• The Heritage Network
    • Resize:
    • A
    • A
    • A
  • Donate
  • Defense Spending: Hold the Line

    In the midst of a debate over how and where to cut government spending, Congress needs to be careful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater when it comes to defense during wartime. There is undoubtedly need for Congress to continually demand efficiencies in the defense budget, but Congress should allow the military to use any savings that it generates to pay for urgent priorities.

    Policymakers must be honest and start with national security strategy and military missions before approving arbitrary cuts. Only then will they be forced to acknowledge that the overall amount spent on defense is already selling the military short. Instead of addressing the real causes of runaway spending—major entitlement programs like Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid—President Obama announced in April that he wanted to take an additional $400 billion from the military.

    Already, annual spending to buy new equipment is under-funded, as noted by former President Clinton’s Secretary of Defense. Yet, Congress and the President continue trying to balance the budget on the backs of those in uniform who are spread thin across the globe.

    Elected officials who claim that “defense cuts won’t hurt the troops” are not being forthcoming. After World War I, Americans were told the U.S. would rearm if a threat arose, but the defense cuts that followed arguably encouraged the enemy to rise up and attack us first. After 9/11, the U.S. military went to war short tens of thousands of troops and lacking critical equipment like body armor and armored vehicles.

    Now, the President proposes $400 billion in defense spending cuts without naming a single mission America’s military can abandon. Defense cuts disconnected from reality and lacking in strategic foundation will only burden an already heavily taxed force and increase the risk confronting all Americans.

    The bottom line is that politicians are asking the military to fight our nation’s wars with old and worn equipment while maintaining every U.S. commitment throughout the world.

    Cutting the military now won’t save money later, especially if it increases U.S. vulnerability.

    Congress and the Administration should fully fund defense at the minimum level requested by President Obama in 2012 and invest any savings garnered from efficiencies back into the defense budget.

    Posted in Security [slideshow_deploy]

    8 Responses to Defense Spending: Hold the Line

    1. Dinah Garrison Fairb says:

      Did you hear the age of that refueling tanker plane that went crosswise on the runway and flamed? Funds for the military are a tricky subject. We certainly need some replacement equipment. That costs. Also, just as certainly, there are places where money is being wasted. We need to start making a serious effort to find the waste so that money can be used as part of the refurbishing of our equipment. These decisions are best left in the hands of the military, but perhaps a more stringent oversight program for the finances could be put into place. THAT is actually a bad idea, but we need something along that line. We can't just say that we will cut, cut, cut. We have to know the results of those cuts. As you can see, I pretty much agree with Mr. Carafano, but felt the need to chime in.

    2. Brian, PA says:

      Can someone please tell me why it is necessary for this country to spend hundreds of billions of dollars per year in excess of what the next 10 countries spend on their defense? Might it be because:

      1) we believe that everyone in the world should have the freedom that we enjoy, and we feel as though we have a moral right to supplant governments that do not agree with this…

      2) we believe that it is our duty and responsibility to defend all of our allies, while they in turn spend their tax dollars on social issues…

      3) we believe that we should supplant governments that control land areas and assets we deem valuable for our own use (i.e. natural resources, etc.)

      Someone please inform me of YOUR views. Because my views are that we should have the strongest, most modern up-to-date, able military in the world, capable of protecting the USA, and that we should NOT intervene in other countries problems or issues unless it is CLEARLY in the name of our own defense. (i.e. Afghanistan=YES, Iraq=NO, Libya=NO)

    3. John, Rhode Island says:

      Did SoD Gates advocate that when he came forward with billions of dollars in cuts? Why is defense the sacred cow of the conservatives? If there's waste in other Federal programs, why wouldn't there be waste in the military?

    4. Rod says:

      but the defense cuts that followed arguably encouraged the enemy to rise up and attack us first———

      Arguably? Well,if you so think, but a very, very weak argument-almost nonexistent .

    5. George Colgrove, VA says:

      " The cost of replacing Walter Reed was estimated at $200 million in 2005, when decisions were being made about what military facilities to close or consolidate. More recent estimates put the price at $2 billion." Washington Examiner (5/19/11)

      $200 million is believable. A billion or two for the entire BRAC project is also conceivable. Why are we spending over $2 billion for this one building? When we are so deep in debt and are canceling defense systems that we need to protect the entire nation, why are we spending this kind of money on office and healthcare space?

      How is the DoD allowed to get away with this? The entire 2005 BRAC project is ending up costing the current taxpayers and those who have yet to be born $35 billion (and climbing) to move 128,000 federal workers and soldiers. This comes out to about $280,000 to *relocate just one person* – or roughly a million dollars to relocate three federal workers.

