The U.S. has the largest defense budget in the world, at a sum of $680 billion for the year of 2010, according to thehill.com.
It increased from $515.4 billion in 2009, according to the U.S. Department of Defense, and has grown as a portion of the nation’s GDP as well – taking 4.7 percent of all goods and services produced in the U.S. in 2009.
The defense budget has grown as a portion of GDP every year since 2001, growing an estimated 81 percent, according to the Huffington Post. The Iraq and Afghanistan wars continue to eat up our budget and contribute to the endless deficits of the past decade. With the addition of military action in Libya, the budget does not seem likely to decrease in the meantime.
With our current air of fiscal restraint, Congress needs to consider the benefits of limiting the defense budget.
Not unlike the private sector, cutting money to the Defense Department will cause a loss of jobs. However, it will also increase the efficiency of remaining units.
Intelligence spending has also exploded, doubling in size in the past decade, according to the Los Angeles Times. The hundreds of thousands of people in intelligence departments employ have top secret security clearances, increasing the risk of leaked information to terrorists or organizations such as Wikileaks. The increasing numbers of intelligence agents and analysts have created too much information to be analyzed, and many of the agencies are redundant in purpose and jurisdiction.
Ending the two wars in the Middle East will yield significant savings that will help provide veteran benefits to returning soldiers, as well as help plug the massive budget deficit – $1.267 trillion for the 2012 fiscal year, according to ABC News. Our economy has remained off balance since the wars started, not unrelated to the massive drop in tax revenue associated with the infamous “Bush tax cuts.”
According to usliberals.about.com, the Iraq war has $900 billion allotted to the Defense Department for discretionary spending. Bloomberg reported that $117 billion was proposed for discretionary spending in Afghanistan for the 2012 fiscal year, the lowest level of spending since 2005.
Afghanistan’s stability has always been under threat from concealed militants hiding in Pakistan, whom cannot be attacked short of operations using predator drones or assaults similar to those carried out on Osama Bin Laden. The U.S. has destroyed most of Al-Qaeda, but will be forced to deal and negotiate with the Taliban despite its best efforts to eradicate them. Iraq is relatively stable and may yet survive its transition to democracy. It will have to do without U.S. troops in the long run.
Ending these two wars takes care of all but $250 billion of the 2012 budget deficit. In the past decade, the U.S. has gained a lot of hands-on experience to combat terrorism smarter. However, the objectives for victory in Afghanistan and Iraq are abstract enough to leave open the question of whether complete victory can be achieved. Congress must seriously consider making the cuts needed to bring sustainability to the U.S. budget.