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Guns or butter remains question

On Memorial Day Mitt Romney spoke to an audience of 5,000 on the topic of American military needs. Romney posited the issue by arguing the country has two choices, either shrink the military to pay for social programs or ensure that our military remains the strongest in the world.

It is a good question, one that should be asked in times when our budgets must address deficit and debt by prioritizing the needs of the nation. But perhaps the question could be rephrased: “Should we shrink our retirement and health care protections to fund a war-time bloated military?”

Recently the Republican-led House of Representatives passed a military budget $8 billion higher than agreed to earlier in the year and $4 billion higher than the Pentagons’ request. The Senate has not yet acted on the budget.

The military budget is about $684 billion annually, excluding the costs of the wars (about $1 trillion so far), veterans’ health care and benefits, military pensions, interest on war debt, Homeland Security defense spending, FBI counterterrorism, NSA spending, nuclear support and NASA spy satellites.

When all the above categories are added, the cost of our military consumes between 28 percent and 38 percent of our federal budget, or, in real dollars between $1 trillion and $1.4 trillion annually. Military spending also consumes 50 percent of the federal discretionary budget annually.

More exact figures are not available due to accounting issues within various budgets and security protections.

Does this level of spending mean the budget is bloated?

Consider that the U.S. military budget represents 42.8 percent of military spending worldwide. China is second in military spending, with 7.3 percent of annual military spending worldwide. The U.S. spends more on its military annually than the next largest 20 nation’s military budget combined.

The U.S. and its allies spend 2/3 to 3/4 of annual worldwide military spending combined.

Do we have a strong military as a result of this funding? Absolutely. Our aircraft carrier fleet numbers 20 including 11 Nimitz class carriers. There are only 12 other aircraft carriers on the planet.

We have 3,043 fighter planes; the next largest force has less than 1,300 fighters. Our submarine fleet of nuclear and attack submarines numbers 60, twice that of any other nation.

It should be noted that these are numbers after a decade of downsizing the Navy.

Further, of the rest of the world expenditures, the U.S. through its military sales contracts, sells approximately $170 billion per year to that market, or 39 percent of all military equipment sales.

Add to all of the U.S. military presence worldwide, 662 bases in 38 countries.

The U.S. military is costing us over one trillion annually and that cost is going to increase as we provide necessary care for the many disabled veterans now entering the system.

While candidate Romney advocates protecting and expanding military spending, he does so ignoring the savings that we should receive from ending two wars, and the saving many military experts tell us can be derived from a military re-focused from land-based engagements.

Most Americans think the military budgets must be reduced. A recent University of Maryland survey found three quarters of Americans wanted this budget cut, including two-thirds of Republicans and 90 percent of Democrats.

As for Social Security and Medicare, about 80 percent of Americans want those budgets protected.

Unfortunately, Mr. Romney seems not to be listening to the people on this issue, nor the experts who claim the military budget is flooded with overspending and misallocations to weapons not needed.

By the way, just the military budget alone, without all costs included, is $684 billion. That is a lot of zeroes for the House not to find a dime to cut.


Jim Crawford is retired educator and political enthusiast living here in the Tri-State.