What cuts? Defense spending tops $1 trillion


UP, UP AND AWAY: Costs for F-35 Joint Strike Fighter are flying higher — and so is other defense-related spending. Credit: Lockheed Martin

By Kenric Ward | Watchdog.org

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Contrary to a media mantra of supposed military cutbacks, defense-related spending is on track surpass $1 trillion.

But $1 trillion doesn’t go as far as it used to.

“At the $1 trillion spending level our national security leaders say they are in the poorhouse. The truth is that while they squander, they have already sent our forces there,” said Winslow Wheeler, a defense analyst with the Project on Government Oversight.

“Larger defense budgets have bought us a defense infrastructure that is smaller, older and less trained,” he told Watchdog.org.

Fortune magazine reported this month that the Obama administration proposes a base military budget of $495.6 billion, which “actually calls for $420 million less than last year.”

In fact, the expenditures are vastly understated.

“There is much more than $495.6 billion in the budget for the Pentagon,” Wheeler said.

“And there are piles of national security spending outside the Pentagon — all of it as elemental for national security as any new aircraft and ships and the morale and well-being of our troops.”

As shown in this breakdown, defense-related appropriations totaled $967.9 billion this year. The administration wants $1.0095 trillion for the coming year, roughly a quarter of all federal outlays.

And bigger numbers are coming — sequestration or not. Veteran Affairs alone expects to see a 58 percent increase to $238 billion by 2024.

Attempting to contain “human costs,” national-security planners are pivoting toward more technology. That move, experts say, will be good for defense contractors.

“For the foreseeable future, this means fewer humans, more machinery and what looks to be a very busy defense sector,” said Fortune’s defense writer Clay Dillow.

Meanwhile, Wheeler cited massive cost overruns for such big-ticket programs as the F-35 jet fighter and the Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship.

Mike McCaul, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, maintains that the Obama budget shortchanges national defense in crucial areas.

“Americans know the borders are not secure, and yet the administration is aiming to decrease funding for Immigration and Customs Enforcement by almost $250 million,” the Texas Republican said.

McCaul also blasted a proposed $300 million cut for the Coast Guard.

Kenric Ward is a national correspondent for Watchdog.org and chief of the Virginia Bureau. Contact him at kenric@watchdogvirginia.org or at (571) 319-9824. @Kenricward

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