The Pentagon's lavish budget
There are a lot of myths flying around about the Pentagon’s budget released last week. Democrats and Republicans alike are lamenting supposed spending reductions–a story we’ve heard before. Despite the fact that all the hyperbole about the impacts of Pentagon spending cuts in sequestration has been disproven by the lack of catastrophe in the past few years, weapons spending boosters are going to be raising a fuss again. Our own Jon Rainwater has a piece in the Oakland Tribune this week going after these myths:
A raft of media outlets led coverage of the president’s Pentagon budget request with the notion that the Pentagon planned to “reduce the Army to pre-World War II levels.”
This is the sound bite that stood in for real analysis. Pundits missed the big picture, arguing over the wisdom of the reductions. The New York Times called the move “prudent realism.” The conservative Weekly Standard branded it “deeply unsettling.”
When people hear “the Army is being cut to pre-World War II levels,” they are thinking about military forces as a whole. But the Air Force didn’t even exist in 1940. The Marine Corps has grown exponentially since that earlier era.
After the post- 9/11 spike is trimmed, a force far larger than before World War II remains.
But the bigger problem with the reduction narrative is that the proposed $496 billion for the Department of Defense represents historically sky-high spending.
One of the silliest claims you’re likely to hear is that increasing the Pentagon budget is somehow necessary because of the Ukraine crisis. William Hartung dismantles this argument well:
The idea that more Pentagon spending equals more influence over the behavior of other countries is, to borrow a phrase from Samuelson, “manifestly untrue.” Vladimir Putin is not huddled in Moscow toting up the figures in the Pentagon’s latest budget proposal, and then using it as a guide as to whether to take military action. Nor is any other world leader. They are following their perceived interests, weighing them against the consequences that might result from any given course of action. Even if the United States were spending twice the half trillion dollars per year it now spends on the Pentagon, it would not have deterred Putin from moving into Crimea. The challenge is to find a mix of diplomatic and economic measures that can persuade Russia to reverse course and recognize Ukraine’s sovereignty. This may or may not work, but it offers the best hope for resolving the situation. There is no military solution, and to suggest otherwise merely distracts from the difficult task at hand.