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The Debate over the Size of the Military Budget



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The Debate over the Size of the Military Budget


This diversion of funds is unfortunate, but it might still be necessary if the high level of US military spending is needed to ensure the nation’s security. Experts disagree over this issue. Some think the United States needs to maintain and in fact increase its level of military spending, even with the Cold War long ended, to replace aging weapons systems, to meet the threat posed by terrorists and by “rogue” nations such as Iran, and to respond to various other trouble spots around the world. Military spending is good for workers, they add, because it creates jobs, and it also contributes to technological development (Boot, 2012; England, 2012; McKeon, 2012). [56]

Other experts echo President Eisenhower’s concern over the size of the military budget (Bacevich, 2011; Korb, Rothman, & Hoffman, 2012; Lochhead, 2012; Wheeler, 2009). [57] Noting that the military budget today exceeds the average budget during the Cold War, they think military spending is far higher than it needs to be to ensure the nation’s defense with the Soviet Union no longer a threat. They say the United States could safely decrease its nuclear and conventional weapons arsenals without at all endangering national security. They also say that the stationing of some 300,000 American troops on 865 military bases abroad at the time of this writing, including 81,000 troops in Europe and 220,000 in other nations, is hardly needed to ensure the nation’s defense. As one scholar said of the military bases, “It makes as much sense for the Pentagon to hold onto 227 military bases in Germany as it would for the post office to maintain a fleet of horses and buggies” (vanden Heuvel, 2011). [58]

These experts say the military budget is bloated for at least four reasons. First, the defense industry is very effective at lobbying Congress for increased military spending, with the cozy relationship among members of the military-industrial complex helping to ensure the effectiveness of this lobbying. Second, members of Congress fear being labeled “weak on defense” if they try to reduce the military budget or do not agree to new weapons systems requested by the Pentagon. Regarding this fear, former US senator and presidential candidate George McGovern (2011, p. 47), [59] a decorated World War II hero, writes, “We need to end the false choice between a bloated budget and a weak spine.”

Third, and helping to explain the success of this lobbying, military spending provides jobs and income to the home districts of members of Congress. Fourth,military waste in the form of cost overruns from poor accounting and other management failures is rampant. As just one example of such waste, a 2011 federal audit found that cost overruns over the prior two years had added at least $70 billion to projected costs of various weapons systems (Drew, 2011).[60] A major reason for this problem was that the Pentagon had begun building these systems before their designs had been completely tested.

Critics also argue that military spending actually produces fewer jobs than spending in other sectors (Ledbetter, 2011). [61] According to a recent estimate, $1 billion spent by the Pentagon creates 11,200 jobs, but the same $1 billion spent in other sectors would create 16,800 clean energy jobs, 17,200 health-care jobs, and 26,700 education jobs (Pollin & Garrett-Peltier, 2011). [62] To quote the title of a recent report, military spending is “a poor job creator” (Hartung, 2012). [63] This report concluded that “the more money we spend on unneeded weapons programs, the more layoffs there will be of police officers, firefighters, teachers, and other workers whose jobs are funded directly or indirectly by federal spending.”

As this overview of the debate over military spending indicates, the military remains a hot topic more than two decades after the Cold War ended following the demise of the Soviet Union. As we move further into the twenty-first century, the issue of military spending will present a major challenge for US political and economic institutions to address in a way that meets America’s international and domestic interests.




KEY TAKEAWAYS


  • War is a social phenomenon in which a mixture of motives underlies decisions to go to war.

  • War has significant impacts, but perhaps most of all on civilians and veterans.

  • US military spending amounts to more than $1 trillion annually.

  • Critics of the military budget say that the billions of dollars spent on weapons and other military needs would be better spent on domestic needs such as schools and day care.



FOR YOUR REVIEW


  1. Do you think the US military budget should be increased, be reduced, or stay about the same? Explain your answer.

  2. What do you think is the worst problem that veterans have faced in returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan? Why?

