July 9th, 2010
08:08 AM ET
4 years ago

Defense spending: Slaying the sacred cow

A growing chorus of politicians and citizens is calling for defense spending to be scrutinized as much as any other federal program.
A growing chorus of politicians and citizens is calling for defense spending to be scrutinized as much as any other federal program.

New York (CNNMoney.com) - It was once sacrosanct. But no more.

A growing chorus of politicians and citizens is calling for defense spending to be scrutinized as much as any other federal program when it comes time to tighten the nation's fiscal belt.

The United States spends more on defense than any other country, and about five times more than China, which ranks second on the list.

Defense spending is a big ticket in Washington. At $689 billion this year, it accounts for about 20% of the entire federal budget. And it makes up 50% of the so-called discretionary budget, which pays for everything but entitlement programs and interest on the debt. In other words, all federal funding for education, infrastructure, transportation, the arts, and scientific research, to name a few.

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Filed under: CNNMoney.com • Department of Defense • Economy
soundoff (30 Responses)
  1. Chessnutz of Liverpool NY

    I would love to see the day when the Military has to have a bake sale to fund themselves instead of our children trying to fund their education.

    July 9, 2010 08:27 am at 8:27 am |
  2. Go USA!

    The GOP did it in the early 1990's. Bush and Cheney designed the drawdown and cuts in the military budget that helped Clinton balanced the federal budget (along with some tax increases and cuts in government spending). Do we miss Bill? Yes we do…

    July 9, 2010 08:28 am at 8:28 am |
  3. JonDie

    Bush and Cheney obviously didn't invent the "military-industrial complex."

    But from 2001 to 2009, Bush and Cheney did change the economy of the U.S....to an economy based on the notice that the U.S. must be in a permanent state of undeclared war so that the corporations could make unlimited profits, and we saw what happened in late 2008 when the gravy train stopped.

    Not only did allow Bush and Cheney to suppress the rights of individuals for the benefits of the corporations more than any administration in history but the "national security" now hangs over our collective heads more so that it did during the Cold War when the threat of nuclear war was real.

    According to conservatives, the national debt is a huge threat...unless they deem it necessary to spend the country into oblivion to protect "national security" (in this sense, Ron Paul is right).

    But WE let Bush and Cheney do this, so WE shouldn't complain too much. In fact, a substantial number of Americans want to return to the glorious years that were the Bush-Cheney presidency.

    July 9, 2010 08:36 am at 8:36 am |
  4. Bryan

    Many people seem to forget that the Defense Budget provides jobs for thousands of people in Defense companies. Cutting defense spending is tantamount to cutting yet more jobs in an economy that is already reeling. Defense spending is not some nebulous thing that merely provides bullets and missiles to Iraq and Afghanistan, it provides jobs to thousands of people in the United States. Please don't kill more jobs!

    July 9, 2010 08:40 am at 8:40 am |
  5. Dale

    The purpose of defense is to make our country more secure. But the debt is the biggest insecurity we face. So in large part, our military spending is responsible for the biggest threat we face. We are buying a problem.

    July 9, 2010 08:42 am at 8:42 am |
  6. bill

    i got a simple solution to defence spending.JUST TAKE IT OFF BUDGET LIKE BUSH DID. PROBLEM SOLVED. RIGHT

    July 9, 2010 08:47 am at 8:47 am |
  7. ronvan

    Watched the segment on this yesterday and could not agree more!
    We have soldiers in way to many countries, and countries that we do not even know about. It is long overdue to bring ALL of them home!
    As I have said before, we have the technology & air power to deter & destroy those that mean us harm.

    July 9, 2010 08:48 am at 8:48 am |
  8. Lynda/Minnesota

    What a fearful nation we have become. A pill for every symptom and a war for every cause. Too much media influence I suspect.

    Shh, CNN. The GOP would rather you NOT discuss the 1 Trillion dollars being charged to the national dept due to Bush's two wars. They will argue it was money well spent.

    After all, Congress voted with Bush, didn't they?

    (We won't talk about the faulty intelligence which led to the votes, either, OK?)

    July 9, 2010 08:48 am at 8:48 am |
  9. Bill

    So it is 50% of what we spend on social programs and the like? Which one should be looked at first. In my personal experience you look at the most expensive thing first. Ah ... but then I take it seriously, our political masters will just take more and more to cover that expense.

    July 9, 2010 09:20 am at 9:20 am |
  10. Ben in Texas

    Bloated defense spending is what did in the Soviet Union, and it will do us to death eventually. However, in the spirit of Nancy Reagan and her "Just Say No" campaign, the Repugnants will obstruct any effort to reverse the gusher of waste that is defense spending. They have made the word "no" into a lifestyle, and it's a choice that will destroy this country.

    All of that money that goes into defense spending doesn't just disappear, of course. It's all there, in corporate vaults and executive bonuses, where it does the least amount of good for the country.

