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Thursday, January 5, 2012

SIMPLE SOLUTION ESSAYS: Why Do We Spend So Much on National Security?


The following continues my serialization of Book 3, SIMPLE SOLUTION ESSAYS.  The timing is perfect, as President Barack Obama and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta just today detailed, for the first time in maybe decades, an actual reduction in defense spending.  They kept saying Congressionally mandated cuts because voters don't like to see any diminution of funds for their home region, and every state is involved when it comes to defense expenditures.  A particularly extraordinary statement made by Obama is that, AFTER these cuts, the U.S. will still spend more on defense than the next ten countries, combined.  Note that the HuffPost below was published almost three and a half years ago, a few months before Barack Obama was elected president.


On 2August2008 I returned to the subject of my initial HuffPo.  As we search for funds within our budget, it is clear to me that the best place to raid is from national defense.  Republicans, Blue States and the military industrial complex make this all but impossible.  Yet, does anyone have any better ideas?  Yes, cut taxes and become more efficient, but let’s be real.

Why Do We Spend So Much On National Security?


General Richard Cody (below), Army Vice Chief of Staff

Let me see now, there is no USSR cold war threat. China spends $45/citizen for defense, while we invest about $2700/person on national security. Iran and North Korea are not global menaces. There are probably fewer than 100,000 terrorists, with a small fraction of them worthy of our concern. There will be no conquering enemy on the horizon for generations to come, if ever again. It was on this note that I submitted my first HuffPost on May 29, 2008 entitled, "Well, Barack, We have a Problem..."

How significant is national security in our Federal budget? Our fiscal 2008 discretionary funding is $941.4 billion. Defense and related accounts amount to $553.8 billion, but a supplemental sum of $306.6 billion needs to be added for our Global War on Terror and related needs. Thus, this year, we will spend $859.9 billion on WAR, much more than double what the Federal Government will expend on everything else! The Department of Energy will get $23.9 billion, of which about a $1 billion will be for renewable energy development, and the Environmental Protection Agency will spend $7.5 billion.  (To the right is the 2009 pie chart.)

Is General Cody, maybe, exaggerating the truth? Actually, probably no, but not for a reason you might expect. With defense taking up so much of the national budget, you would think that we should be well covered to both defend ourselves and manage a ragtag bunch of terrorists. Well, our troop strength in the Middle East is below 200,000. Divided by our population of 304 million, this gives a ratio of 0.0006. In 1945, we had 16 million mobilized with a population of 140 million. The ratio then was 0.1143. In other words, if you divide .0006 into .1143, this would mean that we should be able to increase our total troop strength in this world hot spot by a factor of close to 200.

That comparison is almost meaningless, of course, for we have three million in uniform and reserve. But this makes you wonder what the concern is with only 6% of our available military actually in the Middle East, having had a period longer than World War II to make strategic adjustments. On an equal ratio basis with 1945, we should be able to mobilize 35 million, and GlobalFirePower.com points out that about 109 million are fit for military service in our country. Now that would really jack up the defense budget. Sure, this would mean a serious draft, but there is something about national service that deserves to be considered, anyway, for both genders.

All these numbers and analyses are interesting, maybe, but the whole point is, why are we spending so much money on national security? Is there a better way to gain the peace? We can talk about the military-industrial complex and their hammerlock over the White House and Congress. That's formidable, make no mistake about that. But perhaps the nature of world politics is such that the time has again come for us to mind our own business and invest in our national infrastructure and personnel. Maybe also do something about Peak Oil and Global Warming, too. Our presidential candidates talk about change, and our defense budget is a good place to start, providing the financial resources to actually do some real good. My initial HuffPost on "Well, Barack, We have a Problem..." provides a vision for this scenario.

Comments (9):  I quote from my summarizing comment—
Interesting that there seems to be some consensus that we are, indeed, spending a lot, if not too much, on national security. There were no impassionate protests nor cries of anti-patriotism. Ergo... the funds to rebuild our infrastructure and combat Peak Oil / Global Warming can, perhaps, be conveniently drawn from a drastically reduced national defense budget. After all, WE HAVE NO THREATENING ENEMY ON THE HORIZON. The paranoia about China seems to yet dominate, so, as they have close to four and a half times more people than us, and spend $45/capita on defense, let's be sure and not match them in total defense expenditures, but double theirs on a per capita basis, meaning an American annual investment $400/capita. We can thus reduce our national security budget by $2300/person or around $700 billion/year (which, curiously enough, is close to the same amount we are expected to send to oil producing nations this coming year), most of which can thus be applied to all the needs just mentioned. If you missed my HuffPost of May 29, I actually boldly predicted how this might occur. And, of all the luck, Barack Obama returns home to Hawaii in a few days. Well, let's not get too carried away. I'll wait until he first becomes our POTUS.


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The Dow Jones Industrials slipped 3 to 12,416, while world markets were also mostly down.  Gold rose $6/toz to $1618, while the WTI is at $102/barrel and Brent at $112/barrel.

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