      Congress, can we get an investigation started?

      With the nation deep into debt, why are we spending nearly a third of a million dollars to move a single worker? What else was done here that we are not being told about.

      I do not care how patriotic we want to be about our military, this is abject abuse of taxpayer money and trust by the political and apparently self-serving Department of Defense.

      Every one of these BRAC buildings show excess and top out 4 to 6 times what the private sector would have ever spent building luxurious office spaces.

      We have the right to know why this construction was so expensive!

      I am an engineer and to make a building "blast proof" requires marginal increases in engineering costs, but the lion's share of the increase would be more concrete and reinforcing steel – relatively cheap materials considering the entire construction costs. The rest of the building would be essentially the same. These materials would not add enough to even double the cost of construction. Considering this building was not even designed to protect against a blast that took out the Murrah building in Oklahoma, further demands investigations be made into why the cost in the construction were so high. When costs exceed a $100 million, security and surveillance equipment should only be a marginal cost.

      What does cost money is how the office space is adorned. Typical steel stud/sheetrock construction is cheap. Public officials truly concerned about how public money is spend would keep construction cost as low as possible, lower still if they could find a way. When you add “real” wood paneling for example or even use glass walls, the adornment costs skyrocket. Going with metal door placards over cheaper plastic placards can increase cost considerably in large office spaces even though they do the same thing. Fifty local furniture suppliers were selected for providing lush furniture for these buildings. One supplier would have been able to provide much more moderate furniture at much lower unit prices in volume bulk purchases. Each extravagance when standing by itself can represent a marginal cost increase – some barely noticeable. However, every marginal cost increase can be multiplied into significant needless spending. If the federal workers dreaming up these office spaces applied every excess they could imagine with no one overseeing the process, adornment costs would well exceed the core construction costs several times over. I can buy a basic car for $16,000, but when I add everything that I can on the car, it would then cost me nearly $50,000. I still have the same car; either car will get me from point A to point B in the same way, but I lost $34,000.

      Now if the DoD designed each of the 7 BRAC buildings in the greater DC area to use similar construction methods, materials and design, the cost savings in volume purchasing or replicative construction would have saved the taxpayers considerably. Each building so far looks like a separate individual and complete different design. There appears to be very little similarities between buildings. There does however appear to be one thing they all nearly share, large glassed in atriums. One atrium large enough to house the statue of liberty at the new hospital. This is abject extravagance we as taxpayer cannot afford.

      Will the DoD make these decisions a matter of national security and make these decisions classified? Probably. Will we ever get to know the predecisional matter that lead up to these costs? Will the media be allowed in the building before it becomes “secret” to film the construction for our “freedom of information” so we can see the excess? Probably not.

      Private Sector building costs can be anywhere within $50 to $200/ sq ft. $50/ sq ft being a steel shell building with minimal built in office space. Typical business office space hovers around $100/sq ft. This should be the target when using public funds.

      If cost were a concern, one worker only needs a cubicle measuring 8' x 8'. Typically, 30% of office floor space is in halls, restrooms, elevators, conference rooms, storage rooms, utility, increased space needed for upper level positions, etc. Therefore, a worker needs 64 sq ft, and that worker's space adjusted up by 30% to cover the above would be 84 sq. ft. At $100/sq ft construction for each worker should be $8,400. Add $50/ sq ft furniture costs or $4,200, that provides a total cost of construction to $12,600 per worker for reasonable cost effective construction. I will even add 20% for contingencies, cost overruns, and errors in my estimating, for a total construction cost of $15,000 per worker. Not really sure to what extent security cost are for the self-serving paranoid federal worker culture (who BTW has no problems leaking droves of documents to the likes of WikiLeaks). I will give another 10% on top of that to cover security costs. So even with my cost increases I provided, I can loosely justify $16,500 construction costs per worker – make that $17,000 for good measure

      128,000 workers should have cost the taxpayers around $2.18 billion for cost effective construction had the federal workforce considered cost savings to protect scarce public funds. The DoD like any other simple expenditure (i.e toilets, bolts) ended up spending scarce taxpayer dollars (we do have a huge national debt and trillion dollar annual deficits) by a factor of 16 times!!! I recognize that we did add hospital space with things like million dollar treadmills (something that should be done in the private sector BTW) for 30,000 wounded soldiers. Therefore, I will throw in about another billion on top of everything else – what the heck – it is free money and there is plenty of it – right? $3 billion vs. $35 billion???? Where are the inquiries? Enron, WorldCom, and Madoff who barely topped $30 billion in fraud all together were punished dearly by the same type of federal workers who stole a larger sum of money for their pleasure in these BRACs. Again, where are the investigations?

