Military Might: Who Will Pay For It? Who Will Serve?

By James A. Kidney

       Every GOP presidential candidate except Rand Paul and, possibly, John Kasich, claims he or she will order a more muscular U.S. military presence wherever there is a perceived threat anywhere in the world, as they boldly asserted during the third debate Tuesday night.  (The Bloviating Donald said he would stay out of Syria for now, but otherwise seems inclined to toughen our policies by yelling at everyone.)  If their propositions are to be taken seriously, then the military needs more money and more able bodies.  But the frivolousness of their stated positions is proved by the fact they will offer up neither cash for costs, which would require higher taxes or add to the deficit, or bodies, through conscription.

As the respected Washington Post columnist David Ignatius remarked in a recent piece, “President Obama’s foreign policy has been a regular punching bag for Republican presidential candidates, but many of their criticisms are facile.  The next president – from whichever party – will have to confront the same puzzle that Obama has faced about how to best use U.S. power in a world that resists military solutions.”

But, the candidates say, never mind the complexities.  “Bulk Up, America!”

The Cost of a More Muscular Military Is High

Conservatively, the cost of our wars since 2001 has been nearly $1.7 trillion.  This only includes the costs specifically assigned to those wars, not the many more trillions spent to support the war effort and national security throughout the government.  For example, separately, the costs for Homeland Security military2_bigare estimated at $653 billion.  The Pentagon budget and related national security spending for FY 2015 was $598 billion, or 54 percent of all federal discretionary spending.  The new spending bill signed by the President this week provides for a $607 billion Pentagon budget.  According to the National Priorities Project, which tracks federal budget expenditures, U.S. military expenditures are “roughly the size of the next seven largest military budgets around the world.”

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