the Federal Budget To Prevent U.S. Bankruptcy, Part II:
Cutting the Defense Budget
Jim Grichar (aka Exx-Gman)
by Jim Grichar
note: I ask readers for their indulgence because of my extensive
use of the b-lingo bureaucrat-lingo and the detail I used in
presenting my arguments. I do this to reduce bureaucratic counter-arguments
which I expect to receive to the absurdity that they invariably
the public is upset with George Bushís war in Iraq and generally
upset with the worthless United Nations and U.S. foreign adventures
in general, major cuts in defense spending and foreign aid, accompanied
by a major change in U.S. defense strategy and tactics, are the
area offering the best promise for savings. And the recent surge
in attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq suggests that a civil war there
has begun, with dire consequences for the U.S. The prospects for
a U.S. "victory" there are falling rapidly every day.
So now is even a better time for a third-party presidential candidate
to begun to end the warfare state.
level of defense does the U.S. need?
the Bush Administrationís fiscal year (fy) 2005 official budget
for the Department of Defense (DOD) has estimated outlays of $430
billion, this reportedly excludes money for continuing the U.S.
occupation of Iraq, also referred to euphemistically as democracy-building.
Some have estimated that an extra $50 billion will be sought by
Bush, in a supplemental budget request, after the November election.
Even assuming that only half of the $50 billion will be used in
fy 2005 and that only $25 billion per year will need to be budgeted
for the occupation of Iraq in years beyond 2005, this bumps defense
outlays up to $455 billion. And as long as the U.S. government wants
to dictate what type of regime runs Iraq, taxpayers here are going
to be stuck paying the bill for a large and continued U.S. military
deployment there. Either the U.S. moves most of its NATO forces
to Iraq, or it will have to spend more money to keep troops there.
And these totals do not include funds that would be needed to build
permanent military bases in Iraq, a scenario suggested by many critics
of the Bush "democracy-building" plan for Iraq.
that total of $455 billion tack on another $16.9 billion that goes
for nuclear reactors in Navy submarines and aircraft carriers, the
construction and maintenance of the nationís nuclear weapons stockpile,
and the disposal of radioactive waste from nuclear weapons and Naval
reactors. All of this $16.9 billion is included in the Energy Department
budget. Thus, actual military outlays for fiscal year 2005 could
reach $471.9 billion, if not more. One then can add the nearly $16.6
billion of foreign aid money shoveled to foreign countries in
order to buy their support and/or buy the support of U.S. voters
who have personal fondness or attachments to other countries. This
last amount pushes estimated national security spending to $488.5
billion for fiscal year 2005 compared to the roughly $470 billion
being spent this year.
the Warfare State Will Save Hundreds of Billions
is plenty of room here for major cuts, although no presidential
candidate has even raised the question as to what the U.S. really
needs to defend itself. Sending the U.S. military to invade and
occupy other countries in an attempt to impose our version of government
is absolutely insane, and, as many authors on this site have stated,
it just helps create more enemies for the U.S.
the first needed change in U.S. national security policy and strategy
is to adopt a U.S. foreign policy of strict neutrality, extending
the hand of free trade to all, but favoring no one when it comes
to defense. That means pulling out of all military alliances, bringing
our troops and military equipment home and defending only the United
U.S. needs to withdraw from Iraq and Afghanistan and then needs
to pull out of the NATO alliance. Getting out of NATO will enable
the U.S. to bring home a very large part of the forces it has deployed
overseas and will make it much more difficult for future presidents
to get the U.S. involved in imperial adventures or foreign conflicts
in Europe or West Asia, including the Middle East. Such a display
will, over time, gain more friends for the U.S. and genuine assistance
for the U.S. government in any war on terrorism. As regards NATO
countries, they are wealthy enough to provide for their own defense
and should not be subsidized any more by the U.S. taxpayer.
may claim that if the U.S. pulls back from its forward deployments,
particularly in the Middle East, that Arab states will hold the
world hostage to higher oil prices. Anyone taking a close look at
what it costs the U.S. to "protect the flow of oil from the
Middle East" and what the savings would be in reduced defense
expenditures realizes that over the longer term, defense savings
would outweigh any higher costs of oil. In the past, Arab oil producers when they had a high enough market share to raise world oil prices eventually did themselves in by stimulating conservation and additional
supplies, which eventually lowered oil prices. Here, as in many
other so-called national security problems, the free market is the
U.S. also needs to pull troops out of East Asia, particularly in
South Korea and in Japan. Once again, both are wealthy enough to
provide for their own defense and need no American defense subsidies.
