Here Comes the Next “Defense” Shakedown

USS Ronald Reagan traveling through the Strait...
USS Ronald Reagan traveling through the Straits of Magellan, to San Diego, CA, in a transfer move. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Today with the signing of this defense bill,” US president Donald Trump said as he affixed his signature to the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act on December 12, “we accelerate the process of fully restoring America’s military might.”

Is Trump truly under the mistaken impression that US military might is ailing? Or is he mindlessly aping Ronald Reagan and hoping it brings in the re-election votes? Or perhaps something else entirely?

The NDAA budgets nearly $700 billion for the US military next year. Despite its name, there’s precious little “defense” involved.

While it’s true that the United States is involved in several ongoing wars ($65.7 billion of the NDAA’s appropriations go to the “Overseas Contingency Fund” for continuing those wars), none of them serve any vital, let alone existential, US interest, and none of them are defensive in nature.

The US has no militarily significant adversaries in the western hemisphere. Further afield, it already floats by far the most powerful naval and expeditionary capability on Earth. Of the world’s 41 aircraft carriers, the US operates 20, including 11 flat-top “supercarriers.” The remaining 21 are scattered among the navies of 12 other countries, mostly US allies. America’s two most likely military adversaries, China and Russia, each operate one light STOBAR (“Short Take-Off But Arrested Recovery”) carrier.

Speaking of China and Russia: China’s military budget is less than 1/3 the size of this latest US monstrosity. Russia’s is even smaller, and set to shrink in 2018.

A true US “defense” budget might, if wasteful,  run as high as 1/10th of the NDAA’s numbers.

So if the NDAA isn’t about defense, what’s it about? Mostly corporate welfare.

The bill includes money to buy more 30 more planes than the military asked for  (24 reliable old F/A-18s instead of 14, and 90 of the newer lemon, the F-35, instead of 70). The US Navy asked for one new Littoral Combat Ship. The NDAA budgets for three. Translation: Billions  for aerospace and ship-building companies.

The NDAA also adds more than 16,000 troops to the already bloated US armed forces. Not because more troops are needed for “defense,” but because each new soldier, sailor, airman and Marine must be fed, clothed, housed, and armed — which, in the age of fake privatization, means yet more money for “defense” contractors.

Prior to World War Two, when a war ended US military spending descended toward pre-war levels. Then what Dwight D. Eisenhower referred to as the Military Industrial Complex took over the federal government. Now that government’s primary activity is moving as much money as possible from your pockets to the bank accounts of “defense contractors” on a continuing basis.

This year, the tab comes to about $2,160 for every man, woman and child in the United States. Do you feel like you’re getting your money’s worth?

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

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  • Is he mindlessly aping Ronald Reagan? Yes. Republicans do this by reflex.

    • Yes, but Trump isn’t a Republican in any meaningful sense of the word.

      The first time he ran for president, it was seeking the Reform Party’s nomination.

      And at other times he’s been a registered Democrat — with no “I didn’t leave the Democratic Party, the Democratic Party left me” moment.

      His whole campaign for the GOP nomination was basically “yeah, I’ve never believed anything you guys claim to believe, but I’ll pretend to believe a little bit of it and you’ll nominate me because I’m Donald Trump.”

      Not that I’m a big Reagan fan, but if Trump was cast in “Bedtime for Bonzo,” it would be as Bonzo.

  • DavidMacko

    If the amount of money which “our” government spends on the military, which some estimates imply is almost as much as the rest of the world combined, is not enough to carry out its purposes and if, allegedly, some of our planes and ships are not fit for combat, why haven’t at least a few generals, admirals or Pentagon bureaucrats been charged with either treason or at least criminal incompetence?

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