Congress must consider spending restraint on military budget as well

Brian Burch, President of CatholicVote.org, signed on to the following letter calling on Congress to look at all areas of the national budget for overspending, including the Pentagon.

In part, the letter states:

Defense spending, like the rest of the federal ledger, has grown substantially over the past few years. Under President Bush, military spending averaged 3.9 percent of GDP. Under President Obama, it has averaged 4.9 percent—a full percentage point higher. It is outrageous to assume spending under the president who launched the War on Terror, started the Department of Homeland Security and began the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is not sufficient for even the most hawkish member of Congress.

Read the rest of the letter below the jump.


Dear Leader McConnell and Leader Boehner,

We write to urge you to institute principled spending reform that rejects the notion that spending cuts can be avoided in certain parts of the federal budget. Department of Defense spending, in particular, has been provided protected status that has isolated it from serious scrutiny and allowed the Pentagon to waste billions in taxpayer money. A new Congress, with a clear mandate to cut spending and the size of government, should signal its fiscal resolve by proposing cuts for all federal spending.

Proponents of a larger Department of Defense budget have argued that security outlays should be weighed against mandatory spending levels, suggesting that explosive entitlement growth serves as an appropriate metric for defense spending. This not only ignores the unsustainable nature of entitlement spending but also the reality of defense spending, which has increased by 86 percent since 1998.

Defense spending, like the rest of the federal ledger, has grown substantially over the past few years. Under President Bush, military spending averaged 3.9 percent of GDP. Under President Obama, it has averaged 4.9 percent—a full percentage point higher. It is outrageous to assume spending under the president who launched the War on Terror, started the Department of Homeland Security and began the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is not sufficient for even the most hawkish member of Congress.

And yet, defense spending continues to enjoy protected status. The Pentagon is slated to spend $6.5 trillion over the next ten years – equal to the current projected deficit spending in the same time period. Ignoring the burden military spending places on the taxpayers promotes the same reckless spending ethos that led to failed “stimulus” policies, government bailouts and a prolonged economic recession.

Leadership on spending requires commitment that aims to permanently change the bias toward profligacy, not simply stem the tide in the short-term. True fiscal stewards cannot eschew real spending reform by protecting pet projects in the federal budget. Any such Department of Defense favoritism would signal that the new Congress is not serious about fiscal responsibility and not ready to lead.

As we enter a new Congress and search for ways to significantly decrease the size of government, we call on you to lead the crusade for a new era of responsibility – one that knows no sacred cows.

Sincerely,

Bill Pascoe of Citizens for the Republic, Brian Burch of CatholicVote.org, Chip Faulkner of Citizens for Limited Taxation, Christopher Preble of the Cato Institute, Chuck Muth of Citizen Outreach, David A. Keene of the American Conservative Union, Duane Parde of the National Taxpayers Union, Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform, Jim Martin of 60 Plus Association, John Tate of Campaign for Liberty, Karen Kerrigan of the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council, L. Brent Bozell of Media Research Center, Lewis K. Uhler of the National Tax Limitation Committee, Lisa Miller of Tea Party WDC, Matt Kibbe of Freedomworks, Mattie Corrao of the Center for Fiscal Accountability, Richard Viguerie of ConservativeHQ.com, Rick Watson of the Florida Center-Right Coalition, Seton Motley of Less Government, Susan Carleson of the American Civil Rights Union, Tim Phillips of Americans for Prosperity, Tom Schatz of the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste, William Greene of RightMarch.com

Read more about this issue at ATR.

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18 thoughts on “Congress must consider spending restraint on military budget as well

  1. Tom Crowe says:

    Vincent–

    1) Excellent. Glad to hear it. I also did not advocate to solve all the world’s problems through increased military funding. Just wanted to make clear that military funding goes to a lot more than killing bad guys (though eliminating those who would horde food and slaughter innocents does a lot more to assist the oppressed than not doing so).

