The war in
The Democratic candidates for president – both mainstream and long shots — tend to agree on these and many other issues that position them as smart and compassionate alternatives to the policies and priorities of President George W. Bush and his administration. But on the one issue that profoundly impacts all of the above, there is not enough difference. Most Democratic candidates for president speak of increasing rather than slashing the military budget.
Since President Bush came into office in 2001, the Pentagon’s budget has increased by more than one-third. The $481 billion proposed for 2008 – the $459 billion appropriations plus the nuclear weapons programs of the Department of Energy – is a jump of more than 10% over current spending. To be clear, this is a huge figure even before factoring in the costs of military operations in
Given these figures — and the fact that preponderant military spending has not equaled an unassailable military or the fulfillment of the Bush administration’s objectives — there is plenty of fodder for Democratic candidates wishing to take on the Bush administration’s love affair with the Pentagon. In the 2008 military budget, the White House showed its devotion to weapons manufacturers and its disdain for men and women in uniform by packing the “reconstituting the forces” area of the budget with $51 billion in weapons that are not only not worn out by the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan — but aren’t even relevant. There is money for 20 F-22 tactical aircraft originally designed to engage Soviet fighter planes in high-speed aerial dogfights. Al-Qaeda in
A Tale of Two Budgets
While this administration justifies the spending as necessary to fight the terrorists over there so that we don’t face them here, the numbers tell a different story — a story of two separate military budgets.
The first is bursting with billions for new fighter planes, nuclear powered submarines, and ballistic missile components. This is the budget that has propelled spiraling profits for weapons manufacturing companies like Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman.
The other military budget is plagued with the belt-tightening we usually see in education and social service programs. The Army suffered a $530 million shortfall in 2006 that led to cuts at military hospitals and no new money for medical research on key procedures like dealing with traumatic brain injuries – the signature of the improvised-exposive-devise war in
All the Democrats who wish to sit behind the desk in the Oval Office criticize the administration for not providing ammunition, communication systems, armored vehicles and helicopters to
What the Candidates Say
But, in most cases, the Democrats are not taking the next step to say that the
Pursuing this strategy as president would mean taking on the military industrial complex, which has been living high-on-the-hog throughout the Bush administration. It would be an up-hill battle, but one worth pursuing.
Obama has not talked about cutting the military budget. In fact, when asked recently in
Senator Hillary Clinton is proud to be the first
None of these front-running candidates has identified the short- or long-term costs of adding troops, where the money would come from, or — perhaps most importantly — the missions these troops would be engaged in once the Democratic leadership succeeds in “bringing them home.”
Department of Peace?
Dennis Kucinich, the representative from
There is no Department of Peace in any of the GOP platforms, but their efforts to strike a different posture than Bush and company do not include a radical re-vamp of the Pentagon budget or taking on the weapons manufacturers who reap the benefits of a war-without-end strategy. Despite John McCain’s prisoner-of-war credibility, Rudy Giuliani’s 9/11-forged patriotism, and Mitt Romney’s neo-Republican suave, they and most of the other Republican hopefuls are not promoting a set of policies that would spend less for more security. Only the libertarian “maverick” Ron Paul is calling for smaller budgets – even the military budget – as a first step to smaller government and challenges the wisdom of a “war on terrorism” by calling it a “vague declaration.”
The Unified Security Budget for the
FPIF columnist Frida Berrigan is a senior program associate at the Arms and Security Project of the New America Foundation.