By Anthony Bader
The United States has been involved in quite a few military expeditions during the past two decades: Desert Storm, the Iraq War and limited military aid to a variety of countries all over the globe. Paying for ammunition, vehicles, soldier compensation and internal operations of the U.S. Department of Defense costs more than half a trillion dollars each year. One would think that keeping track of all these expenses would be a top priority of the Department of Defense, given how much our government spends each year.
Reuters recently released a special report outlining the ways in which the DOD has been operating with an astounding lack of discipline in regards to their accounting. The article reported that the different branches of the military report false numbers, function with extremely outdated accounting programs and the entire defense department hasn’t submitted an audit to the U.S. Treasury since 1996.
Multiple attempts have been made to correct the inefficiency of the DOD, but to no avail. Obviously this can’t be allowed to continue, so what can be done?
Our government can either do an extremely in-depth overhaul to streamline the spending of the DOD, which would cost billions more than the already failed attempts, or the DOD can reduce its total spending so that keeping a correct ledger of all their accounts is not such a cumbersome task. Probably some combination of both would be best.
The DOD’s budget more than doubled during the Iraq War, and yet since the war has ended, the budget has stayed extremely high at about $600 billion. According to a Reuters article, roughly $7 billion is spent on excess munitions alone, with billions more wasted in other areas of the military.
Consequently, it would seem that a small reduction in the military budget, perhaps $50 billion, wouldn’t affect our country’s military capability because the money is being wasted anyway. A further small reduction, perhaps another $50 billion, would most likely not affect our country’s ability to defend itself either, considering that our government’s military budget is bigger than the next 10 countries combined.
Combined, this results in a total of $100 billion in military spending that our government could hypothetically do without. This $100 billion is a somewhat arbitrary number I’m choosing, but bear with me. How then, could our government better use this $100 billion in unnecessary military expenditures?
If our government were to spend that money domestically instead of on foreign military expeditions, there are multiple options. The government could continue the increased funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program that was eliminated with the most recent renewal of farm bill. That money could be used to help millions of families in need put food on their table.
The collective student debt of undergraduates in America exceeds $1 trillion. $100 billion in federal grants could do wonders for the neediest of college students. Reducing cost as a barrier to higher education would lead to a better educated society. Additionally, citizens with less debt will put more money into the economy as opposed to using a large portion of their income paying back their student loans.
Another option is to put that $100 billion per year towards a national health care system. Other countries in Europe such as Sweden, the United Kingdom and France cover the majority of health care costs of their citizens with public funding. Health care in these countries gets funding through much higher taxes than we have in the United States, but $100 billion in taxes that we are already paying would be a good first step toward our own national health care system.
The first expense in that new health care system might be to pay a decent Web developer to make a sign-up website for health care that actually functions more than 10 percent of the time. Surely, an actually functioning Obamacare website would be a good expenditure of tax dollars.
Regardless of how much our government can reasonably reduce our country’s military budget, there are several options for spending that reduction on more positive government programs. Millions of Americans are facing various hardships such as struggling to pay for food, loans or healthcare. Our government can reduce its spending waste and help millions of Americans by diverting a reasonable amount of money from the military budget.