Pentagon Spending

PENTAGON SPENDING….Fred Kaplan notes that the FY2009 Pentagon budget includes $184 billion for major weapons systems and that not a single one is even a candidate for termination:

Is it remotely conceivable that the Defense Department is the one federal bureaucracy that has not designed, developed, or produced a single expendable program? The question answers itself.

There is another way to probe this question. Look at the budget share distributed to each of the three branches of the armed services. The Army gets 33 percent, the Air Force gets 33 percent, and the Navy gets 34 percent.

As I have noted before (and, I’m sure, will again), the budget has been divvied up this way, plus or minus 2 percent, each and every year since the 1960s. Is it remotely conceivable that our national-security needs coincide so precisely — and so consistently over the span of nearly a half-century — with the bureaucratic imperatives of giving the Army, Air Force, and Navy an even share of the money? Again, the question answers itself. As the Army’s budget goes up to meet the demands of Iraq and Afghanistan, the Air Force’s and Navy’s budgets have to go up by roughly the same share, as well. It would be a miracle if this didn’t sire a lot of waste and extravagance.

You know, I wouldn’t even mind the waste all that much if we were actually spending the bulk of this money on contemporary threats — like, say, global terrorism — that are supposedly our top priority. But if that’s the case, why do we keep spending vast sums on weapons systems designed to fight a massive conventional war against Russia or China? Money talks, and I’m pretty sure that F-35s, new carrier groups, and Virginia-class subs aren’t going to root Osama bin Laden out of his cave. Gives you pause, doesn’t it?