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   $396 Billion for the Military: Not Enough! Not Enough?

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$396 Billion for the Military: Not Enough! Not Enough?

by William D. Hartung
The proposed increase in US military spending for 2003 alone is larger than the entire military budget of every other country in the world except Russia.

The centerpiece of the Bush administration's Fiscal Year 2003 budget is a proposed $48 billion increase in Pentagon spending. If the President has his way, total budget authority for military spending for 2003 - including military functions of the Coast Guard and the Department of Energy -- will reach $396 billion, an $87 billion increase from the level that prevailed when he took office in January 2001.

Clad in a leather bomber jacket, President George W. Bush addressed Air Force personnel at Elgin Air Force base in Florida to present his case for the huge increase, the largest since the Reagan administration.

"Our men and women in uniform deserve the best weapons, the best equipment and the best training," he said to resounding applause.

The proposed increase in military spending for 2003 alone is larger than the entire military budget of every other country in the world except Russia, which spent roughly $56 billion for military purposes in calendar year 2000, the most recent year for which statistics are available.

With the ink barely dry on the White House's hefty budget proposal, the Pentagon is already preparing to make its case that $48 billion is not enough money. General Richard Myers, chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff, addressed Congress on Tuesday to call for spending of more than $100 billion a year "for several years," in order to replace aging fighter planes and other big ticket items.

Bush made the argument that we need new military spending for new threats and a new security environment, saying, "it is very clear that the defense budget is cheap when one compares it to putting our security at risk, our lives at risk, our country at risk, our freedoms at risk."

The President's rhetoric ignores the fact that this new military spending spree has little to do with fighting the war on terrorism. More than one-third of the $68 billion in weapons procurement funding in the Pentagon's latest budget proposal is set aside to pay for big ticket Cold War systems ranging from three new fighter plane programs, to costly destroyers and attack submarines, to the 70-ton Crusader artillery system. None of these systems are necessary to carry out the President's war on terrorism. The Pentagon budget proposal is great news for Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and United Defense, but it's a colossal waste of taxpayer money at a time when our national leadership should be setting clear priorities.

The combination of large tax cuts, the largest military spending increase in twenty years, and a doubling of the budget for homeland defense will force major cutbacks in environmental protection, job training, energy conservation programs, and other government initiatives designed to promote sustainable economic growth. A strong economy is the foundation of our strength as a nation. Throwing money at the Pentagon while slashing funds for economic development and international diplomacy will undermine our security, not enhance it.


William D. Hartung is the President's Fellow at the World Policy Institute at the New School. He is an expert on the arms trade and military spending, and the author of, among other works, And Weapons for All (HarperCollins, 1995), a critique of U.S. arms sales policies from the Nixon through Clinton administrations. Mr. Hartung directs the Institute's Arms Trade Resource Center. This article is reprinted with permission from the World Policy Institute.


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This story was published on March 2, 2002.
  
MARCH 2002
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