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Military funds -- 53 percent and growing

U.S. military spending makes up 53 percent of all U.S. discretionary spending -- more than $8,000 per second around the clock throughout the year! Health, education, environment, crime fighting, drug interdiction, welfare, transportation, research and so on, all compete for the other 47 percent.

The weight of military spending shapes every aspect of government life in America. Yet this heavy burden is not being discussed in presidential or congressional campaigns.

This reality both baffles and depresses -- even angers -- retired Rear Admiral Eugene J. Carroll Jr., deputy director of the Washington-based Center for Defense Information, who visited Kansas City last week. CDI, he says, supports a "sound, effective defense program." He then adds "but it needs to be rational."

It bothers Carroll, the career Navy officer, that Democrats and Republicans agreed that military spending was "off the table" when they looked for ways to slash this year's budget. U.S. military interests, he says, are so powerful that Congress increased military spending $11 billion over what the Pentagon had requested for 1997, bringing military spending to $265 billion.

Citizens, he says, are asleep to the threats this militarism portends both to the quality of life in America and to world peace itself.

Both Bill Clinton and Bob Dole vie over who will expand NATO sooner although there has been virtually no discussion about whether this is wise or unwise policy. NATO, Carroll reminds anyone willing to listen, was intended to deter Soviet influence in Europe. But the Soviet Union is now gone -- and a U.S.-led NATO, rather than dissolving, wants a greater world influence. Is this right, he asks. NATO expansion costs are projected, he says, at $100 billion over the next five years. Who is prepared to pay?

During a visit Carroll made to Russia last year nearly everyone he spoke with opposed NATO expansion, he says, seeing it as an affront and direct threat to Russia. The exceptions, he said, were Russian ultra-nationalists who liked having an "enemy" they could rail against. Russian nuclear disarmament is being slowed by NATO expansionism, Carroll says.

It was in September 1993 that current U.S. military policy was set forth by the Pentagon in its Bottom Up Review white paper. Under this policy, the U.S. military sees itself as needing to be prepared to fight and win simultaneously two major regional conflicts anywhere in the world -- without help from friends and allies.

Carroll says this is a totally unrealistic expectation that, in the long run, will weaken U.S. democratic foundations. "The costs of this policy are beyond imagination," he says.

The Pentagon, in the BUR paper, sets out "four new dangers." The first is posed by nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction, including stocks of such weapons in the former Soviet Union. The second is regional, both large-scale aggression by major regional powers and smaller, internal conflicts based on ethnic or religious animosities. The third involves dangers to democracy and reform in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. The fourth involve economic dangers to national security.

Based on these four "dangers," the U.S. military claims to need 1.5 million troops and plans to spend $1.6 trillion over the next six years.

CID, meanwhile, takes issue with these "arguable assumptions" and favors a public discussion about them. CID questions the need to fight and win two major regional conflicts, quoting Secretary of Defense William Perry, who, testifying before Congress, said, "Nowhere in our planning do we believe we are going to have to fight two wars at once. ... If we are fighting one war at once (sic), we want to have sufficient strength to be able to deter another war: that is, not invite somebody." This is, Carroll says, costly insurance.

Carroll adds that the United States spent more than 40 years and $12 trillion during the Cold War to provide a defensive shield for the democracies of Europe. He says the United States has every right now to expect those democracies would honor and support U.S. leadership in situations that might now demand a military response.

Carroll advocates scaling down U.S. fighting capabilities to a one war capability plus a small force capable of dealing with a limited contingency such as Haiti or evacuation of Americans from a threatened nation.

Carroll and CDI challenge the "forward deployment" of a quarter of a million soldiers overseas. "Not only does this posture increase the likelihood of U.S. involvement in regional disputes where no U.S. vital interests are involved, it is also very, very costly," he says.

CDI advocates basing U.S. military forces in the United States. "We already have the largest, most effective airlift forces in the world. A relatively small additional investment in sealift would give us the means to respond, when necessary and prudent, to military contingencies everywhere in the world," Carroll argues.

He denies this is an "isolationist" posture. Why not extend U.S. interests by stressing food production, water cleansing techniques, U.S. technology, or medical leadership, he asks. Why must we equate U.S. influence solely with U.S. military might?

CDI also challenges U.S. nuclear policy, which now calls for deployment of 3,500 strategic weapons plus approximately 5,000 tactical weapons.

Says Carroll, "This constitutes far more than a deterrent force -- it is a nuclear war fighting force -- and costs more than $20 billion each year to maintain." He says, "There is not the slightest evidence the U.S. is working toward the elimination of nuclear weapons. We want to maintain a policy of nuclear supremacy."

CDI, he says, has called for reducing U.S. nuclear capabilities to an interim deterrent force of 1,000 warheads carried in 14 Trident submarines in order to lead the world toward the ultimate abolition of all nuclear weapons.

"If the world keeps nuclear weapons, one day they will certainly be used," he says. This is the time to be pressing for a SALT III treaty.

Carroll goes on to list current Pentagon spending proposals. The Navy, he points out, wants 640 new F/A-18 E/F aircraft at a cost of approximately $85 million each; the Air Force wants 442 new F-22 stealth fighters at a cost of $158 million each. These two purchases are to be supplemented by up to 3,000 new Joint Strike fighters for both services at a yet to be determined cost.

The Marine Corps, meanwhile, want 523 V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor transports at a cost of $89 million each; the Army wants 1292 Comanche helicopters at a total cost of more than $44 billion.

To enhance military might at sea, the Navy wants 30 new attack submarines at a cost of $64 billion.

Current weapon system procurements, Carroll says, now total more than $700 billion. These are too costly and are not needed to deal with the next Iraq, North Korea or Libya, he says.

Finally, Carroll says the United States must stop being the self-proclaimed "world cop" and must put more support behind U.N. peacekeeping and peace enforcement operations. The United States, he says, now spends more on its military than the next seven nations combined. In sum, he says, "We are spending money we don't have -- to buy weapons we don't need to fight nonexistent foreign enemies."

Only an informed public discussion of the issues will lead to change, he says. He laments the fact that the American public seems all too willing to allow less and less to be spent on human needs and more and more on unnecessary military might.

-- Tom Fox

National Catholic Reporter, November 1, 1996