Now that Joe Biden is slated to take office as the 46th President of the United States, advice flows in on how to address a wide range of daunting problems. Nowhere is more at stake than in dealing with this country’s highly militarized foreign policy in general, and Pentagon spending in particular.
Defense spending rose sharply in the Trump years and is now substantial higher than it was during the Korean or Vietnam War or during the massive military build-up that President Ronald Reagan oversaw in the 1980s. Today it consumes well more than the half the country’s discretionary budget, which also happens to be paid for a variety of much-needed priorities ranging from housing, vocational training and alternative energy programs to public health and infrastructure development. At a time when pandemics, high unemployment, racial inequality and climate change are the greatest threats to our security, this allocation of resources should be viewed as unsustainable. Unfortunately, the Pentagon and the defense industry have not yet received this memo. Defense executives recently insured a Washington Post Reporters said they were “not concerned” or that the possibility that a Biden administration would significantly reduce Pentagon spending is unlikely.
It’s easy enough to understand their trust. Lots of officials according to rumours The upcoming Pentagon appointments, including a number of former Obama administration officials, have worked directly or indirectly for defense companies for the past several years. It is therefore not surprising that their guidelines meet some of the most expensive and riskiest military technologies imaginable how Hypersonic weapons. The expected next Secretary of Defense, Michèle Flournoy, has already insisted that Washington “big bets” on unmanned systems and artificial intelligence. Of course, she won’t be the one to pay the price when she fails – or even if she succeeds and takes money that could have been used for important domestic purposes like health care in a pandemic moment.
Contrary to the wishes and hopes of the military-industrial complex and personalities like Flournoy, however, there is growing interest in Congress in getting the run of the Pentagon spending under control. In July of this year, for example, Representative Mark Pocan (D-WI), Representative Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) pushed ahead with parallel measures in the House of Representatives and in the Senate cut Pentagon spending up 10%, savings of more than $ 70 billion that could be put to good use elsewhere, including helping increasingly desperate low-income communities. Though their initiatives were lost, the fact that they were proposed could mark a turning point in a Congress that for years has signed everything the Pentagon demands without any opposition.
Think of these budget cuts at the Pentagon as the beginning of a long-term effort to tame this runaway institution. Representatives Pocan and Lee, for example, set up a defense savings caucus in Parliament that focuses on tracking down misdirected Defense Department spending. Both Joe Biden and the Democrat during the 2020 campaign platform stressed that this country and the world can indeed be made safer while less is being spent on the Pentagon.
It is clear that the fairytale explanation that more spending equals better security needs to be dropped. Is it going to happen soon? Who knows? At least it is time for the rest of us to start thinking about how much less should be spent on the Department of Defense and how to ensure that taxpayers’ money is spent wisely.
A Pentagon Spending Agenda for the Biden Administration
In reality, it’s not that complicated. Pentagon spending could easily be cut dramatically even if the world were made safer. However, to do that, its budget would have to start looking at the real challenges facing this country, rather than wasting billions of dollars or more on outdated military priorities and artificially inflated threats supposedly posed by our greatest adversaries.
One draft To do this, the Center for International Politics’ Sustainable Defense Task Force has put together a group of former White House, Pentagon and Congress officials, retired military officials and think tank experts from across the political spectrum. They have a plan in place to save $ 1.25 trillion in planned Pentagon spending over the next ten years.
As this task force notes, this country’s leadership would need to be more realistic about the military challenges facing both China and Russia in order to achieve a permanent reduction in these spending.
In recent years, while the Beijing regime has increased its military spending, when it comes to an armed presence in the Pacific and the ability to wage war there, the United States remains astonishingly stronger. First of all, it has an arsenal of nuclear weapons five to six times as big as China (although it would, of course, mean a planetary Armageddon). While Beijing’s influence is primarily regional, the US military has historically unprecedented global reach and is close to being in action 200,000 Overseas troops were at least occupied 800 Military bases scattered and maintained across continents 11 Task forces of aircraft carriers to patrol the oceans. In reality, the kind of “arms race” with China currently under consideration will be costly and unnecessary, and will only increase the risk of war between these two nuclear-armed powers, a result that must be avoided at all costs.
