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Reduce Military Spending

April 11, 2013

By Meredith Schroeer
Originally Published: June 17, 2011

Most Americans are very concerned about our already astronomical and steadily growing national debt, a debt which is causing draconian cuts in social and other domestic programs all across the country. But one area of the budget has until now come under very little scrutiny, and that is the defense budget, a proposed $685 billion for 2012. If all the programs associated with war were included, the defense budget for 2011 would actually exceed a trillion dollars. Last year the U.S. spent about $2.1 million every single minute for war and defense.

The most powerful nation in the history of the planet now devotes more than half of its tax revenues to wars, past, present, and future. The U.S. accounts for 48 percent of all the military spending in the world, although our population is only five percent of the world’s population, and our land mass only one-fifteenth.

Regarding this level of military spending as unsustainable, especially in view of our domestic needs, four congressmen representing otherwise widely divergent political views, Barney Frank (D-MA), Walter Jones (R-NC), Ron Paul (R-TX), and Ron Wyden D-OR) called for the formation of a Sustainable Defense Task Force. This group, ultimately composed of representatives from fourteen groups across the ideological spectrum (from the Cato Institute on the right, to Peace Action on the left) put forth a report last June, Debt, Deficits and Defense: A Way Forward, proposing measures to cut defense spending without affecting our national security. By way of illustration, five of these recommendations follow. Savings would be over the next ten years.

  1. Reduce the current U.S. nuclear arsenal to 1,050 total warheads deployed. Save $113.5 billion. The new START treaty reduces the U.S. arsenal to 1,550 deployed, strategic nuclear weapons, and this cut would still provide the U.S. with an overwhelming nuclear arsenal.
  2. Reduce U.S. routine military presence in Europe and Asia to 100,000 troops and reduce total uniformed military personnel to 1.3 million. Save over $200 billion. U.S. troops have been in Europe and Asia since World War II, to defend against attacks from the now long-defunct Soviet Union. In the late 1940s much of Europe and Asia lay in the ruins of WWII, but now these countries can decide for themselves what constitutes an adequate defense, and pay for it themselves.
  3. Realign the Missile Defense Program. Save $60 billion. Although over $200 billion has been spent on Star Wars over the past 25 years, the results have been only failed tests and no workable system. The recommendation would still leave tens of billions for research and development.
  4. End the V-22 Osprey. Save $15 billion. Even the military has rejected this Cold War weapons system which has been plagued with cost overruns and fatal crashes.
  5. Build/operate fewer aircraft carriers and associated air wings. Save $43 billion. No other nation has even one ship comparable to the Navy’s 11 aircraft carriers. The second largest military spending nation, China, is developing an anti-ship ballistic missile system to respond to the U.S. advantage. The sense of threat which other nations experience when the U.S. ramps up its military creates an arms race with no winners.
Just these five steps, which are only a portion of the Task Force’s recommendations, would amount to $431.5 billion savings over ten years, or a 6.2 percent reduction in military spending per year, based on the proposed military budget for 2012.

Specific details are included in this article so persons who may wish to call their representatives in Congress may cite specific steps to reduce our military budget, without any realistic danger to national security, as a way of saving crucial domestic programs. The difficulty in obtaining such cuts will lie in the job losses which they would cause. But individuals could be re-trained to help meet domestic needs, especially in our crumbling infrastructure, but also in emerging new energy initiatives, health care, and environmental restoration. Such a policy shift could breathe a new spirit of hope into the world.

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