    2) Not changing anyone’s words, also not ignoring a whole lot of them regarding just war doctrine and rightful self-defense (you’re not choosing to ignore those are you? That would be something cafeteria-esque if you were). I’m pointing out that the U.S. already does a heckuva lot for poverty reduction and one of the best things we can do is continue to be a nation that will not tolerate international bullies who are also inhumane (kind of a definitional of a bully, no?). But I am not keen on being world police, personally.

  2. Tantumblogo says:

    I would like to know what you would like to have cut from the defense budget? In actuality, partly due to underfunded prosecution of wars, and partly due to inept political decisions, all of the armed services face a massive shortfall in budgets to the extent that our servicemen and women are making due with aging and literally falling apart equipment that is shrinking in numbers. We are not replacing what we wear out. I’m not discussing whether the wars being fought are just or not, I just want to know what you will cut. At present, US forces deal with the following:

    USAF:

    The average age of a United States Air Force aircraft is nearing 30 years old, per plane. Aircraft are being flown that are over 50 years old. They were built when Eisenhower was President, for crying out loud. Last year, the wing fell off an F-15 in flight during routine cruising. USAF maintains a stated requirement for 5 wings of air superiority fighters like the F-15 (the USAF has not purchased an air superiority variant of the F-15 since 1985), but only 2 wings worth of the replacement, the F-22, are being purchased. In 1990, USAF had 36 fighter wings. Today, it has about 18. With current forecasts, this number will drop further. The USAF bomber fleet is made up of about 50% fifty year old B-52s, and half 25 year old B-1s. USAF has fewer than 100 bombers in service, to meet global requirements. The USAF tanker fleet is literally falling apart, with 45-50 year old precursors to the Boeing 707 making up 90% of the fleet. I guess those planes should fly forever. Cargo aircraft are somewhat better, although tactical airlift with the C-130 relies on many aircraft that are 30-40 years old.

    USN –

    The USN shipbuilding plan is in total disarray. In 1990, the USN had 15 carriers and 16 carrier air wings. Today, those numbers are 10 and 10. Many of the carriers have not been adequately maintained due to inadequate budgets and overuse (due to a relentless opstempo since 1990) and are not capable of many of their advertised capabilities. Still worse, again due to funding shortfalls, aircraft carrier air wings that once consisted of 90 aircraft now average about 40. So we have 10 billion dollar floating airfields going around with half the combat aircraft they had 10 years ago. Submarines, same deal, half the number, or less, from the early 90s. Surface ships are down to 287 from 565 in the early 90s. Worse still, overall force structure is totally inadequate for the wars being prosecuted, resulting in individuals serving 5, 6, even 7 or more tours in Afghanistan or Iraq. The Army had 15 full divisions and numerous independent brigades in 1990, today it has 10 divisions and a far fewer number of independent brigades.

    USMC, Army –

    Large numbers of replacement aircraft have not be bought, due to lack of funds, so the Army is still flying numerous aircraft built 25-30 years ago. There has not been a new main battle tank purchased by this country in 18 years (there have been extensive rebuilds, but no new construction). The Marine fixed wing aviation wings are flying worn out F-18s and AV-8B Harrier IIs. Many of the other armoured fighting vehicles of the M2/M3 series are also getting long in the tooth, and a replacement program is needed. There is no money for that at present.

    Strategic offense/defense –

    The last Minuteman III ICBM was built in 1974. In 1990, the USAF had 1050 ICBMs, now there are 450, each with one warhead instead of 3 or 10 (for the now defunct LGM-118 Peacekeeper). The Navy is doing OK with a dozen or so Trident submarines each armed with Trident D-5 missiles, each one potentially able to carry 10 re-entry vehicles, but most carry much fewer than that due to treaty restrictions. The US has about 40 ground based mid-course interceptors for a very limited national missile defense capability aimed almost exclusively at N. Korea (or China). Shorter range theater ballistic missile defense systems are more numerous, but incapable of engaging the long range ICBM threat. A nascent program to use directed energy weapons on airborne platforms to defend against missile attack during the boost phase (when the missile is still above the territory of the launching country) has been cancelled after one extremely successful test.

