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5 Reasons the Obscene National Security Budget Is Larger Than It Appears

The officials screaming about President Obama's Pentagon budget are completely disconnected from reality.
 
 
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An American soldier in Afghanistan.
Photo Credit: DVIDSHUB/Flickr

 
 
 
 

When President Obama released his  budget for 2015 on Tuesday, which included $495.6 billion for the Pentagon, the likely suspects  screamed that the sky is going to fall. House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Buck McKeon said the funding level is so low that it’s “immoral,” while the notorious climate denier Sen. James Inhofe — who is a ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee — declared that: “Today our enemies don’t fear us and our allies no longer respect us.” Strong words. Also, completely disconnected from reality.

Not only does this budget allocate a mere  $420 million less than the Defense Department received from Congress this year, it represents just a fraction of the actual amount that will go towards maintaining the massive U.S. security apparatus. To get a more accurate picture of the true cost of the American empire, various programs and line items that do not fall under the Pentagon’s base budget must be included in this tally.

1) War spending: Despite the fact that Obama still officially plans to end combat operations in Afghanistan by the end of the year, the budget  includes $79.4 billion for the war in 2015. Granted, that is only a placeholder. The actual figure will be decided on later, but it does give a sense of what is to be expected, which is essentially a continuation of the tragic status quo.

2) Veterans: To take account of the total price tag of the many wars that the United States has fought — and continues to fight — the long-term cost of providing for veterans should be included. To meet these needs, $68.4 billion has been requested for the Department of Veterans Affairs.

3) Intelligence: With the CIA  responsible for hundreds of drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, and the NSA secretly assisting the military with its assassination program around the world — as was recently  exposed — it seems only right to include the proposed budget of $45.6 billion for the National Intelligence Program in this calculation.

4) Homeland Security: In any honest account of our actual “defense” spending, the $38.2 billion requested for the Department of Homeland Security should naturally be factored in, since it includes funding for cybersecurity, the TSA and border patrol.

5) Nuclear weapons: The proposed $8.3 billion associated with maintaining a “safe, secure, and effective nuclear deterrent,” as well as the ensuing $5.6 billion required for disposing of nuclear waste fall under the Department of Energy’s budget.

This is by no means a complete accounting of security-related costs that are hidden in other parts of the budget — such as military aid to foreign countries  — but when these most obvious expenses are added up, the price tag jumps to $741 billion. To get a better sense of how staggering that figure is, it breaks down to more than $23,000 per second, every second of the year.

It also represents 73 percent of the trillion dollar discretionary budget, which includes spending for education, transportation, housing, food and the environment. That means that — if this budget is approved — at least 73 cents of every dollar that Congress will decide how to spend next year, will go to propping up the most expensive military machine on the planet, instead of taking care of the millions of Americans who struggle every day to meet their basic necessities. Now that is what I call immoral.

Eric Stoner is an editor at Waging Nonviolence and an adjunct professor at St. Peter's University. His articles have appeared in The Guardian, Mother Jones, The Nation, Sojourners and In These Times.

 
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