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The GOP's Budgetary Shenanigans Discourage Necessary Pentagon Reform

March 19, 2015 in Economics

By Christopher A. Preble

Christopher A. Preble

The civil war being fought within the Republican Party over Pentagon spending came to a head this week, as the House Budget Committee proposed a spending level technically in line with Budget Control Act (BCA) limits that actually skirts those caps by loading additional monies into the overseas contingency operations (OCO) account.

Pentagon spending boosters are likely to claim victory. It is actually a defeat for fiscal responsibility and strategic good sense. Busting the budget caps virtually ensures that necessary reforms within the Pentagon will be kicked down the road, and likewise discourages a serious reconsideration of the military’s roles and missions. And the committee’s shenanigans clearly defy the spirit of the BCA, which is rightly credited with slowing the growth of government.

U.S. military spending—the Pentagon’s base budget, excluding the cost of our recent wars—remains near historic highs. Under the bipartisan BCA caps passed in 2011, U.S. taxpayers will still spend more on the military (in inflation-adjusted dollars) in each of the next five years than we spent, on average, during the Cold War.

The Department of Defense will continue to avoid hard choices if the war hawks prevail and gut spending caps.”

But Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Rep. (R-Texas), the respective chairs of the Senate and House Armed Services Committees, think we’re spending too little. In a widely cited op ed in the Wall Street Journal last week, they called on Republicans to support a $577 billion defense budget, or $78 billion more than the BCA limits. Tom Cotton faulted McCain and Thornberry for being too stingy. The nation’s survival, Arkansas’s freshman senator suggested in his first floor speech, would be dangerously imperiled if we didn’t spend at least $611 billion next year, plus whatever extra was needed to fight the nation’s wars.

McCain, Thornberry, and Cotton want much more military spending because they believe the world is too dangerous, and the U.S. military is too small to deal with the dangers. But today’s threats are relatively modest and manageable compared with our recent past. And while the U.S. military is smaller than in 2010, or 1990, it is not necessarily too small.

Consider the question just in terms of the number of men and women serving on active duty. In 1952, at the height of the Korean War, active duty personnel peaked at 3.6 million. In 1968, during the Vietnam War, the number of active duty personnel reached 3.5 million. …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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