Let's Put the Pentagon's Unneeded $125 Billion Into Healthcare and Education
Does the Military Need to Tighten Its Belt?
What Could You Fund with $125 Billion?
In January 2015, auditors reported that the Pentagon should trim $125 billion in unneeded spending over the next five years. Why didn't that news make a splash right before the start of the 2016 presidential pre-primaries, when five Democrats and seventeen Republicans would begin vying for the Oval Office? Surely, the liberal media would use Republican kryptonite of contrasting government waste with the sacred cow of defense spending to put all the GOP candidates on the spot, right? They would have...if the Pentagon hadn't buried the report.
The Washington Post has discovered the audit and its backstory, including the fact that the audit was actually requested by the Pentagon itself! Apparently, the Department of Defense wanted to find out where it could trim the fat...but panicked when it discovered just how flabby it was. Anxious to avoid letting Congress know that its budget could be significantly trimmed, the Pentagon took the report down as soon as it was published. While other government bureaucracies struggle with lack of funding and Republicans claim that we are being bankrupted by entitlement payments, it turns out that the military has far more cash than it needs.
Now, before anyone accuses me of being anti-serviceman, the report lays the blame on overpaid and overstaffed administrative positions far behind the "front lines." Many of these positions are held by civilian contractors, who tend to cost taxpayers over $150,000 apiece in annual salary and benefits. Mindless payments to defense contractors are also criticized, with the Pentagon apparently not bothering to try to get a deal on, well, anything.
Of course, the military itself is far too large regardless of its efficiency, or lack thereof. In an era when America almost exclusively finds itself facing illiterate radicals armed with aged Kalashnikovs and IEDs, we still feel the need to arm ourselves for a conventional World War III. Do we need F-35s to attain combat parity with ragtag ISIS, or nuclear-powered aircraft carriers to handle the cave-dwelling Taliban? Even when considering foes who utilize formal armies and weapons made during this century, the U.S. spends a greater percentage of its GDP on national "defense."
And, now that China has the dreaded carrier-killer missile, does it make sense to keep pouring money into our most expensive ships? China's rapid technological advance, including in air power, means our nation's obsession with defense spending is futile. Our post-Cold War foe can raise an army of ten million men while hardly batting an eye...why try to compete unless we are directly threatened? We also refuse to use our giant military for humanitarian purposes. Did we use it to stop Bashar al-Assad? End the genocide in Rwanda? Stop Pol Pot? No.
We have a bloated, oversized military that cannot defeat China...nor will we use it to defeat anyone who needs to be stopped. It's time to be real and slash defense spending. Heck, slash it up to 50 percent. Or, at the very least, shift much of the spending to National Guard type units so that the money is spread across a greater segment of the population. Allow any able-bodied man or woman to join the Guard and receive training and monthly stipends. This would be a far better use of taxpayer dollars than blowing money on overpaid administrators and ineffective, over-budget defense projects.
Or maybe, just maybe, we could use the money for something humanitarian like healthcare or education.
During the 2016 presidential election, U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) brought up universal health care and tuition-free public higher education for qualified students only to have pundits scream "we don't have the money!" Both Republicans and centrist Democrats sneered and asked who was going to pay for such "outlandish" reforms...ignoring the fact that our closest allies have had socialized medicine and higher education for decades. Well, it appears that a magic pot of gold has just appeared that could help fund such "utopian fantasies" - courtesy of the Pentagon!
I am a public high school teacher and I haven't gotten a pay raise in two years. The school district is fiddling with teachers' health insurance to cut costs and shift more burden onto the employees. It is unconscionable that teachers, and other public servants, be asked to tighten their belts around the country while the Department of Defense is routinely given a blank check for lavish spending. It is unthinkable that we continue to fund wasteful defense projects while citizens suffer through medical bankruptcies.
If president-elect Donald Trump truly wants to "drain the swamp" and win America's devotion, he should cut wasteful defense spending and use that money as federal grants to make our public schools and our health care system whole.