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

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.

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. AlterNet’s journalists work tirelessly to counter the traditional corporate media narrative. We’re here seven days a week, 365 days a year. And we’re proud to say that we’ve been bringing you the real, unfiltered news for 20 years—longer than any other progressive news site on the Internet.

It’s through the generosity of our supporters that we’re able to share with you all the underreported news you need to know. Independent journalism is increasingly imperiled; ads alone can’t pay our bills. AlterNet counts on readers like you to support our coverage. Did you enjoy content from David Cay Johnston, Common Dreams, Raw Story and Robert Reich? Opinion from Salon and Jim Hightower? Analysis by The Conversation? Then join the hundreds of readers who have supported AlterNet this year.

Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Help ensure AlterNet remains independent long into the future. Support progressive journalism with a one-time contribution to AlterNet, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you. Click here to donate by check.

alternet logo

Tough Times

Demand honest news. Help support AlterNet and our mission to keep you informed during this crisis.