The American media usually profit handsomely from hyper-partisan fightingfinding, and sometimes creating, politically conflict-laden stories that get more viewers, listeners, readers, and thus higher advertising revenues. After abetting this discordant political environment, the media then tell us any bi-partisan agreement to lessen such conflict is good, apparently no matter whats in it. Thats the impression the media left after Senator Patty Murray (D-OR) and Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI), the congressional Budget Committee chairpersons, destroyed the budget sequester by adding $45 billion for fiscal year 2014, including $22 billion in added defense spending, to reach only a short-term budget agreement that didnt deal with the larger long-term issues of taxes and rapidly growing entitlement spending.
On the defense budget, over the next two budget years, which the agreement covers, the accord will nearly wipe away the effects of the sequester decision ruleunder which across-the-board cuts had to be made. Despite the reputation for military efficiency, the Department of Defense (DoD) is the worst run federal department or agency. This proposition can be demonstrated by the repeated failure of the Pentagon to pass a financial audit. The Pentagon has not been able to account for trillionsyes, trillionsof dollars in expenditures. That monstrous failure in financial accountability seems due primarily to DoDs budget being shrouded in secrecy and can be surmised by the second worst run department or agency being the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). DHS, although also having a culture of secrecy, is not quite so opaque as DoD and can at least partially pass a financial audit.
Such financial misconduct should give pause even to hawks, who see threats to the nation that others dont and assume that defense spending should be increasing, not decreasing. Even if defense spending should be hikeda dubious proposition in a world where terrorism-by-the-weak is really the only threat to the United States in the short- and medium termthe Pentagons broken accounting system cannot assure taxpayers that their hard-earned dollars are being translated into enhanced security. Thus, defense spending should continue to be cut, if for no other reason than taxpayers cant tell whether they are getting their moneys worth.
Of course, the term defense budget is a misnomer. In the old days, up through World War II, when the actual mission was more defensively oriented, the nation had the Department of Wara more honest title. After World War II, when the informal American Empire was expanded to encompass most of the world, euphemism took over and the name was changed to Department of Defense. Ironically, during the post-war period, instead of defending an intrinsically safe nationwhich has huge oceans as moats, weak and friendly neighbors, and nuclear weaponsDoD has concentrated on projecting offensive power to all corners of the globe. So the organization should really have been renamed the Department of Offense, the Department of the Defense of Other Countries, or even the Department of Defense of the American Empire. Demonstrating that the Department of Defense has little to do with the nations defenses was its actions on 9/11when flailing around, it sent fighter jets out to sea in response to one of the few foreign attacks on U.S. soil in American historyand after those attacks when the Orwellian DHS had to be created.
And the only current threat to U.S. security, terrorism, is blowback from using military power overseas to police the informal U.S. Empire (which Americans would realize if they would just read the writings of Osama bin Laden and statements by al Qaeda) and accounts for only a small portion of the defense budget. In fact, most of the defense budget is used to buy offensive weaponry and provide support for power projection forces overseas that merely generate more blowback terrorism.
The intrinsically secure United States currently accounts for almost 40 percent of worldwide defense spendingU.S. annual military expenditures equal the combined military expenditures of the next 11 highest defense spending nationsbut only generates about 25 percent of the worlds economic output. This disparity is imperial overstretch that the United States can no longer afford.
Up until the budget agreement, the Obama administration, the Republican House, and Democratic Senate, bickering and fighting all the way, had achieved something astounding that had not been accomplished since the Korean Warthey actually reduced inflation-adjusted federal spending. From fiscal year 2009 (the George W. Bush administrations last real budget) to fiscal year 2013, federal spending declined three percent in real terms and declined as a percent of GDP two percentage points. Those sterling accomplishments have been imperiled by the breaking of the sequester spending limits, especially on defense.
|Ivan Eland is Senior Fellow and Director of the Center on Peace & Liberty at The Independent Institute. Dr. Eland is a graduate of Iowa State University and received an M.B.A. in applied economics and Ph.D. in national security policy from George Washington University. He has been Director of Defense Policy Studies at the Cato Institute, and he spent 15 years working for Congress on national security issues, including stints as an investigator for the House Foreign Affairs Committee and Principal Defense Analyst at the Congressional Budget Office. He is author of the books Partitioning for Peace: An Exit Strategy for Iraq, and Recarving Rushmore.|