Contemporary World Issues

The Controversy over Defense Spending

The United States is a world power because of its powerful military.  Although many people consider the national defense budget is an area to cut government spending, this will weaken US defenses and the safety of the average American.

Defense Spending is sometimes a misleading term.  The term is generally assumed to include just war-like military operations, when in fact it includes much more.  In addition to the military and defense operations, the Defense Spending section of the federal government includes money for the support for military families, technological research and development (for many types of technologies, not just weapons), and operations to provide aid internationally and domestically to people in need.

Disclaimer: This webpage reflects a specific opinion on the topic of military and defense spending and seeks to dispute popular arguments against defense spending.  For information on the other side of the argument, see the links near the bottom of the page.

The Deterrent Power of the Military

The reason the United States military is so effective at making the US a world power is because of the advanced weapons it possesses.  Having weapons above the technological level of most other countries puts the US at a technological advantage above many of its foes.  If production of these advanced weapons is discontinued, then the deterrent force of the US military would be greatly diminished, providing enemies with the opportunity to strike at American interests or soil with more ease and safety.


Preparing for Future Wars

The military’s plan for advancing the ability to protect Americans and provide assistance to people worldwide includes many technological advances, including expensive programs designed to research and develop new technologies and weapons to be used to accomplish a wide variety of missions.  While some may think that these programs are an example of wasteful spending since high technology weapons like the F-22 fighter are not very useful for the current warfare situation, they do not realize that one job of the military is to prepare the country for the possibility of a future war so that we are never caught off-guard.

During the early years of WWI, the United States, which had not kept up with the aviation advances of the rest of the world, did not have a single combat-worthy airplane or trained combat pilot.  The newest and most advanced form of warfare in the world, the weapon that would most affect the power of every nation in the world, was not in American possession.  It would be several years into the war before America was able to use airplanes in combat.  In addition to not having functional airplanes, the military also possessed very few stockpiles of weapons, and therefore had to start the mobilization process without momentum, leaving the American people with very little power and protection.  After these and many other similar lessons, the US military started creating plans to keep the military well funded and operational, even in peace-time, in order to ensure that Americans were always safe.

Opponents of military spending, like Representative Barney Frank (D-Mass.), say that more advanced technology is not needed to maintain our military power.  Congressman Frank asserts, “We don’t need all these fancy new weapons.”  However, the Congressman is greatly mistaken.  The US military could never have gotten to be the powerful force it is today without constantly upgrading their weapons systems with the newest and best advances in technology.  President-Elect Obama also seems to stand against development of technological advances, saying, “I will slow our development in future combat systems.”


Funding for the Military

Funding for the military is where many arguments over military operations begin.  Some people believe that funding a large, well-prepared military is vital for the survival of the country, while others claim that the military is mostly wasteful spending.  While the military does have some areas of wasteful spending, like any other government organization, cutting funds for important developing programs is not the way to improve spending habits.  Whatever your position on defense spending, we must all face the fact that the government has limited money to spend, especially in these times of financial hardship, and must carefully choose the areas of defense to allocate funds to.  Now, the question is how the government will distribute the funds for the military and how much money the military will receive.

Generally, Democratic policies usually involve cutting funding for military operations and downsizing the military in order to gain funds for reform and welfare programs that they support.  During the presidency of Former President Bill Clinton, the military’s budget decreased by more than 16%, a decrease in $76 million.

The future of military and defense funding is very unclear at the present moment.  With the administration of President-Elect Barack Obama preparing to move into office, many people are expecting a quick end to the War in Iraq, although “quick” could mean months or possibly a year or more with an operation this massive.  The end of the War would certainly mean a decrease in wartime operations spending, but the area of more concern, and the area with the least predictable outcome, is the area of general military operations.  This area includes support for military families, base construction, weapons systems development and advancement, and technological research and development.

As mentioned before, the military is inevitably a very expensive section of the government’s budget.  The Democratic Platform speaks about the critical dangers of America’s enemies but includes no specific references to how they plan to allocate money to the Department of Defense to accomplish their vast amounts of reform plans in the military.  Although President-Elect Obama says that he plans to increase the size of the military, the funding for that increase, or any other plans involving the military, is left out of any official plans from Obama or the Democratic Party.


More Information

The Other Side of the Argument
Links to websites reflecting opposite opinions of the argument over military and defense spending:

Global Issues-World Military Spending
Outline of international military and defense spending

Livable World
Anti-defense spending site

Sites for Additional Information
Links to sites that seem to provide unbiased information on the issue:

FY 2009 Defense Budget
Summary of the Department of Defense Budget plan for 2009

Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments
Site outlining the spending of the defense budget



Sources

1.) "DefenseLink Photos: Home Page Photos". U.S. Department of Defense. 12/3/08 <http://www.defenselink.mil/HomePagePhotos/homepagephotos.aspx?month=200804>.
2.) "Defense Spending: Reagan/Bush vs. Clinton vs. Bush II". Daily Kos. 11/21/08 <http://www.dailykos.com/story/2008/11/22/234052/76>.
3.) "Future Combat Systems Communications". Stragtegic Technology Office. 12/3/08 <http://www.darpa.mil/STO/strategic/fcs.html>.
4.) "Houston's Clear Thinkers: Business- General Archives". Houston's Clear Thinkers. 12/3/08 <http://blog.kir.com/archives/cat_business_general.asp>.
5.) "McCain Targets Obama's Plans to Cut Spending". The Washington Times. 11/21/08 <http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2008/oct/31/mccain-targets-obamas-plans-to-cut-spending/>.
6.) "Obama Campaign Ad Promises Deep Cuts in Defense Spending". Free Republic. 11/21/08 <http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1981500/posts>.
7.) "WWII Mobilization". U.S. Army. 11/21/08 <http://www.history.army.mil/documents/mobpam.htm>.

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