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article imageOp-Ed: Defense spending in U.S. over $1 trillion not $495.6 billion

By Ken Hanly     Mar 18, 2014 in Politics
Washington - Most in the Pentagon and on the House and Senate Armed Services Committees in the U.S. Congress claim the Pentagon's budget of $495.6 billion is an austerity budget and not sufficient to maintain current pay and benefits and other necessary expenditures.
An article, here, by Winslow Wheeler, gives a detailed analysis of the Pentagon budget that shows that there is much more spending by the Pentagon that is not included in the "austerity" budget of $495.6 billion. Even that budget is more than the Pentagon would have had under the sequestration cuts. There was a deal that eased the situation for the Pentagon:The two-year budget agreement is a positive development for defense watchers—mitigating about half the sequester cuts expected to gouge the defense budget in fiscal year 2014.
Wheeler shows that there is much more than $495.6 billion in the Pentagon budget and does so by using the government's own data that can be accessed here but the relevant parts are in his article. The article itself is quite detailed and I will provide only a summary of some of the salient points.
One way that the Department of Defense(DOD) hides its spending is by moving "base" spending into an Overseas Contingency Operations(OCO) fund. Although spending on military retirement is part of mandatory spending in the base budget, in public presentations it is often left out, even though it is as much part of the base budget as military pay. When all the hidden costs are entered, the total comes to $1009.5 billion.
He notes that the budget should include such "placeholder" amounts for wars in Afghanistan and elsewhere estimated at $79.4 billion but which could be larger or smaller.
There is also a $6.2 billion cost for military retirement. The Pentagon also has its own "slush fund" of $26 billion that is part of the euphemistically titled "Opportunity, Growth and Security Initiative." Just within the Pentagon's own expenses, Winslow calculates the expenditures at $645.1 billion rather than $495.6 the figure usually used. The higher figure is over $149.5 billion or 30 percent higher.
However, there are other costs outside of the Pentagon budget that are still central to U.S. security and defense. There is $52.1 billion in non-DOD expenditures in the Department of Homeland Security. There is another $161.2 billion " for the human consequences of past and ongoing wars in the Department of Veterans Affairs, and $39 billion for the activities of the Department of State and related agencies-for international security and the exercise of US power abroad. " If all these additions are added up together with the share of interest on the national debt for the spending the total is over a trillion dollars.
Wheeler claims the problem with the defense budget is not lack of money but how it is spent.We are getting very little defense--training, maintenance, hardware, and troops--for a gigantic amount of money. By virtue of how they characterize $1 trillion dollars as penury, our national security leaders in the Pentagon and Congress are clearly incapable of dealing with the problem.
Wheeler claims that the Pentagon budget remains unaudited and even un-auditable and with little effective oversight of spending. Two articles in Time, one here, and another here, also deal with the issue of the Pentagon cooking its books. As the appended video shows, military cuts can always be portrayed as negative given their effects on local economies which benefit from such expenditures.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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