Nope, Still No Real Cuts to ‘Defense’

As the right wing continues to absolutely freak out about those “deep cuts” to “defense” spending that are allegedly being proposed by the Obama administration, Eric Stoner points out the absurdity of those claims at Alternet, noting that there are no real cuts and that our real defense spending is actually much higher than the Pentagon’s budget.

Not only does this budget allocate a mere $420 million less than the Defense Department received from Congress this year, it represents just a fraction of the actual amount that will go towards maintaining the massive U.S. security apparatus. To get a more accurate picture of the true cost of the American empire, various programs and line items that do not fall under the Pentagon’s base budget must be included in this tally.

1) War spending: Despite the fact that Obama still officially plans to end combat operations in Afghanistan by the end of the year, the budget includes $79.4 billion for the war in 2015. Granted, that is only a placeholder. The actual figure will be decided on later, but it does give a sense of what is to be expected, which is essentially a continuation of the tragic status quo.

2) Veterans: To take account of the total price tag of the many wars that the United States has fought — and continues to fight — the long-term cost of providing for veterans should be included. To meet these needs, $68.4 billion has been requested for the Department of Veterans Affairs.

He also points out that much of the intelligence budget should be counted, since the CIA runs the drone strike program, as well as a portion of the budgets for the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy’s nuclear weapons programs.

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  • “Small government” “fiscal conservatives” forsooth.

  • justsomeguy

    If you consider it from the perspective that the only legitimate power of the government is to finance and operate a military, then this makes a little more sense. If they can’t get the tax cuts they want, then the next best thing is to funnel all that tax money into the one thing it’s okay to spend tax money on.

  • Plus, the reduction in troops is something like only 50,000 troops, most of whom would leave anyway

  • They’re also playing a game where they’re saying they’re lowering “troop levels” – which means fewer soldiers and more expensive high-tech toys that don’t actually work. It’s like they don’t care about jobs or something.

  • Sometimes I get the feeling that there’s some kind of deal between the Democrats and Republicans. Since neither party actually wants to reduce Defense spending, the deal works like this: the President publishes a budget that lets the Democrats look to their base like they’re trying to reduce Defense spending, while at the same time giving the Republicans something to rail against to rally their own base. Meanwhile, Congress backdoors actual budget items that keep actual Defense spending the same or higher.

    It’s all theater.

  • wscott

    Including the costs of war funding and veterans affairs in the total cost of defense makes sense. But Stoner commits several fallacy of composition on the other points he lists:


    Intelligence: Stoner argues that the costs of drone strikes conducted by the CIA should be counted. OK. But then he counts the entire US Intelligence budget, not just the cost of the drone program.


    Homeland Security: Yes, the DHS budget include TSA, border patrol & cybersecurity. But it also includes FEMA, Immigration, Secret Service, and the Federal Law Enforcement Traiing Center, among others. Even counting border patrol in the total is questionable IMO, as we all know they are far more about keeping out migrant farm workers than keeping out terrorists.


    Nuclear Weapons: Including the nuclear weapons program makes sense, but the waste disposal costs Stoner cites are mainly for disposing of fuel from commercial power plants.


    Stoner then ends by claiming that his defense spending “total” counts for 73% of discretionary spending. But of course he fails to point out that discretionary spending is barely 1/3 of total spending, so 73% of that (even if his numbers were accurate) is roughly 25% of the total budget. His overall point that $420 M isn’t that much money compared to overall spending is still valid – I just wish he hadn’t undercut his own argument by trying to pad his numbers to make it look even worse than it is.

  • D. C. Sessions

    How many of the “troop level reductions” are now working for the CIA? After all, the CIA is currently operating most of our combat aircraft. We’re entering an era where military aircraft don’t require pilots, after all. The F-35 is a good example — half a trillion dollars (so far), almost no pilots required.

    And does this count the shift to hired military contractors such as Haliburton and whatever-Blackwater-is-called-this-week?

  • Meanwhile, Congress backdoors actual budget items that keep actual Defense spending the same or higher.

    If you want to weep a bit, read Chuck Spinney on the topic.

    For those who don’t know, Chuck was one of the 4 or 5 leaders of the “military reform movement” in the 80s that embraced John Boyd and produced the F-16 system. He really knows his shit, though obviously his conclusions will be unpalatable in certain quarters.