America’s defense spending addiction

The US federal government debt now stands at over 13 trillion dollars, yet it continued excess military spending rages forward. The economy is in shambles and it seems the military is conducting business unrestrained.

­If there is one issue that the both major political parties in the United States agree on it’s the need to decrease federal spending to accommodate the national debt. Even the Pentagon’s Joint Chiefs of Staff Michael Mullen allotted to the problem.“The biggest threat we have to our national security is our debt," he said.

The Federal government's debt is now stands at $13.8 trillion and is projected to hit $20 trillion by the end of the coming decade.  The breakdown would mean every American holds more than $10,000 worth of America’s debt. However, the largest portion of the country’s federal budget is hardly ever questioned. Congressman Jim Moran told RT: “We’re not going to cut the defense budget in half.” The country’s military budget, now at $725 billion dollars, has become a price tag of epic and historic proportions. It’s the largest military budget ever! It includes $159 billion dollars for America's wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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At the Brookings Institute, a prominent Washington Think Tank, the issue of America’s defense budget was discussed in depth with both neoconservatives and liberals. Despite concerns coming from the audience, the discussion quickly turned to the need to sustain the defense budget and the military apparatus. 

One of the headliners of the Brookings event was U.S. historian Robert Kagan.  A well known Neocon in Washington, Kagan was one of many who urged war with Iraq long before 9/11.  Kagan equates America’s military might to global leadership and world domination. 
Kagan said the reason America needs to ramp up its military establishment is because “the reality is this is what America does” and listed a number of events which illustrate America’s hegemony worldwide:  “We intervene in Grenada in 1983, In Panama 1989, Iraq 1991, Somalia 1992, Haiti 1994, Bosnia 1995, Kosovo 1999, Afghanistan 2001, and Iraq 2003.”

The United States spends nearly as much on military hardware, fixture and training as all other countries combined.

Brian Becker, the National Coordinator for the ANSWER Coalition explained how the country has become dependent and obsessed with military spending: “We see at a time when there are 25 – 30 million people who are unemployed or underemployed, where 47 million Americans can’t go to a doctor when they are sick, there are limitless funds, limitless resources for the war budget”.   

But the military budget is hardly ever questioned in a town that is dominated by its industrial complex. Advertisements for the defense contractors line the metros while TV and print commercials showcase the latest hardware as politicians cave into the lobbying campaigns of the contractors.

“The fact of the matter is and you can see it by the military budget, the U.S. is in fact a warfare state. It’s addicted to militarism, its addicted to war spending and it’s addicted to war profits,” said Becker. 

Crystal City in Arlington, Virginia is where most war profiteers are headquartered.   Towering over the Pentagon and in clear view of Capitol Hill, Crystal city has become known as contractors’ row. From Crystal City, the interlocked system becomes clear.  The revolving doors through which employees from the contracting enterprise land government jobs also feature a significant number of officials from government, CIA and Pentagon slide into jobs with the military industry complex. Despite this, military contractors spent close to close to $35 million dollars lobbying Congress according to the congressional research service. Defense contractors also dish out substantial amounts for campaign contributions in election years.

Meanwhile, a congressional watchdog group found in 2008, over 150 Members of Congress had $196 million collectively invested in defense contractors. As lawmakers scream louder to cut spending and federal spending for education, healthcare and social services has been reduced, cutting the military budget, which makes up over 20% of the federal budget, is not on Washington’s agenda.

Author of “America’s failure in Iraq” Michael O’Brien says, “the military industrial complex that Eisenhower warned us of it because he was afraid it would grow too large, we are there now. He adds, “The US government is contracting out for everything, once something is entrenched it doesn’t go away, once a federal bureaucracy is created it doesn’t go away.”

Boston Globe Reporter Bryan Bender says, “America has been at war for much of the decade, the defense budget is at historically high levels and it is expected that a lot of the senior retired officers are going to be valued by the defense companies who are bidding on lots of contracts, providing more services to the military than compared to maybe a decade ago.”