China’s real 21st century challenge to this country is not military at all, but political and economic in nature. Your leadership has focused on building the power and influence of this country through investment programs like the increasingly global one Belt and road Infrastructure Initiative. Despite many problems, such efforts clearly give Beijing the growing global clout, particularly in Donald Trump’s America First era, which a hopeless attempt to achieve US military might never could. Add to this another factor: if there is hope of preventing future pandemics from devastating the planet, containing the growing effects of climate change, or revitalizing a global economy that is clearly in the dumps, improve cooperation and transparency between the two greatest powers no confrontation will be a necessity on the planet.
As for Russia, a relatively shaky petro-state, in recent years propaganda, cyber threats, and “hybrid warfare” on its peripheries (such as using local allies to destabilize Ukraine) have been the main instruments of influence. Despite its still vast nuclear arsenal, Russia does not present a traditional military challenge to the United States and should therefore not be used to justify another pointless increase in Pentagon spending. To the extent that Russia presents a military challenge, this can be more than adequately addressed by various European nations with the United States in a limited supporting role. After all, cumulative European NATO members spend more than three times as much as Russia does with its military and far surpasses it economically. Remember, this is not the Cold War era of the previous century. In reality, Russia’s economy is now smaller as Italy and Moscow are incapable of waging an arms race even with the Western European nations, no less with Washington.
Despite the forever catastrophic wars in distant lands, the institution, still often referred to as the “Ministry of Defense,” initially focused on actual national defense rather than global military supremacy, could immediately dispense with a number of grievances. designed and amazingly expensive new weapon systems. These range from plans to “modernize” the country’s already vast nuclear arsenal by purchasing a new generation of nuclear-armed bombers, missiles and submarines at a cost of up to$ 2 trillion to the imagination of building current levels to a 500 ship Marine.
At the top of any list of programs that should be eliminated immediately is a proposed new Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM). As a former Secretary of Defense, William Perry pointed outICBMs are among the “most dangerous weapons in the world” for one simple reason: A president would only have a few minutes to decide whether to launch such missiles when warned of another power using similar weapons to target the To attack USA. Since in the past such Warnings have far from proven that new weapons of this type will only increase the likelihood of accidental nuclear warfare. However, the Pentagon has already given one to giant weapons maker Northrop Grumman Contract from a single source and $ 13.3 billion to develop such a new weapon, a down payment on a program that could ultimately cost $ 264 billion build and operate. Funds like these could go far to meet other really urgent national needs.
In terms of upgrading the nuclear arsenal as a whole, the Global Zero organization has one alternative nuclear stance This would halt the Pentagon’s costly plan to “modernize” nuclear weapons, eliminate ICBMs altogether, and reduce the number of nuclear-armed bombers and submarines. The idea would be to switch the US to a “deterrent-only” strategy and to abandon the sophisticated and dangerous nuclear warfare scenarios that the Pentagon now swears by. The ultimate goal, of course, would be the global elimination of such weapons as required in the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which is due to come into force early next year.
Then there is this dream (or nightmare) of a future marine that has to be dealt with. Building a fleet of 500 ships is not only unaffordable, but also a sign of the extent to which the Pentagon has the urge to go mad on taxpayers’ money. Even an earlier plan to build 330 ships was so poorly managed that it failed left the navy 50 ships are tight, $ 11 billion over budget and years behind schedule. Rather than trying to preserve the ability to have warships virtually anywhere on earth, the navy, set up to break into tension, could be about half the size of those with 500 ships and yet be indescribably powerful.
Further savings could easily be made if the procurement of non-functional weapon systems such as Lockheed Martin’s disastrous F-35 jet fighter ceases. Already the most expensive weapons program ever carried out (at a cumulative price of $ 1.7 trillion during its lifetime), the government surveillance project found that the F-35 can never really be ready for the fight. Upgraded versions of current jet fighters integrated into a smaller air force would save tens of billions of dollars and be more effective.
President Trump is appreciated Space forces is a bad idea that existed before his presidency but got a big boost during his tenure. A new military bureaucracy primarily focused on spending more money could costs Dozens of billions in the coming years while only increasing the risk of an arms race in space.
You could increase the billions in savings above by cutting waste and red tape in the Department of Defense. To give just two obvious examples: The Pentagon regularly overpays for parts and employs more than more people 600,000 private contractors, many of which are either redundant or could be done more cheaply by government employees. As a symbol of the broken nature of the procurement process, the Air Force seriously considered paying $ 10,000 for a toilet seat cover and one contractor charged so much for a replacement part that it stood to make one 4,451% profit thereon. Establishing the Pentagon’s procurement system and reducing spending on private contractors could save hundreds of billions of dollars over the next decade.
