Pentagon Budget Highest Since End Of WWII

Pentagon Budget Highest Since End Of WWII
February 8th, 2008  
Team Infidel

Topic: Pentagon Budget Highest Since End Of WWII

Pentagon Budget Highest Since End Of WWII
February 7, 2008
Morning Edition (NPR), 7:10 AM
RENEE MONTAGNE: The Pentagonís budget has hit a new milestone. Adjusted for inflation itís the highest in more than 60 years. By the end of this year, the United States will spend three quarters of a trillion dollars, thatís trillion, on defense.
So we asked NPRís Guy Raz to take a look at how some of that money is spent.
GUY RAZ: Say you bought $3,000 worth of Lockheed Martin stock on September 10th, 2001. Lockheed is the biggest defense contractor in America. Now, if you bought that stock your three grand would be worth close to $10,000 today. Itís not that Lockheed has a revolutionary business model, but the past few years have been very good for business. The companyís biggest customer is the U.S. Government, so Lockheedís success hinges on increases in defense spending, spending on things like its F-22 fighter jet.
The F-22 is the most expensive fighter jet in history; more than $300 million a pop. It has no rival and, yet Ė
WINSLOW WHEELER [Analyst, Center for Defense Information]: It is finally after 25 years of expensive development reached what the Air Force calls full operational capability, meaning itís ready to go to war. Weíve got two wars going on and it has not flown a single sortie in either or.
RAZ: This is Winslow Wheeler, an analyst with the Center for Defense Information. He says the F-22 serves little purpose today. It was designed to fight the Soviets in air-to-air combat and the F-22 program alone has cost taxpayers $60 billion or about as much as the GDP of a country like Slovakia or Vietnam. But the F-22 is still very much alive; itís alive says Christopher Helmand, an analyst at the Center for Arms Control because of one thing Ė Congress.
CHRISTOPHER HELMAND [Analyst, Center for Arms Control]: Lockheed Martin very candidly will tell you on their Web site that they represent tens of thousands of employees in 45 of the 50 states. When you have that kind of political clout behind you, itís very easy to convince members of Congress that continuing a program like that is important to their constituencies.
RAZ: And Lockheed, like many other defense contractors, has managed to successfully equate its products with Americaís national security.
ADVERTISEMENT: Lockheed Martin. We begin with the things that matter, freedom.
RAZ: This is one of the companyís corporate ads. Lockheed, like all the other major defense contractors, hands out campaign money to both Democrats and Republicans. President Bush is one of its biggest recipients, but so are two of the strongest opponents of the Iraq war in Congress, Democrats Jack Murtha, heís the chairman of the committee that doles out money to the Pentagon and Ike Skelton, the congressman who oversees the military.
Now, when Republicans control Congress, industry money trends their way. Now, that Democrats control it, the trend has reversed.
HELMAND: No one ever lost an election by voting for more spending for the Pentagon, but you can easily lose one by being perceived as soft on defense.
RAZ: Christopher Helmand notes that Lockheedís projects are just a part of what drives the defense budget. There is missile defense, new jet fighters, a new Naval destroyer, Virginia class submarines. The list goes on. And budget analysts estimate that these big-ticket items now make up almost half of the Pentagonís regular budget.
According to Miriam Pemberton, a researcher with the Institute for Policy Studies, many of these programs Ė
MIRIAM PEMBERTON [Researcher, Institute for Policy Studies]: Have no real value for any, you know, counterterrorism operations, you know, al Qaeda and the Taliban donít have any fighter jets and theyíre never going to get any. So these big-ticket items drive the budget and become de facto. Our security priorities when they donít, in fact, enhance our security.
RAZ: And defense spending, she says, is no longer a controversial issue on Capitol Hill, but it wasnít always that way.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have the distinguished honor of presenting to you the President of the United States.
RAZ: Just a few days after his inauguration in 1953, President Dwight Eisenhower, who was the first general to serve as president in the 20th century, stunned Congress by promoting deep cuts in defense spending.
FORMER PRESIDENT DWIGHT EISENHOWER: To amass military power without regard to our economic capacity would be to defend ourselves against one kind of disaster by inviting another.
WHEELER: What Eisenhower said was true then, itís just that now itís ten times more true.
RAZ: And as Winslow Wheeler points out, today, Congress usually adds more money to the Pentagonís budget requests.
Wheeler was forced to step down from his job as a Republican staffer on the Senate Budget Committee in 2002 after he wrote an article blasting bloated defense spending. He explains that every year, members of Congress figure out which defense projects will benefit their own districts and then they add it to the defense budget.
WHEELER: One of the misunderstandings about the pork system is that people think itís stuffed down the unwilling throat of the Defense Department. That is not the case in nine out of ten cases. As a matter of fact, you wonít get your pork project added to a defense appropriations bill unless someone in the Pentagon does approve of the project.
RAZ: The United States now spends more on defense than every other country in the world combined and the Pentagonís spending power alone makes it richer than Australia, and yet over the past seven years despite massive funding increases, troops in Iraq and Afghanistan have faced equipment shortages and lack of proper armor.
Hereís Christopher Helmand again.
HELMAND: When we send our men and women off to war, we feel rightly that they be the best trained, best equipped, best supported military on the field. The irony, however, is that higher defense budgets donít necessarily mean that that will be the case.
WHEELER: We spend more today on defense than weíve ever spent since the end of World War II in inflation adjusted dollars. Our military forces are today smaller than theyíve ever been since the end of World War II. We are quite literally getting less for more.
HELMAND: Now, last year, researcher Miriam Pemberton took a hard look at the Pentagonís budget and she wanted to answer a question.
PEMBERTON: Itís important that we spend what we need to keep ourselves safe and secure, but the question is, you know, what kind of spending is going to do that best?
RAZ: So Pemberton crunched the numbers and she found that the Pentagon could still fund troops, equipment, maintenance, even modernization and on top of that, put money into diplomacy, humanitarian aid and other forms of preventive security and still easily cut the budget by ten percent. And the value of that ten percent alone? Well, itís still more than the combined annual wealth of Guatemala and Costa Rica.
Guy Raz, NPR News, Washington.

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