Defense Spending Myths

Talk is ramping up in Washington about the need to cut Federal government spending despite the facts that total government spending in the U.S. is already declining due to draconian cuts at the state and local levels. And the talks persists despite the presence of 10% unemployment (or near it) with no foreseeable decline given current policies.  The talks have even stretched to the idea of cutting Social Security despite the fact that Social Security is fiscally sound for the next 30-40 years on it’s own.

So if Social Security is in budget-cutter’s sights, so also should we consider military spending which is at least as great and arguably larger than Social Security.  I say at least as great since both the Dept of Defense and Social Security payments account for approximately 20% of total federal government spending.  Of course the tax source dedicated to Social Security also accounts for much, much more than 20% of federal revenue while the Dept of Defense has no dedicated tax source.  I say arguably greater than Social Security because the Dept of Defense budget doesn’t really capture what we spend on military and quasi-military spending.  Most other industrial nations account for military spending under a single budget entity or organization, but not the U.S.  The U.S. treats the costs of caring for veterans as something non-military related in the Dept of Veterans Affairs (as if veterans just descend from outer space unrelated to our history of paying them as soldiers). We don’t fully account for our nuclear weapons in the DOD – they’re in the Dept of Energy.  We don’t count Homeland Security – it’s another growing-like-topsy Department on it’s own. We don’t even count spending on war as part of the Dept of Defense – most of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars were funded by special acts of Congress that weren’t included in the DOD budget.

But the true size of the Defense Dept budget is only one myth.  There are many others.  The Washington Post highlights five of the most common in an article titled 5 Myths About Defense Spending.