THE DEFENSE BUDGET IS STILL TOO BIG – by Jack Shanahan

REAL AMERICANS live between here and here....

REAL AMERICANS live between here and here....

Just this month, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin told a crowd in Auburn, NY, that Obama’s plan to cut $1 billion from missile defense–[….]–was somehow a sign of weakness.  Would you be surprised to learn that the Obama defense budget is actually $20 billion bigger than the last one signed by President George W. Bush?

 Last April, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates set off a firestorm with a new military budget that stripped funding from certain weapons systems and moved dollars into other priorities. The announcement was the fulfillment of a campaign promise by President Barack Obama, who had pledged to eliminate Cold War weapons systems we no longer need.

For their trouble, Secretary Gates and the President have been accused of gutting America’s defenses and even undercutting our troops in a time of war. Just this month, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin told a crowd in Auburn, NY, that Obama’s plan to cut $1 billion from missile defense–just 10 percent of its budget and only part of the program dedicated to repelling a mass missile attack from the Soviet Union–was somehow a sign of weakness.

Would you be surprised to learn that the Obama defense budget is actually $20 billion bigger than the last one signed by President George W. Bush? Moreover, the actual cuts proposed to specific programs are minor in scale compared to the $700 billion-plus total. And when you consider a report from the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office showing $300 billion in taxpayer money wasted on over-budget weapons systems, the idea that we are somehow “cutting” defense seems exaggerated.

The problem is that the behemoth defense budget, geared more toward expensive high-tech weaponry than fighting our current wars, is precisely what we should be cutting in the face of spiraling deficits. For example, the new Obama defense budget halted production of the F-22 Raptor fighter, which never found a real combat use since the Cold War. However, the Pentagon made up for it by doubling expenses for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, yet another troubled procurement with serious cost overruns.

The administration also zeroed out $60 million in funding for the Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW), a Bush-era program to build more nuclear warheads. Ending the RRW will help the US stop the spread of nuclear weapons and potentially save billions required to support expanded production. But the US spent an estimated $52 billion last year on nuclear related activities, much of it just to maintain our current arsenal. According to Joe Cirincione of the Ploughshares Fund, reducing America’s nuclear arsenal to 1,000 warheads could save up to $20 billion without compromising our deterrent.

We could also question the need for an extra $11 billion, as Obama proposed, to expand the Army and Marines when we are, in theory, drawing down in Iraq. Building up permanent forces takes time and would be of little use to our present conflicts, unless of course, we are planning on occupying Iraq indefinitely or invading another country.

And as for missile defense, we could go even further than Mr. Gates’ modest $1 billion in cuts and not affect our defense against threats like North Korea–much to the chagrin of Gov. Palin’s efforts to keep federal pork in her home state.

The truth is that shoveling billions at the Pentagon is a big business, with lobbyists, politicians and officials invested in making sure that the money continues to move with no questions asked. Even Secretary Gates’ intention of reining in the dysfunctional weapons procurement process is being administered by a former lobbyist for Raytheon, a major defense contractor, who had previously fought against reform.

That’s why the mere shifting of dollars and simple demands for accountability from the Obama administration are meeting such fierce resistance.

But when you look at the full range of reforms needed in the Pentagon budget, you might wish that a president could be accused of making deep cuts in defense and have it actually ring true. —

Vice Admiral Jack Shanahan (ret.) is the former commander of the US Second Fleet.

6 Comments

Filed under Economics, Republicans, Sarah Palin, WAR, Wingnuts!, Woman Power, World Politics

6 responses to “THE DEFENSE BUDGET IS STILL TOO BIG – by Jack Shanahan

  1. Bad Biker

    The correct caption for the Palin photo above is:

    “Todd’s a little guy, so I’m looking for a big man!”

  2. I know Republicans have no ideas, but do they say anything this isn’t a lie? Are all their talking points just made-up senseless shit? If so, that ought to tell them why they are the party of 22 percent of the people (or was that 28 percent?). Whichever percent, it’s too low a number to win at the national level. So they’re stuck in their little region and stuck with their zealots who drive rational people away.

    I’m an old white woman and I’m pretty tired of the holier-than-thou, intolerant party of old white men.

  3. Well Sarah was never bothered about a stupid little detail called truth, was she?

  4. klaus

    Sarah was lying?

    You mean her lips were moving.

    What is it with the GOP? And FOX? (OK, that’s redundant.)

    They don’t even bother trying to spin any more. They just flat-out make stuff up.

    I guess they’ve come to realize that no one is going to challenge them on it, so where’s the penalty?