    I could go on and on. What do you want to cut? Fewer carriers? Fewer aircraft? Have our servicemen and women flying 80 year old aircraft 30 years from now? Saying “We should cut defense spending” is easy, and it’s frankly lazy. Show me what capability you are willing to give up, or dramatically reduce, and how we can put together a cohesive defense strategy in absence of that capability, and I’ll start to listen.

    /Rant off

    1. Pamela says:

      Tamtumblogo,
      Thank you for what you just stated.

    2. Vincent says:

      In terms of the numbers you cite showing a reduction of our military, it is highly appropriate and not surprising that our forces have been downsized since the end of the Cold War. (It’s a little misleading to use 1990 as a benchmark given that that was right after the big Reagan/Cold War build-up. That’s like comparing today’s home values to those at the height of the real estate bubble… of course they are lower now.) Theologically, I would like to remind you that “Blessed are those with a cohesive defense strategy” is not one of the beatitudes. Jesus consistently told his disciples that following his path of love (including love of enemies) would put them at risk and might well cost them their lives. And while the Church affirms that there are some rare and limited circumstances that justify resort to force (i.e. just war theory), she also teaches that our first duty is to seek nonviolent means of conflict resolution. Particularly noted among these means is the promotion of economic justice. And the Church has taught that the outlay of large sums of money for weapons and military purposes is an unjust use of resources, and that we need to put this money towards the promotion of global development. Last year in his annual speech to the Vatican Diplomatic Corps, Pope Benedict called for nations to reduce their militaries and spend more on development. Do you think he meant every nation except the largest arms producer and arms exporter in the world? Why do we need such a massive military? So we can continue to start wars that don’t meet the just war criteria?

  3. Tom Crowe says:

    Vincent– The vast majority of poverty in the world comes not from insufficient assistance sent to poor nations by wealthy nations, but from warlords preventing the poverty-stricken in their countries from achieving a level of living that would allow the poor to challenge the warlords. Aid is sent in large sums, be it money, bags of rice, cattle, etc., and rather than ever get to the poorest of the poor, the warlords confiscate/cmomandeer it either to keep their own military forces fed, or to lord it over the poor and only dispense it to those villages that support the warlord. In the poorest of the poor countries, incoming foreign aid becomes another political bargaining chip. It happens as nearby as Mexico.

    The United States, at one and the same time, spends more on military spending than any nation on earth AND sends more in foreign aid (both governmental and private donations) than any combination of nations ever. In addition, our military has done more to protect oppressed peoples the world over than any force on earth save the Catholic Church. Our Marines do not simply kill; our warships do not simply launch shells and fighter jets; our air force does not drop only bombs. They all do more humanitarian work than any other governmental force in the history of the world.

    1. Vincent says:

      (#1) I am not advocating simply taking all of the money and dumping it into foreign aid. Pope Benedict actually says quite a lot in Caritas in Veritatae about how to promote sustainable development that is not just giving handouts. What he does not suggest or support is continuing to try to solve the world’s problems through increased military funding.
      (#2) Nothing of what you said changes the words of Jesus or the words of the popes. Maybe your disagreement is with them more than me. If you are serious about trying to promote serious discourse about Catholic politics, then you need to support the clear and consistent teaching of the Church. Otherwise you are just being a cafeteria Catholic.

  4. Vincent says:

    I applaud Catholic Vote for supporting (in theory) the possibility of cuts to military spending. Too often those on this site allow allegiance to core Republican or conservative principles to trump actual Catholic teaching. I would challenge those who have posted comments so far to examine whether that is true of them. The Church has spoken for years about the injustice of spending so much on weapons and the military when there is so much poverty in the world. This has been a consistent part of papal teaching, appears in the catechism (#2315), and was just reiterated by Pope Benedict earlier this year when he called for countries to reduce their military spending (http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/11009/print). U.S. military spending exceeds the military spending of the rest of the world COMBINED. As disciples of the Prince of Peace, as people called to love our enemies, to return no one evil for evil, and to be peacemakers, we should not be on the bandwagon for ever increasing military spending. Remember that our first allegiance is to the Kingdom of God, not to the armed defense of our nation-state.

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