By Rebekah Johansen
Why yesterday’s Pentagon funding proposals are a good first step – but we have a long way to go.
Yesterday, Defense Sec. Hagel released his Pentagon budget recommendations, sparking an almost instant narrative from left and right-leaning media:
Hagel wants to shrink the Pentagon’s budget massively! In fact, the military will shrink to below WWII levels!
This narrative has been met with praise and criticism, but what’s being lost in the noise is that this proposal isn’t exactly that extreme.
The $496 billion budget request spends $115 billion more than legally required sequestration levels over 5 years, plus another $26 billion that comes from a separate $58 billion “Opportunity, Growth and Security Initiative.”
Yesterday is encouraging for those of us who care about responsible Pentagon budgeting. Military leaders themselves are calling on politicians to “get real” and support reasonable spending restraint.
That said, we shouldn’t be too quick to celebrate.
As technology progresses and the nature of warfare changes and streamlines, Pentagon costs have not really followed suit.
As Kori Schake points out, “In 2001, it cost the country $2,300 to outfit a Marine for combat; today the price tag is $21,000.” Pentagon costs have been on an exponentially increasing path for some time, and this budget request would not decrease total spending. It merely tinkers with the rate of increase, Washington’s favorite type of “drastic cut.” Further, it doesn’t attempt even to change several notoriously wasteful programs including the F-35.
The Pentagon represents a hefty chunk of the federal budget, and the United States spends more in this area than the next ten countries combined. If the country is to escape runaway debt and spending, then all spending should be on the table.