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[2] Leitenberg, M. (2006). Deaths in wars and conflicts in the 20th century. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Peace Studies Program.

[3] Pinker, S. (2012). The better angels of our nature: Why violence has declined. New York, NY: Penguin.

[4] Pinker, S. (2012). The better angels of our nature: Why violence has declined. New York, NY: Penguin.

[5] Pinker, S. (2012). The better angels of our nature: Why violence has declined. New York, NY: Penguin.

[6] Federation of American Scientists. (2011). Status of world nuclear forces. Retrieved February 16, 2012, fromhttp://www.fas.org/programs/ssp/nukes/nuclearweapons/nukestatus.html.

[7] Union of Concerned Scientists. (2009). Nuclear weapons overview. Retrieved February 16, 2012, fromhttp://www.ucsusa.org/nuclear_weapons_and_global_security/nuclear_weapons/technical_issues/nuclear-weapons-overview.html.

[8] Bumiller, E. (2010, July 25). The war: A trillion can be cheap. New York Times, p. WK3.

[9] Collier, E. C. (1993). Instances of use of United States forces abroad, 1798–1993. Retrieved from http://www.history.navy.mil/wars/foabroad.htm.

[10] Levy, J. S., & Thompson, W. R. (2010). Causes of war. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.

[11] Wrangham, R. W. (2004). Killer species. Daedalus, 133(4), 25–35.

[12] Begley, S. (2009, June 29). Don’t blame the caveman. Newsweek, 52–62.

[13] Solomon, N. (2006). War made easy: How presidents and pundits keep spinning us to death. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

[14] Wells, T. (1994). The war within: America’s battle over Vietnam. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

[15] Danner, M. (2006). The secret way to war: The Downing Street memo and the Iraq War’s buried history. New York, NY: New York Review of Books.

[16] Gleditsch, N. P., & Theisen, O. M. (2010). Resources, the environment, and conflict. In M. D. Cavelty & V. Mauer (Eds.), The Routledge handbook of security studies (pp. 221–232). New York, NY: Routledge.

[17] Fisman, R., & Miguel, E. (2010). Economic gangsters: Corruption, violence, and the poverty of nations. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

[18] Bess, M. (2008). Choices under fire: Moral dimensions of World War II. New York, NY: Vintage Books.

[19] Tirman, J. (2012, January 8). Do we care when civilians die in war? The Washington Post, p. B01.

[20] Tirman, J. (2012, January 8). Do we care when civilians die in war? The Washington Post, p. B01.

[21] Tirman, J. (2012, January 8). Do we care when civilians die in war? The Washington Post, p. B01.

[22] Tirman, J. (2011). The deaths of others: The fate of civilians in America’s wars. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

[23] Ledbetter, J. (2011). Unwarranted influence: Dwight D. Eisenhower and the military-industrial complex. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press; Vietnam Veterans Against the War. (1971). A.I.D.E. napalm sticks to kids. Retrieved February 20, 2012, fromhttp://www.vvaw.org/veteran/article/?id=823.

[24] Dao, J. (2012, January 2). Acting out war’s inner wounds. New York Times, p. A1.

[25] Dewan, S. (2011, December 18). As wars end, young veterans return to scant jobs. New York Times, p. A1; Zornick, G. (2012, January 6). Job numbers are up, but veterans are left behind. The Nation. Retrieved from http://www.thenation.com/blog/165487/job-numbers-are-veterans-are-left-behind.

[26] Dao, J. (2012, January 2). Acting out war’s inner wounds. New York Times, p. A1.

[27] Martinez, L., & Bingham, A. (2011, November 11). US veterans: By the numbers. ABC News. Retrieved from http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/us-veterans-numbers/story?id=14928136#14928131.

[28] Pew Research Center. (2011). War and sacrifice in the post-9/11 era. Washington, DC: Author.

