Extraordinary Defense Spending

By | February 8, 2008

I am troubled and seriously concerned by a news story I heard this morning on NPR. This isn’t exactly a surprise, because it’s no real secret that things have been getting out of control. Nonetheless the actual figures are staggering. While the story was about defense spending, the real issue is runaway government spending, and the serious economic trouble we may be getting into. I don’t like to be one to run around saying the sky is falling. There hasn’t been any really serious economic depressions since the great depression, and while there are a number of economic stabilizers now that didn’t exist then, that doesn’t mean the economy is never going to crash.

Anyhow, no matter what your political stance or stance on the war on terror, these figures ought to be alarming. From the story on NPR’s morning edition:

  • U.S. spends more on defense than every other country in the world combined.
  • By the end of 2008, U.S. will spend more than three quarters of a trillion dollars on defense.
  • Adjusted for inflation, defense spending is at its highest level since WWII, yet military forces smallest they’ve been since that same time!
  • Despite this enormous amount of spending, “Troops in Iraq and Afghanistan have faced equipment shortages and lack of proper armor.”
  • Big ticket items (jets, missiles, tanks, etc.) make up almost half of Pentagon’s budget.
    “[Big ticket items] have no real value for any counter-terrorism operations… These big ticket items drive the budget and become de facto security priorities when they don’t in fact increase our security.”

Why this spending?

  • Lockheed, the nation’s largest defense contractor, employs(?) tens of thousands of people in 45 states, and donates money to both parties, President Bush being one of largest recipients. “…You can easily lose [a race for congress] being perceived as soft on defense.”
  • Example: the F22 fighter jet. Each one costs $300 million, they’ve been in development for 25 years, and though now finally considered at full operational capability, not flown a single sortie has been flown in Iraq or Afghanistan. An approximately $60 billion has been spent for for this program which was designed for air to air combat vs. Soviets in Cold War. (In other words, not helping us out presently.)
  • Lockheed Martin stock has approximately tripled since 9/11/01.
  • I have also heard that defense contractors have a significant interest in making it appear certain countries such as China (and Iraq??) pose a serious military threat to the U.S., when in actuality that isn’t the case.
  • President Eisenhower (A General): “To amass military power without regard to our economic capacity, would be to defend ourselves against one kind of disaster by inviting another.”

(To be continued)

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