And a proper withdrawal from this area will be more likely to lead
to peace in the region, with the current North Korean dictator,
Kim Jong-Il, either being bribed by South Korea and Japan into being
peaceful or being overthrown by his own people. Mr. Kim needs to
have a bogey-man to keep his country under his thumb, and the U.S.
does the best job of playing that role for him. As far as Japan
goes, it can protect itself from all enemies or potential enemies,
including China. The U.S., at the height of its military power in
World War II, was afraid of invading Japan to end the war. So anyone
who thinks the Chinese have designs on invading Japan should see
neutrality also would mean pulling out U.S. military advisers often a front for special operations that get the U.S. entangled
in other countryís conflicts from many countries around the world.
Drug war or no, the U.S. makes more enemies by insinuating its forces
into such countries, and this is most readily apparent in Latin
also would mean imposing a tight control on what U.S. defense contractors
are able to sell to foreign countries. The U.S. government should
either permit American arms manufacturers to sell specific military
equipment and supplies to all potential buyers or to none. Any other
selective sales policy, which would rightly be construed as favoring
one or a group of nations over others, would only serve to make
more enemies for the U.S.
the U.S. needs to end all foreign aid and withdraw from membership
in the United Nations, which is used as a tool to bully other countries
and often force them into doing what they would normally not do.
That would mean that the U.S. would no longer take part in any so-called
peace-keeping missions around the planet. Eliminating all foreign
aid and getting out of the United Nations (payments to the UN are
made from the State Department's budget, which will be dealt with
in a future installment) would help reduce over the longer term
the number of enemies the U.S. has in the world and could immediately
save about $16.6 billion per year for the U.S. taxpayer in fy 2005
and even more in future years.
the return to the U.S. of troops and equipment that were deployed
overseas, it would be safe for the Congress to reduce the size of
the U.S. military. Instead of estimating what budget, manpower,
and weapons it would take for the U.S. military to win one, two,
or however many "major regional conflicts" and associated
guerrilla wars that Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and their associated
bunch of Dr. Strangeloveís think we need to win, defense officials
and members of Congress would only have to estimate what it would
take to deter and/or defeat a country or countries that would attack
that would be much lower than the currently projected defense outlays
that the President has proposed for fy 2005 and subsequent years.
Significant cuts could be made in: 1) the number of active duty
and reserve troops; 2) the inventory of weapons systems; 3) air
and sea transportation systems that would no longer be needed to
deploy troops and equipment to faraway places; 4) the extra costs
of moving troops and families back and forth to foreign bases; 5)
housing and additional costs associated with providing military
personnel and their families with subsidized food, clothing, health
care and other consumer goods and services; and, 6) surplus military
bases. In all, cuts of about 1/3 could be made, without jeopardizing
U.S. security, over the next few years.
those that complain that the U.S. will not be able to fight the
war on terror, I would say BALONEY! The war on terror is certainly
not a conventional conflict, and, if the U.S. government is serious
about destroying al Qaeda and other groups that directly threaten
the U.S., then it will not rely on conventional forces or fight
total, the published defense budget plus estimates of spending on
nuclear weapons and the Iraqi war could be cut by about 1/3, down
to $314.9 billion by the third year of a reduction program (and
that includes ending foreign aid). At that level, taxpayers would
actually save almost $174 billion from estimated fy 2005 spending
levels and even higher amounts as budgets are projected to grow
in the out-years. Once the rest of the world was convinced that
the United States was no longer going to act like imperial Rome,
the number of potential enemies would decrease, making further intermediate-
to long-term cuts in defense spending possible.
large would such a force have to be to prevent some country or countries
from launching an invasion of the United States and to defeat them
should they actually attack? One crude assumption (with which some
readers may disagree) is that, everything else being equal, an attacker
needs an advantage of 3 to 1 in the numbers of its forces to win
a battle over a defender. Of course, an attacker with plenty of
aircraft and missiles can narrow that requirement, but the U.S.
would not be without such weapons to use in the defense of the homeland.
