Wednesday, February 10, 2010


By Reginald Johnson
Feb. 10, 2010

It’s high time the American people put an end to the charade known as “defense spending.”

President Obama has just released his proposed budget, which calls for
$744 billion for the defense budget. That’s nearly THREE-QUARTERS OF A TRILLION dollars! It’s the highest Pentagon budget in history, and is the largest military budget since World War II.

The total translates into $2 billion a day for the military.

The U.S. will be spending nearly as much on weaponry as the rest of the world combined.

And why? Because of a menacing Soviet Union, with hundreds of nuclear missiles at the ready and divisions of troops massed in eastern Europe? No, the Soviet Union died nearly 20 years ago. Its successor state, the Russian Federation, has a sizeable military but it is smaller than what the Soviets had. And, despite some tension between Russia and the U.S., the Russians are not considered an enemy.

China? Even analysts at the Pentagon believe China will need several more years before they become strong enough to fight a mid-level military power, no less the United States.

What about terrorism? There is a threat from terrorists and extremists, but it’s not a threat that’s countered by nuclear submarines, ICBMs or even large numbers of soldiers. For the most part, this is an intelligence and law enforcement issue. Our massive military arsenal did nothing to stop the Christmas Day bomber; better intelligence work would have.

So why does the military budget remain so large? In part it’s because Pentagon planners --- who see a threat behind every bush, keep pushing weapon systems that aren’t needed. Those people, together with right-wingers in and out of government, also see a big military (complete with hundreds of bases around the globe) as a way for the U.S. to protect American commercial interests abroad and push aside other countries in the competition over vital resources. Despite the cover story about the battle against terrorism, both the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are about controlling access to that precious and finite resource, oil.

The other reason behind the huge weapons budget is that defense spending has become a giant welfare program for military contractors and the politicians who support them. Members of Congress routinely lobby for more defense spending in their districts and states, whether the planes, tanks, missiles or submarines in question are needed or not. Ineffective, outdated or superfluous weapons programs are frequently perpetuated and billions are wasted.

But the companies that receive the largesse are happy, as are their workers.
And politicians are happy because they get rewarded with votes and campaign contributions.

This kind of cycle, of ‘you wash my back, I’ll wash yours’ --- which has nothing to do with making this country stronger --- has to stop. Also, the mentality of using billions of taxpayer dollars to undertake wars of intervention (which result in widespread death and suffering) to protect some corporate interests or lay claim to another country’s resources, is wholly unacceptable and must be ended.

It’s time for a more scrutinizing and skeptical approach to military spending.

Easily, without losing a beat, 30 percent of the Pentagon budget could be cut without having the slightest impact on national security. Billions more can be saved by cracking down on military contractor cost overruns. The General Accounting Office found there’s been $300 billion in cost overruns in recent years. Why are these firms being given a free ride?

In announcing his budget plan, President Obama said the U.S. deficit has to be reduced, so he wants to slap a freeze on social spending, despite the desperate need for more funding in areas like education and health care. The deficit was run up by the government improperly handing trillions of dollars to mismanaged Wall Street banks, paying for two misguided wars and giving a blank check to the military. Obama is now trying to cure the deficit off the backs of the American people. What a disgrace.

People have to vigorously oppose this budget and the mentality that goes with it.