Top Seven Claims Why We Need to Increase Military Spending

(And why they are wrong)

The Defense Monitor, Center for Defense Information, 1998


1) You can't sustain the force called for under the Quadrennial Defense Review which is capable of fighting two major wars virtually simultaneously at current spending levels.

Answer: We don't have to. Many military experts feel that the "Two Major War" requirement is unnecessary. In 1994, then Secretary of Defense William Perry in testimony before Congress said, "Nothing in our planning, nowhere in our planning do we believe we are going to have to fight two wars at once...I think it is an entirely implausible scenario that we would ever have to fight two wars." Yet retaining this requirement has clear budgetary implications. The National Defense Panel, which reviewed the QDR, recommended rethinking the two war requirement, stating in its report that the requirement was "in reality, a force-sizing function. We are concerned that, for some, this has become a means of justifying current forces."

2) While the United States spent billions on new weapons in the early 1980's, since then we have allowed our procurement budget to drop dangerously low. This has allowed the equipment currently in our inventory to age.

Answer: There is no reason that we can't replace aging equipment now with new buys of current systems, upgraded with the latest technologies. They are proven systems, and are far superior to those of other nations. No one is developing weapons as sophisticated as those we are currently planning. We should use the opportunity provided by the end of the Cold War to allow revolutionary technologies to develop and mature, and decide how best to apply these technologies to meet actual 21st century threats as and when new threats arise.

3) The Defense Department believes that a peer competitor might emerge around 2010.

Answer: The Pentagon believes that no peer competitor will emerge before then, and they can't be sure that one will actually emerge even then. If it does, new, updated models of existing weapons will more than suffice to meet this threat. Further, given the lessons of the 1991 Gulf War, any nation seeking to challenge our superiority will likely do it through "asymmetrical threats" - identifying our possible weaknesses and developing ways to exploit them rather than attempting to defeat us head-on. For instance, given our heavy reliance on technology, a potential enemy might seek ways to exploit vulnerabilities in our computer networks. In the meantime, purchasing legacy weapons systems intended to fight World War III will not help us to do the things we will actually be called on to do in the 21st century.

4) Reducing the current size of our military force isn't an option. The demands placed on the services by operations such as Bosnia and the Persian Guy preclude any large reduction of the force structure.

Answer: We can reduce the active duty military and still fulfill our commitments around the world. A greater reliance on reserve forces will cut operating costs. Additional units should be trained in peacekeeping and humanitarian assistance to spread the burden more evenly across the force. We should drastically reduce our overseas presence (200,000 personnel in Europe, Japan and South Korea), thus freeing up additional forces. We should look at alternatives to using the military for certain operations such as humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. And we can reduce the number of personnel needed to support our troops in the field by reducing Pentagon red tape and improving our logistical network. Each of these steps will improve our capabilities and save scarce tax dollars.

5) As the world 's lone remaining superpower with an ambitious foreign policy, it is necessary and right that we continue to expend large amounts while other nations reduce their military budgets.

Answer: The United States is the only country that considers the entire world to be our sphere of influence. We should not, however, attempt to or feel obliged to respond to all instances of violence anywhere in the world. Further, military force is not the only way to respond to destabilizing situations, and in some cases it is the worst possible way. We should be prepared to support regional security organizations and the United Nations in preventing or alleviating the effects of violence or other events that may serve to heighten international tensions.

6) The military budget has been reduced 38% since 1985. We don 't need to cut it further.

Answer: Such analyses of historical trends in U.S. military spending are misleading for a couple of reasons. First, 1985 represents the "highwater" mark of the Reagan era military buildup, a buildup unprecedented in peacetime. Other than the Korean War, military spending in 1985 was much higher than at any time since the end of World War II, exceeding even the peak years of the Vietnam War. Even though there have been 13 straight years of inflation-adjusted cuts in annual military spending, in real terms we are only just now getting down to the levels of the Carter Administration. Second, during the Reagan and Bush Administrations, the U.S. national debt skyrocketed from around $829 billion in 1979 to over $4 trillion in 1992. Meanwhile, while total global military spending has decreased from $1.6 trillion in 1985 to $784 billion in 1997, the U.S. share of the global military budges has increased from 30% to 34%.

7) Military spending creates jobs.

Answer: As far as providing jobs, military spending is a much worse investment than other federally funded programs. For example, $ 1 billion spent by the Pentagon on weapons, supplies and services generates 25,000 jobs. However, the same $1 billion would create 30,000 mass transit jobs, 36,000 housing jobs, 41,000 education jobs, and 47,000 health care jobs.

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