Roughly speaking, even with an active Army reduced to about 360,000
troops, it would take an enemy or enemies 1 million troops to invade
what country or countries could send that kind of a force to attack
the United States? Certainly not Canada, at this point, nor Mexico
(although illegal aliens from Mexico have launched a different invasion
of the U.S. to which most federal politicians seem oblivious). Even
China, with possible assistance from Russia, does not now, nor would
it likely have in the next 1020 years, the capability to build
such a force and attack the U.S. with any reasonable likelihood
of victory. Even if Beijing had a nuclear weapons force that would
prevent the U.S. from launching a pre-emptive nuclear attack against
it in such a situation, it still would not have the capability of
successfully invading the U.S.
gets us back to the Army budget and what is really needed to defend
the United States. For fiscal year 2005, the Army budget is a proposed
$96.8 billion, with over $71 billion going for military personnel
salaries and operations and maintenance. This would pay for an estimated
active duty army of 482,000, with 12 divisions. (Note: Donald Rumsfeldís
proposed reorganization of the army will reduce the need for the
amount of heavy equipment like tanks and instead use more helicopters
to lift lighter (read less mechanized) divisions to far off "hot
spots" on the planet. Instead, Rummy wants more special forces
the Green Berets.) The nearly $31 billion proposed for Army
salaries is almost a $10 billion cut from fiscal year 2004 so it
is apparent that the Bush budget is understating the costs unless
the U.S. actually gets out of Iraq and Afghanistan. We know this
since the operations and maintenance budget is slated to rise by
about $600 million over fy 2004.
any case, an initial scaling back to 2/3 of the current active duty
Army would not be an unreasonable initial cut, bringing down active
duty Army strength to about 360,000 troops, and further significant
cuts could be made without jeopardizing U.S. security once proper
defense plans, taking into account the real threat to the U.S.,
were made. Savings of about $25 billion per year in the Army budget
would be possible by the third year, with more likely to follow
once current adversaries realized there was less to fear from the
on the cut list is the Navy. Active duty Navy personnel are expected
to number nearly 366,000 in fy 2005. Total Navy fy 2005 outlays
are estimated at nearly $102.2 billion, with another $15.4 billion
for the active duty Marine Corps. Of this total, the Marines an
extremely versatile force should initially be kept intact. Never
politically correct, these folk can still fight tenaciously and
would be a great and relatively inexpensive deterrent during the
years when the U.S. was bringing troops home.
foreign commitments, the need for the current 12 carrier battle
groups (the aircraft carrier plus the complement of ships necessary
to defend it from being attacked and destroyed) in the Navy would
diminish significantly. Aircraft carriers are portable air fields,
useful when the U.S. needed to attack some country when it did not
have access to ground air fields where the U.S. Air Force could
operate. While not all aircraft carriers (new ones cost $45
billion each) are deployed simultaneously, reducing the fleet by
4 would not be unreasonable in the first few years of a neutral
U.S. foreign policy and revised defense strategy. In addition, similarly
proportional reductions could be made in nuclear attack submarines
(fewer needed to protect aircraft carrier battle groups from attacks
by enemy subs; new nuclear attack submarines being built now cost
approximately $2 billion each) and the complement of surface combatants
(cruisers, destroyers, and supply ships) used to protect and service
deployed fleets. Initially, fleet ballistic missile submarines,
which are the prime element of the U.S. nuclear deterrent, should
be left alone. Any cuts in these should be part of any comprehensive
nuclear arms reductions negotiated with both Russia and also China
that is subject to strict verification.
fy 2005, the Navyís major proposed expenditures include $24.6 billion
for salaries, $31.1 billion on operations and maintenance, $11.7
billion in procurement of new ships or conversion of old ships to
new functions, nearly $8.8 billion for new aircraft, almost $2 billion
for munitions (including missiles), and $15.6 billion for research
and development. Cuts of about 1/3 could also be made in the Navy
budget, saving about $35 billion per year, and would be in line
with the cutbacks in ground forces. Further significant cuts could
be made in the Navy budget in future years.
can hear the howl of protests in nasty emails right now (I need
to contact Burt Blumert for the latest version of his Hate-o-meter
software!) from past and current Navy personnel. Why, they will
say, the Navy is needed to protect our supply routes? My response
is, since we are running the largest trade deficit on the planet,
almost $500 billion per year, let those wanting to sell to us worry
about protecting the sea lanes for their exporters. For critical
foreign supplies, let the military either develop substitutes or
stockpile the needed items. For those who correctly state that building
a new ship takes a very long time, the U.S. Navy can mothball ships.
Ship hulls are designed for at least a 40- to 50-year life and can
be useful for a longer time since more defense systems on ships
are now based on advanced electronics.