[29] Einhorn, C. (2011, September 28). Looking after the soldier, back home and damaged.New York Times, p. A12.

[30] Einhorn, C. (2011, September 28). Looking after the soldier, back home and damaged.New York Times, p. A12.

[31] Ashton, A. (2011, July 22). Children of deployed troops struggle, study finds. Bangor Daily News. Retrieved from http://bangordailynews.com/2011/07/22/health/children-of-deployed-troops-struggle-researchers-find.

[32] Ashton, A. (2011, July 22). Children of deployed troops struggle, study finds. Bangor Daily News. Retrieved from http://bangordailynews.com/2011/07/22/health/children-of-deployed-troops-struggle-researchers-find.

[33] Turchik, J. A., & Wilson, S. M. (2010). Sexual assault in the US military: A review of the literature and recommendations for the future. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 15, 267–277.

[34] Stalsburg, B. L. (2011). Rape, sexual assault, and sexual harassment in the military: The quick facts. Retrieved February 18, 2012, from http://servicewomen.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/Rape-Sexual-Assault-and-Sexual-Harassment-in-the-Military.pdf.

[35] Turchik, J. A., & Wilson, S. M. (2010). Sexual assault in the US military: A review of the literature and recommendations for the future. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 15, 267–277.

[36] Herdy, A., & Moffeit, M. (2004). Betrayal in the Ranks. Retrieved fromhttp://www.denverpost.com/Stories/0,0,36%257E30137%257E,00.html.

[37] Stalsburg, B. L. (2011). Rape, sexual assault, and sexual harassment in the military: The quick facts. Retrieved February 18, 2012, from http://servicewomen.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/Rape-Sexual-Assault-and-Sexual-Harassment-in-the-Military.pdf.

[38] Speier, J. (2012, February 8). Victims of military rape deserve justice. CNN.com. Retrieved http://www.cnn.com/.

[39] Baker, L. (2012, February 18). A concerted effort needed to help homeless veterans. The Times-Leader. Retrieved from http://www.timesleader.com/stories/A-concerted-effort-needed-to-help-homeless-veterans-COMMENTARY-STATE-SEN- LISA-BAKER,89325?search_filter=A+concerted+effort+needed+to+help+homeless +veterans &town_id=1&sub_type=stories; Shusman, B. (2012, February 18). Public, private organizations work to help thousands of homeless veterans in NY. Voice of America News. Retrieved from http://www.voanews.com/english/news/usa/Public-Private-Organizations-Work-to-Help-Thousands-of-Homeless-Veterans-in-NY- 139520143.html.

[40] Gerber, S. (2012, February 7). Why we should help veterans start their own businesses. Time. Retrieved from http://business.time.com/2012/02/07/why-we-should-help-veterans-start-their-own-businesses/.

[41] Einhorn, C. (2011, September 28). Looking after the soldier, back home and damaged.New York Times, p. A12.

[42] Halperin, S. (2004). War and social change in modern Europe: The great transformation revisited. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press.

[43] Rafter, N. H. (1990). Partial justice: Women, prisons, and social control. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction.

[44] McKeeby, D. (2008, February 25). End of US military segregation set stage for rights movement. America.gov. Retrieved from http://www.america.gov/st/diversity-english/2008/February/20080225120859liameruoy0.9820215.html.

[45] Friends Committee on National Legislation. (2012). Where do our income tax dollars go. Retrieved from http://fcnl.org/assets/flyer/taxchart11.pdf; War Resisters League. (2012). Where your income tax money really goes. Retrieved fromhttps://www.warresisters.org/sites/default/files/FY2012piechart-color.pdf.

[46] US Census Bureau. (2012). Statistical abstract of the United States: 2012. Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office. Retrieved fromhttp://www.census.gov/compendia/statab.

[47] Friends Committee on National Legislation. (2012). Where do our income tax dollars go? Retrieved from http://fcnl.org/assets/flyer/taxchart11.pdf; War Resisters League. (2012). Where your income tax money really goes. Retrieved fromhttps://www.warresisters.org/sites/default/files/FY2012piechart-color.pdf.