      I want the best for our wounded soldiers, but I would be willing to bet you, if they put their lives on the line for this country, they will likely be ashamed that their healthcare is now costing the same country they would have died for, dearly. I know that is how I would feel. Spending 10 times more than they should have in this project, the DoD (as with the rest of the federal government) is showing itself not to be trusted in handling something as simple as money.

      Just an incidental thought – it took congress from January to April to cut $38 billion from the entire federal budget. It took the DoD to spend $35 billion in just one line item. Can we call this real money yet? I think at these costs, it is starting to get to point where we need to put a lot of this work out to the private sector who constantly prove that they can do much more for far less and still profit.

    6. Zbigniew Mazurak, Pl says:

      John – defense is not anyone's sacred cow. If it was, defense spending would've never been slashed. Yet, whenever a budget crisis arises, defense spending is ALWAYS the first thing, and usually the ONLY thing, that gets slashed.

      No one argues that the defense budget doesn't contain any wasteful expenses. It clearly does. But – as Dr Carafano has rightly argued – any savings made at the DOD must be reinvested in the DOD. The overall size of the defense budget is insufficient, and so is the DOD's modernization spending.

      And one point regarding Dr Carafano's post directed towards Dr Carafano himself: the biggest problem with Obama's defense cuts is not that they are arbitrary or disconnected from any analysis, but that they are defense cuts. Cutting defense spending for any reason, under any circumstances, is a foolish mistake (although even more so now, as China's enemies are gathering, the US military is worn out after 9.5 years of continous war and 21 years of defense cuts, and it's suffering a modernization crisis.

    7. John, Rhode Island says:


      "defense is not anyone’s sacred cow"

      Are you serious? If you even mention to a typical conservative that we should shrink our Defense Dept (can you still call it "defense" when it's mostly been offense?) spending, their first response is most commonly "Why do you want the terrorists to win? Do you hate America?".

      "defense spending is ALWAYS the first thing, and usually the ONLY thing, that gets slashed"

      Oh, I understand that. We have other, bigger, problems in our budget compared to defense, but since the DoD is the biggest line item after SS and Medicare, it's the easiest target.

      "The overall size of the defense budget is insufficient"

      Agreed. For what the US does, we don't spend enough on our military. But that's the problem. We're doing WAY TOO MUCH. We're going far beyond the Constitutional limits put in place (not that that's ever stopped anyone before) on our military, and that needs to end.

      I don't see how you couldn't still follow the Constitutional use of our military (aka reaction to an attack made against us) with half the budget the military has now. It's called prioritization. Would you have to close the bulk of the 1k military bases around the globe? Yes. Would you have to stop the war mongering and nation building? Yes. Would we have to stop trying to be the world's police force? Yes. Would this make us "less safe"? Hardly. Our occupation of other countries creates just as many enemies as friends, if not more, and since we have to borrow money to pay for all of it, we become enslaved to our creditors.

      The problem I have with the "War on Terror" is that since you can't wage war on an idea, this sets the stage for the US to be engaged in a never-ending state of war, a war likely to be just as successful as our other aptly named wars, like the "War on Drugs" and "War on Poverty", which is to say it will be yet another abject failure. To claim we can't trim spending while we're at war is how we institutionalize increased spending, which primarily benefits the Haliburtons and Lockheed Martins of the world at the expense of the lives of our soldiers and the taxpayers property.

    8. Pingback: Morning Bell: Liberals Force Choice Between Economic and National Security

    Comments are subject to approval and moderation. We remind everyone that The Heritage Foundation promotes a civil society where ideas and debate flourish. Please be respectful of each other and the subjects of any criticism. While we may not always agree on policy, we should all agree that being appropriately informed is everyone's intention visiting this site. Profanity, lewdness, personal attacks, and other forms of incivility will not be tolerated. Please keep your thoughts brief and avoid ALL CAPS. While we respect your first amendment rights, we are obligated to our readers to maintain these standards. Thanks for joining the conversation.

    Big Government Is NOT the Answer

    Your tax dollars are being spent on programs that we really don't need.

    I Agree I Disagree ×

    Get Heritage In Your Inbox — FREE!

    Heritage Foundation e-mails keep you updated on the ongoing policy battles in Washington and around the country.