Part of the Air Force
U.S. Air Force is also on this budget-cutterís radar screen. If
LRC readers can recall, prior to the war on Iraq U.S. citizens were
being barraged with statements by current and former Air Force officers
about how the Iraqis were going to be finished off by precision
guided munitions. Well, the Iraqis may have lost the initial part
of the war (certainly not as quickly as promised by the Air Force),
but they are still fighting and appear to have launched their version
of the Tet offensive. Guerrilla warriors have a knack for confounding
high-tech military opponents, including air forces.
U.S. Air Force budget for fy 2005 has proposed outlays of about
$112.4 billion. This budget funds an active duty Air Force of nearly
360,000, with $25.5 billion for salaries of active duty personnel,
$32.4 billion for operations and maintenance, $12.3 billion for
new aircraft procurement, $4.1 billion for missile procurement,
$1.3 for ammunition purchases, and $20.6 billion for research, development,
test and evaluation.
cuts of about 1/3 can also be made to the Air Force budget while
still leaving plenty of trained personnel and hardware to defend
the United States from enemy air attacks. Cuts can be made in the
number of active duty fighter squadrons composed of squadrons
of F-15's and F-16's, which total between 500700 aircraft.
Keeping the F-117 stealth fighter (of which there are 55) and the
B-2 bomber (of which there are 16) makes sense, at least in the
next three years or so. The Air force has a huge transport capability,
including 120 C-17's and 70 C-5's in its active inventory. Some
of these could be mothballed as part of the cuts.
vulnerable to cuts are such new programs as the extremely costly
F-22, a replacement for the F-15 that is going to cost over $100
million per copy. And even the new Joint Strike Fighter supposedly
for use by the Air Force, Navy, and Marines should also be scaled
back, if not cut out totally. If the U.S. is not attacking other
countries, then what is the point of building these new weapons?
To paraphrase former Lockheed Martin Chairman and CEO Norm Augustine,
at the rate of increase in the cost of military aircraft, the Air
Force will eventually only be able to buy one aircraft costing $100
billion. Well, the Air Force has certainly adhered to Mr. Augustineís
forecast with the B-2, which ended up costing several billion dollars
or more per copy. If allowed to continue along this path, then I
suspect that the Air Force will eventually prove Augustineís Law
(it was actually known by this name) to be true. But then thatís
the Air Force, wanting to shoot money away on manned aircraft when
unmanned vehicles or missiles can do as good a job for a lot less
cuts to the Air Force by fy 2007 or 2008 would amount to at least
$38 billion per year.
the rest of the Pentagonís budget
And you thought I had finished cutting the Defense budget, but you
are wrong. Defense also spends on items labeled "DOD-wide,"
meaning Department of Defense wide. For fy 2005, that amount is
budgeted at about $71.3 billion. This area should be cut at least
by 1/3, just like the rest of the Pentagon budget, yielding savings
of about $24 billion in several years.
last, but not least, the various components of the military reserve
system, including the Army and Air National Guards, should also
be cut back. The DOD budget for fy 2005 seeks $31.9 billion for
all these components. They should not be immune from the rest of
the cuts so they get the same 1/3 clipping given to all the rest
of DODís major budget categories. This would save an additional
$10 billion per year.
the "Cut-o-Meter" total is ... $155 billion!
puts the "Cut-o-meter" savings at $25 billion (ending
the military missions in Iraq and Afghanistan) +$16.6 billion (abolishing
foreign aid) + $25 billion (initial cuts in the Army) + $35 billion
(initial cuts in the Navy) + $38 billion (initial cuts in the Air
Force) +$24 billion (initial cuts in the Pentagon-wide budget) +
$10 billion (initial cuts in the Reserves and the Guard). The grand
total is an estimated $174 billion annual savings below the proposed
fy 2005 level of spending and $155 billion below the level estimated
for the current fiscal year. It is this estimated $155 billion in
cuts from the current level of actual spending that goes into the
this only covers only 30% of the current estimated deficit, it is
a reasonable start, and given the increasing anger by the public
with U.S. overseas military adventures that have nothing to do with
defending the nation, these are probably the easiest cuts to achieve.
tuned for proposed cuts in domestic programs!!
Grichar (aka Exx-Gman) [send
him mail], formerly an economist with the federal government,
writes to "un-spin" the federal government's attempt to con the
teaches economics part-time at a community college and provides
economic consulting services to the private sector.
© 2004 LewRockwell.com