And don’t forget the savings that could be made by reforming the Pentagon’s operations, such as maintaining intellectual property rights to weapon systems that were researched and developed with taxpayers’ money. As captain of the Marine Corps wrote by doing New York Times Last year the military too often lacked the “right to repair its own equipment”. Acquisition laws written in the interests of defense companies need to be revised to allow the Department of Defense to negotiate fair and reasonable prices, and auditors need to be empowered to eradicate waste, fraud and abuse.
And of course in an institution that has never successfully audited yourself, who knows what other savings would be possible if you were able to get into it and get serious about its finances and financial gimmicks?
Barriers to change
Even if the Biden government could be induced to take a closer look at the Pentagon’s spending priorities, it would still face immediate and severe political obstacles. The jobs created by the Pentagon’s $ 700 billion budget (and the political funding Defense Company Congressmen) have created a large constituency in Congress ready to block any effort to close down unnecessary military bases or defuse critical weapons programs. It doesn’t seem to matter at all to Washington policymakers that virtually any other form of spending would arise more jobs than throwing money at the Pentagon. New infrastructure spending or a greener focus on creating a renewable energy economy would be guaranteed to create at least one and a half times as many jobs per dollar spent, while spending on education would create twice as many.
Another obstacle to change is the two-way movement Revolving door between the Pentagon and the defense industry. Senior government officials work for arms manufacturers and use their contacts with former colleagues to gain favor with their employers. Meanwhile, defense executives head to the Pentagon and other military government posts where they set guidelines that benefit their former (and possibly future) employers. Despite criticism from both President Trump and His sonDonald Jr., over the detrimental influence of this revolving door, expects former Trump administration officials to settle down as lobbyists, join boards of directors of major defense companies, and otherwise alliance with gun manufacturers like Raytheon Technologies and Lockheed Martin, Boeing and General Dynamics.
No one should be surprised at early signs that defense-related numbers will fill important political positions in the Biden administration. Robert work, former deputy defense minister and already unofficial speaker for in-depth administration still sits on the Raytheon Board of Directors. Michèle Flournoy, the most likely candidate for the Department of Defense, and Anthony Blinken, whom Biden will be nominate Being Secretary of State both work for a private consultancy with unknown customers in the defense industry. Meanwhile work out may not be as common as it was under Trump – three of his defense ministers served As members of the board of directors, executives or lobbyists of General Dynamics, Boeing and Raytheon, the role of former industry representatives and employees in the Biden administration is guaranteed to result in a conflict of interest.
“Independent” experts from influential think tanks within the Beltway are already receiving Millions of dollars from gun manufacturers and the Pentagon to shape future spending debates. Meanwhile, individuals closely associated with this industry populate government bodies such as those mandated by Congress National Defense Strategy Commissionwho advocated a whopping 3 to 5% annual increase in Pentagon spending in 2018. If their analyzes of the supposedly miserable state of national defense were true, a case would have been brought up where all of the building’s senior civil and military officials would have been fired, not for increased spending.
Opportunities for change
The best hope for reducing Pentagon spending is the collision between the never-ending, ever-growing desires of this department and the overarching economic and political realities of this difficult moment. It’s easy not possible Funding pandemic prevention, as well as any kind of economic revitalization that would begin to eradicate longstanding inequalities, no less a much-needed green revolution, while keeping the Pentagon budget at record levels. There has to be something, and it shouldn’t be the civil communities and businesses that are hardest hit by the coronavirus.
As for politics, it’s important to remember that this year’s presidential election was primarily decided by voter concerns about Covid-19 and the economy, not voters crying out for America’s endless wars to continue or ask for more money for the Pentagon. The political clout of the military-industrial complex may wane as Americans, albeit chaotic, enter a new era with radically different public health and safety challenges.
Arms manufacturers and their allies in Congress and the executive branch are not going to give up without a fight when it comes to the Pentagon spending pandemic. You can count on that. A crucial question right now is: will fear, exaggerated threats, and pork keg politics be enough to keep the Pentagon and its contractors fat and happy even after so many of us have starved the pressing priorities? financing needed?