Wednesday, 8 December 2010


The Department of Defense (DoD), is always the last to be cut, and then only the rate of growth adjusted for inflation is cut, even amid economic contracting cycles. Practically every administration since Ford appointed Rumsfeld to head DoD promises defense 'reform' of some type. Yet, we have more of the same despite massive changes in the global power structure with the end of the Cold War as well as US economic status in the past half century.

Is there no waste in DoD and in foreign military aid programs costing billions to US taxpayers at a time of 10% unemployment, 0% salary raises for GOV employees, and 0% for social security recipients? Is there no room for cuts simply because of powerful (business and political) domestic and foreign lobbies, and because Republicans and 'Blue Dog Democrats' are adhering to Cold War thinking backed by a large segment of pro-military media that perpetuate fear among the public and the myth that spending more on defense entails greater safety? Should the entire country be held hostage because some senator and a couple of congressmen from a defense-industry state forge alliances to block cuts in defense contracts?  Is it unpatriotic to propose defense spending but patriotic to cut health care?

How can one be a fiscal conservative solely in the domain of health care and social programs, while allowing defense spending to rise amid economic contraction? A simple web search of 'waste in defense spending' will bring up to your computer screen billions of dollars in fraud and waste in the last decade alone; everything from a bottle of water at $10 for the troops in Afghanistan to multi-million dollar airplane engines never used but well-paid for thanks to powerful lobbies, congressmen and defense contractors demanding that the buying spree continue no matter the civilian economy's condition. Is there no fraud and waste in defense contracts, are they all carried out in the name of God and Country?

If we take into account  US budgetary deficit, current GDP and projected GDP growth in the next five years; combine them with estimates of NATO spending for the next five years, and VITAL (here is where there is disagreement depending on what one considers VITAL) US national security interests, and realignments within countries closely allied with US - some of which host US military bases - there can be a great deal of room to cut defense costs. But to achieve that goal it would take very strong leadership, political consensus, and a media support to sway public opinion. Divided government and corporate media means there will be no defense cuts at the same level as there are cuts in social security and social programs that have been under attack since 1981.

Defense spending cuts can best be determined by prudent diplomacy first and foremost.  State Department pursuing a policy of general arms reduction with the Great Powers and the Nuclear Club is key to lowering defense costs. In these areas there seems to be some modest progress recently. In addition, State Department needs to recognize at long last that military solutions for smaller conflicts have not worked to the benefit of the US (or anyone else except defense contractors) from Vietnam to the present. Therefore, seeking political solutions to conflicts and curbing the appetite for military interventions will save hundreds of billions of US taxpayer dollars and strengthen the US economy and military.

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