Fear and Loathing In the Pentagon Budget

Since President Obama released his FY2013 budget request on Monday, proponents of Pentagon waste and inefficiency have been working overtime.
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Since President Obama released his FY2013 budget request on Monday, proponents of Pentagon waste and inefficiency have been working overtime to frame this 1 percent reduction in Pentagon spending as "dangerous," "a jobs-killer," and leading to a "hollow-force." What this grandiose rhetoric lacks in truth, it makes up for in fear.

Leading the campaign to keep the spigot of taxpayer dollars flowing out of the bloated Pentagon bureaucracy is the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA), the primary advocacy arm of Pentagon contractors. They warn that this budget is the first step towards the elimination of 350,000 jobs. While this is a pretty frightening figure given the already high unemployment rate in the U.S., there's one small problem -- it's highly misleading.

This figure stems from an AIA financed "study" that violates many major guidelines for conducting credible scientific analysis. Most importantly, it focuses solely on reductions in Pentagon spending and ignores the fact that the money taken from the Pentagon can go towards, or not come from other areas. When other options are considered simultaneously -- as was done by the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts -- Pentagon spending turns out to be the least effective means for the government to create jobs. Raising taxes, cutting funding for clean energy, education, or health care would all cost more jobs than cutting military spending. In short, the Pentagon is not an effective way to create jobs nor should it be a jobs program anyway.

Not to be deterred by these "facts," the AIA contends that the Pentagon bureaucracy should be spared from cuts and "Reform of entitlement programs and current tax policies are the only answers to a multi-trillion dollar budget deficit."

Unfortunately for AIA, the American public disagrees. A recent New York Times/CBS News poll found that if taxpayers had to choose between cutting spending on Medicare, Social Security, or the military most would choose the latter. In fact, those favoring cuts to military spending more than double those favoring cuts to Medicare and more than tripled those favoring cuts to Social Security. Even amongst Republican respondents military cuts were the favored option.

So why is AIA looking to protect the Pentagon budget and place the deficit burden squarely on the shoulders of job creating programs and taxpayers? "The Pentagon budget is filled with corporate welfare for the defense industries," according to Julie Borowski of the Tea Party affiliated Freedom Works. In fact, the Pentagon paid its contractors more than $2 trillion dollars over the last decade. "Profitability of defense companies over the last 10 years has been staggering. Time now for a reckoning," said one national security insider in the National Journal's report earlier this week that 73 percent of national security insiders rejected a bailout of defense companies.

Fortunately, there is growing resistance in Congress to the hyperbolic rhetoric coming from AIA and its Congressional apologists of the bloated Pentagon bureaucracy. "The hysterical response to proposed changes from some in Congress is totally unfounded. There is no way a 1 percent reduction of the Pentagon's base budget from 2012 to 2013 could mean the difference between the world's greatest military and a hollow force," said Hank Johnson (D-GA), a member of the House Armed Services Committee.

Hopefully Congress will remember this when it crafts its version of the FY2013 budget.

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