The U.S. Defense Budget is Excessive and Wasteful

Ever since the end of the Civil War, the United States of America has been a worldwide military power. After playing a major role in both World Wars and being involved in several large-scale conflicts around the globe, America’s military has remained (arguably) undefeated. This is in part because America has almost always maintained a technological and qualitative advantage over its enemies. This is due, in part, to extremely high military spending. However, the defense budget has gotten out of control. America can no longer sustain the current defense budget and it certainly cannot afford any increases to defense spending. Long story short, the US defense budget needs to be reduced, largely by reducing wastes and inefficiencies, in order to combat the growing deficit and improve the life of the average citizen. Let me explain why:

1. We spend way too much. The United States Department of Defense had a budget of $585 billion in fiscal year in 2016. This is more than the next seven largest defense budgets combined. To reiterate, the United States spent more on its military than China, Russia, the United Kingdom, Japan, France, Saudi Arabia and India combined. I’ll let that sink in for a minute… I understand the concern that we should to be able to fight our enemies, like China and Russia, all at the same time (despite how unlikely this scenario is anywhere in the near future), but do we need to exceed their military expenditure by several hundred billion dollars? I’ll also point out that four of the countries in that list are our allies, who would certainly come to our aid in the face of blatant Chinese or Russian aggression. In conclusion, what poses such a big threat to the security of the United States that we need to spend this much money to defend ourselves against?

2. A significant portion of the money spent on defense is wasted. Here are some examples of clear waste:

a) In 2012, CNN reported on a parking lot full of over 2000 M-1 Abrams tanks that the Pentagon does not want or need. The Pentagon has reported that their plan to stop building and refurbishing tanks for a few years could save about $3 billion dollars. Despite this reported plan, Congress has decided to allot millions of dollars for tanks over the course of the next few years.

b) The Pentagon maintains more than 200 golf courses and resorts around the world. Retired Lieutenant Colonel David R. Holland published an article in Travel Golf praising several air force and army golf courses. Each of these courses costs tens of millions to build and hundreds of thousands a year to maintain.

c) We have way too many generals and they get way too many benefits. Don’t get me wrong, soldiers who put their lives at risk defending this country deserve every courtesy we can reasonably offer, but the amount of money spent on pampering these high ranking general who never actually engage in combat is excessive. The conservative ambassador Robert J. Callahan, who served under the Bush administration and is a member of the Heritage Foundation, wrote the following about his time serving at an embassy in Baghdad: “…the military’s vast resources never failed to amaze me. Generals could summon planes and helicopters at a whim…Flying in luxurious private jets, surrounded by a phalanx of fawning aides who do everything from preparing their meals to pressing their uniform trousers, they are among America’s most pampered professionals.” Even former secretary of defense Robert Gates has talked about how the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, his neighbor at the time, had a chef, a personal valet and troops to tend his property while Gates, as a civilian, had no such benefits.

d) In 2014, the Heritage Foundation reported that the Department of Defense decided to destroy 1.2 billion dollars worth of ammunition because it does not have an inventory system capable of tracking supplies across the various branches and services of the military. Each service uses a different inventory system which results in an excess of materials and general inefficiency.

e) The US military also has a tendency to spend billions on the research and development of new weapons systems and then just cancel these projects. This results in billions of dollars down the drain and nothing to show for it.

3. Our army is prepared for the wrong type of war. Currently, the majority of the United States’ conflicts are police actions in developing nations or counter-insurgency actions, we don’t need an absolutely massive Cold War era military. More focus should be put on new, more progressive organizational strategies and tactics. Many analysts believe that major structural changes to the military could greatly reduce its operations costs while actually increasing its combat effectiveness. I feel like this is a purely logical conclusion when you look at the conflicts in which the US Army has recently been engaged. However, retired lieutenant colonel Daniel Davis wrote an excellent article on the subject titled “The US Military is Preparing for the Wrong Future.”

4. Now think about all the good that could be done if the billions we are wasting on defense could be freed up for other uses. Defense accounts for 54% of discretionary US spending whereas education, science, and veteran’s benefits barely reach a combined total of 15%. Think of how much better we could make our schools, our universities, our infrastructure, our VA care centers and our centers of innovation and learning by merely decreasing defense spending by eliminating waste.

5. In conclusion, politicians at the national level should be considering cuts to defense spending in an effort to free up funds which can palpably improve the lives of the average citizen. Furthermore, cuts to the defense budget will not at all be detrimental to this country’s national security and may actually encourage the army to innovate and improve. Honestly, this fact sheet explains some of the reasons why cuts to defense spending are not going to be detrimental to the country better than I ever could, so please read it if you’re still not convinced: Myths vs Realities of Pentagon Spending

Sources

How Much America Spends

http://comptroller.defense.gov/Portals/45/Documents/defbudget/fy2016/FY2016_Budget_Request_Overview_Book.pdf

http://archive.defense.gov/pubs/DoD_Budget_FY2016_Fact_Sheet.pdf

How This Compares to the Rest of the World

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2016/02/09/this-remarkable-chart-shows-how-u-s-defense-spending-dwarfs-the-rest-of-the-world/

http://www.pgpf.org/chart-archive/0053_defense-comparison

Military Golf Courses

http://www.travelgolf.com/departments/travelfeatures/ontheroad/military-golf-courses.htm

http://www.pga.com/golf-courses/golf-buzz/military-golf-courses-come-under-fire

http://www.salon.com/2012/12/12/7_absurd_ways_the_military_wastes_taxpayer_dollars/

United States Generals

http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-11-22/opinion/ct-perspec-1122-military-20121122_1_military-officers-sons-and-daughters-military-academy

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/petraeus-scandal-puts-four-star-general-lifestyle-under-scrutiny/2012/11/17/33a14f48-3043-11e2-a30e-5ca76eeec857_story.html

The Future of the Military

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/aug/08/us-military-preparing-for-wrong-future

http://armedforcesjournal.com/purge-the-generals/

https://www.wired.com/2013/08/overthrow-the-generals/ (and canceled military projects)

Breaking the Phalanx: A New Design for Landpower in the 21st Century, by Douglas A. Macgregor

US Discretionary Spending

https://www.nationalpriorities.org/campaigns/military-spending-united-states/

https://www.cbo.gov/sites/default/files/BS_Discretionary_print.pdf

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