-political defeat, they have to answer the question: Why didn't you spend more?

  • Don'tTreadOnMeChipper||

    For a truly defensive military I vote for interceptors (including missiles), nukes (including bombers and subs), drones/cruise missiles, and tactical strike teams for the Feds. Keep the tanks and such in the hands of the national guard limited to within our borders. Fuck ground wars abroad.

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