[48] Holland, J. (2011, June 17). Are we giant suckers? While the US blows money on the military, Europe spends dough on social programs. AlterNet. Retrieved fromhttp://www.alternet.org/world/151337/are_we_giant_suckers_while_the_us_blows_money_on_the_military,_europe _spends_dough_on_social_programs.

[49] Grimmett, R. E. (2011). Conventional arms transfers to developing nations, 2003–2010. Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service.

[50] Feinstein, A. (2011). The shadow world: Inside the global arms trade. New York, NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; Shah, A. (2011). Arms trade: A major cause of suffering. Retrieved February 17, 2012, from http://www.globalissues.org/issue/73/arms-trade-a-major-cause-of-suffering.

[51] Arias, O. (1999). Stopping America’s most lethal export. New York Times, June 23, p. A19.

[52] Kaplan, F. (2012, February 13). What happened to a leaner, meaner military. Slate. Retrieved fromhttp://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/war_stories/2012/02/_2013_pentagon_budget_why_so_much_spending_on_big_war_weapons_.html.

[53] Castelli, C. J. (2012, February 17). DOD: New nuclear subs will cost $347 billion to acquire, operate. InsideDefense.com NewsStand. Retrieved fromhttp://defensenewsstand.com/NewsStand-General/The-INSIDER-Free-Article/dod-new-nuclear-subs-will-cost-347-billion-to-acquire-operate/menu-id-720.html.

[54] Harrison, T. (2012). Analysis of the FY2012 defense budget. Washington, DC: Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.

[55] National Priorities Project. (2012). Trade-offs. Retrieved February 16, 2012, fromhttp://costofwar.com/en/tradeoffs/state/CA/program/11/tradeoff/0.

[56] Boot, M. (2012). Slashing America’s defense: A suicidal trajectory. Retrieved February 20, 2012, from http://www.cfr.org/defense-policy-and-budget/slashing-americas-defense-suicidal-trajectory/p26989; England, G. (2012, February 5). Military preparedness does not come cheap. The Washington Post. Retrieved fromhttp://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/military-preparedness-does-not-come-cheap/2012/02/05/gIQA5PLfsQ_story.html; McKeon, H. P. B. (2012, January 12). Obama’s damaging blow to our military. The Washington Post. Retrieved fromhttp://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/obamas-damaging-blow-to-our-military/2012/01/12/gIQA3eMhuP_story.html.

[57] Bacevich, A. (2011). Washington rules: America’s path to permanent war. New York, NY: Metropolitan Books; Korb, L. J., Rothman, A., & Hoffman, M. (2012). The fiscal year 2013 defense budget: A report card. Washington, DC: Center for American Progress; Lochhead, C. (2012, February 14). Obama’s defense cuts are a drop in the bucket. San Francisco Chronicle, p. A6; Wheeler, W. T. (2009). America’s defense meltdown: Pentagon reform for President Obama and the new Congress Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

[58] vanden Heuvel, K. (2011, June 13). Around the globe, US military bases generate resentment, not security. The Nation. Retrieved fromhttp://www.thenation.com/blog/161378/around-globe-us-military-bases-generate-resentment-not-security.

[59] McGovern, G. (2011). What it means to be a democrat. New York, NY: Penguin.

[60] Drew, C. (2011, March 30). Audit of Pentagon spending finds $70 billion in waste. New York Times, p. B4.

[61] Ledbetter, J. (2011). Unwarranted Influence: Dwight D. Eisenhower and the military-industrial complex. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

[62] Pollin, R., & Garrett-Peltier, H. (2011). The US employment effects of military and domestic spending priorities: 2011 update. Amherst, MA: Political Economy Research Institutes.

[63] Hartung, W. D. (2012). Military spending: A poor job creator. Washington, DC: Center for International Policy.



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