President Obama is Not Actually Cutting Military Spending, But He Should

A top news story of the day is that President Obama is supposedly cutting almost half-a-trillion dollars from the defense budget. But this is simply not true. President Obama is not cutting a single dime out of the military budget. He is actually substantially increasing military spending over the next several years. Washington has once again cleverly disguised a spending increase as a “cut”.

This is how it all works: the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has a baseline that predicts what will happen over the next decade given current projections of taxation and spending. It shows that military spending will dramatically increase over the next ten years. President Obama’s $480 billion in military spending “cuts” are only from the bloated CBO baseline. This means that he is merely reducing projected military spending, as opposed to cutting current spending. 

Military spending will continue to rise under President Obama’s plan, just at a slightly slower rate. Why has this sparked so much controversy? Self-identified neoconservative Bill Kristol said that the so-called cuts “would decimate our military.” Some Republican lawmakers such as Rep. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon (Calif.) called the nonexistent cuts “dangerous and irresponsible.”

How much of an increase in military spending will satisfy them? It’s interesting to note that Rep. McKeon’s top campaign contributors include Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Boeing Co. and General Dynamics. These defense contractors lobby for more military spending that would add to their company’s bottom line. 

Our national debt has skyrocketed to over $15.2 trillion. We must be willing to put every item in the budget, including military spending, on the table. The Department of Defense (DoD) is just as prone to reckless spending as any other government department. I would actually argue that the DoD is much more susceptible to waste and fraud. Unlike most other government departments, the DoD enjoys a protected status that shields it from serious scrutiny.

An unfortunate stigma still exists that those who propose reasonable military spending cuts do not support the troops. But that’s far from the truth. No one wants to jeopardize our national security or purposely put our troops in harm’s way. The reality is that more military spending does not necessarily make us safer. A lot of items in the Department of Defense budget have nothing to do with defending our nation.

The Pentagon budget is filled with corporate welfare for the defense industries. According to the Cato Institute:

Sometimes the defense budget is used as a massive federal jobs program that particularly favors the states or districts of members of Congress who sit on the relevant committees. The pork can include such items as unnecessary weapons programs and military bases that are not needed for national security but remain open to provide economic benefits to the surrounding communities. Corporate welfare, in the form of subsidies to defense contractors, is another example of pork-barrel spending. In addition, the defense budget includes programs that are not even marginally related to national security, which should either be eliminated or moved to the relevant budget classification.

Current military spending is higher than at any time in our entire history. The Pentagon budget for 2010 was $693 billion—more than all other discretionary spending programs combined. That’s nearly half of all military spending on earth. Military spending has doubled over the past decade when adjusted for inflation. Under President Bush, military spending averaged 3.9 percent of Gross Domestic Product. It has increased to 4.9 percent—a full percentage point higher under President Obama.

Military spending should not be a sacred cow. We cannot afford to completely avoid certain parts of the budget. It’s time to drastically cut spending in all areas of the federal government. The ever-increasing national debt poses a great threat to our national security. We must take action immediately to address this imperative issue that undermines our liberty and jeopardizes our future standard of living. 

*FreedomWorks does not take a position on foreign policy.