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    Why Spending $1 Trillion a Year on Defense Won’t Make Us Safer

    Why Spending $1 Trillion a Year on Defense Won’t Make Us Safer  

    Marc Joffe  The Fiscal Times March 20, 2017

    President Trump, Congressional Republicans and Congressional Democrats don’t agree on much, but they’re mostly united in the belief that we should spend tens of billions of additional dollars on defense. It is less clear that threats the U.S. faces justify the extra funding or that bureaucrats can spend the new money effectively.

    Although just about everyone agrees that defense spending should go up, the details are up for debate. The Trump administration has proposed to spend $603 billion on defense in 2018, which is $54 billion above the sequestration caps set during the 2011 budget compromise. Republican hawks led by Sen. John McCain say that the administration number is insufficient. They want to see a $640 billion military budget. On the Democratic side, Sen. Dick Durbin indicated support for Trump’s number so long as Republicans agree to also break the sequester caps on domestic spending (highly unlikely).

    The final number, which will be somewhere between $603 billion and $640 billion, is huge — but is only part of what the U.S. government spends to counter foreign rivals. Each year, Congress also appropriates money to Overseas Contingency Operations — a slush fund created for emergency security spending created in the wake of 9/11. In fiscal 2016, Congress authorized $58.6 billion in defense-related OCO spending. Trump proposes to raise this amount to $65 billion in 2018. This means we are looking at total military spending approaching $700 billion, or about 3.5 percent of next year’s nominal GDP.

    It doesn’t end there. The skinny budget does not include money for the National Intelligence Program, which funds the CIA, NSA and other spying agencies, but for 2017 these agencies requested a total of  $53.5 billion. Also excluded from reported defense spending totals is the Department of Veterans Affairs, which addresses the human consequences of our past deployments. The VA would see its discretionary funding raised from $74.5 billion this year to $78.9 billion next year under Trump’s budget blueprint, a 6 percent increase. That’s on top of mandatory spending of more than $100 billion this year. In total, the VA budget has nearly doubled since 2009 and looks likely to escalate further under the new administration.

    So, all told, our nation’s defense establishment can be expected to cost us over $900 billion annually during the Trump years — closer to 4.5 percent of GDP…..


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