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TomDispatch: Putting the Pentagon on a Diet, Will Bad Times and a Bad Economy Finally Discipline the Pentagon?



An expert on the Pentagon budget asks the crucial question -- are the military's free-spending days coming to an end?: Christopher Hellman, "Putting the Pentagon on a Diet, Will Bad Times and a Bad Economy Finally Discipline the Pentagon?"

For years, the Pentagon's ever more bloated budget has been sacrosanct in Washington. In fact, since all discussion of a post-Cold War "peace dividend" disappeared amid increased military spending in the 1990s, points out Christopher Hellman of the National Priorities Project, Pentagon spending has gone wild. Now, he writes, "after a decade and a half of unparalleled budget growth, top Defense Department officials are finally talking about the possible end of their spending spree. And they’re not alone." Is this, then, the moment when economic bad times edges the Pentagon budget into the ever fiercer spending debate in Washington?

Hellman vividly describes just how ridiculously "overmatched" the Pentagon is versus any other military force on earth, cleverly using the words of Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to make the point. ("All told, the displacement of the U.S. battle fleet -- a proxy for overall fleet capabilities -- exceeds, by one recent estimate, at least the next 13 navies combined, of which 11 are our allies or partners. And, at 202,000 strong, the Marine Corps is the largest military force of its kind in the world and exceeds the size of most world armies.") He also considers Congressional opposition to Pentagon budget cuts and the growing realization of top Pentagon officials that they simply won't be able to spend forever as if there were no tomorrow.

Hellman concludes this way: "Make no mistake, Gates has no intention of contributing Pentagon dollars to reducing the debt. His efforts are merely an acknowledgement of our nation’s weak economy, and the fact that fewer dollars will be available for any government program, even favored military ones. This type of Pentagon re-budgeting has been likened to rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic... The mere fact that even Defense Department officials are beginning to discuss fewer dollars for the Pentagon, however, offers an opportunity for Americans intent on reining in rampant military spending. It is a chance that has been a long time coming, is finally on the national agenda, and, if missed, might be an even longer time in coming again."

This is an important piece which, like the Pentagon budget, should be on the media agenda. Read it now.

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