    July 9, 2010 09:22 am at 9:22 am |
  11. Marge

    That's one of the things wrong with the republicans in congress. That's why the Citizens United Group are urging Obama to start a war with Iran. They know the two wars Bush started with innocent countries are winding down and they are messing their pants thinking about all that defense contract money to companies like Cheney's Halliburton will be cut off from the billions and billions they are getting. The money that would be much better to help pull us out of Bush Administrations mess.

    July 9, 2010 09:25 am at 9:25 am |
  12. The Corrupt Trio : Congress, Corporations, and the Military

    It's time to ATTEMPT to break up this triage of corruption. Eisenhower tried to put his two cents worth in, but this "problem" has gotten much worse. There is a REAL danger to our Democracy with this level of corruption. Can we break it? I don't know; BUT, I do know that we have to try. AND that leadership has got to come from an increasingly
    political military leadership. Someone important WITHIN the military has got to have the strength of character to speak out. It will probably be the end to his/her career; BUT, that is what a PATRIOT does. We
    have got to change direction.

    July 9, 2010 09:37 am at 9:37 am |
  13. Jack

    People dont relize that its more about the latest tech. That money helps pay our troops to do a job. Defend the USA. If the goverment want to cut the deficit stop raising taxes and cut the salaries of the actual poiticians in DC.

    July 9, 2010 09:37 am at 9:37 am |
  14. Rick McDaniel

    You either continue to spend on defense.......or you MUST stop being the world's policeman, one.

    We are facing the very real prospect of a third world war, as Iran develops nuclear weapons, so cutting defense now, appears to be worse than foolish.

    July 9, 2010 09:44 am at 9:44 am |
  15. jim

    So much of the defense budget is now being loaded up with democrat pork that they can't get through Congress in the normal way.This needs to stop !!! How is it that Cobra subsidy for health insurance part of defence spending?

    July 9, 2010 09:48 am at 9:48 am |
  16. Jane

    IF the democrats would take out the pork crap in the military spending bill that would be a start. No instead they have to sweeten the pot to get the bill through. Enough is enough make the $$ go to the bill headliner only no more add ins.

    July 9, 2010 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
  17. ran

    I say put the fear/hate/obstructionist/purity Republicans to the test and start by extending unemployment benefits by reducing defense spending. They are the ones who say no to anything unless it is paid for first.
    The deficit did not matter when they and Bush were in charge; but now it is going to be the death of us all overnight. Yet if they ever get back in charge it will not matter again.

    Anyone who would vote for the current Republicans with their fear/hate/obstructionist/PURITY ideology are needing some serious psychological help. Democrats or Independent is the only way to go for 2010/2012 and beyond as long as the Republicans continue their me! me! me! my way only! may way only mentality.

    July 9, 2010 09:52 am at 9:52 am |
  18. independent

    Your article would suggest that if we cut defense spending by fifty percent, we would still be spending 2.5 times more than China, the number two on the defense expenditure list.!!!!

    July 9, 2010 09:53 am at 9:53 am |
  19. Donald

    it is high time politicians and we citizens have the courage to look at the huge drain on our economy caused by excess military spending. Not only do we spend billions on useless and redundent weaponry for our so-called defense but worse, we spend billions on weaponizing other countries to extort their cooperation for resources – minerals or otherwise – Israel, just one of many.

    The hard part is that hundreds of thousands of US citizens enjoy well-paid jobs building all this weaponry. It is nothing new, we are still downwind of WWII.

    We need to realize that weapons are a huge political card in the often secret game of international politics. And often what is touted as essential for our safety and defense, is simply international politics.

    July 9, 2010 09:58 am at 9:58 am |
  20. Larry

    Our defense spending is a joke.

    War is young men dying and old men getting wealthy.

    I thought Obama was going to be different.

    July 9, 2010 10:00 am at 10:00 am |
  21. Purnell

    This is a good idea.

    July 9, 2010 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
  22. geecee

    Definitely cut defense spending. We do need more national security, but not the kind we currently have. Al Queda doesn't have an Air Force, nuclear Submarines, etc. We need more spec. ops, less of the hardware which is what costs so much to build. Sure, people will be put out of work, but isn't the argument of all conservatives that the federal government shouldn't be employing so many people and should be down-sized. Let these people go to work in private industry building windmills, solar panels, and other kind of manufacturing that will help get us off foreign (and foul) fuels like oil, and coal. Face realty, we cannot afford the size of the military we have all over the world. Get our troops out of Germany and Okinawa, etc. No need any more. We have enough to blow up the world 5 times over. We are protected against all types of attacks except the surreptitious Al Queda attacks, and for that we need more counterterrorism intelligence to stop them. More planes and subs won't help. We need to cut spending!!!

    July 9, 2010 10:11 am at 10:11 am |
  23. A choice come Nov.

    I am a Democrat but I even know that in order to have a safe democracy we must have a strong military for self defense. I dont mind cuts but dont cut out what our men and women need in our military for personal life expenses as well as making sure they have the right equipment to do their jobs wether in another land or at home. God bless our men and women in armed services!

    July 9, 2010 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  24. Bill from GA

    It's mostly about jobs, based on how most in Congress seem to vote. Why not take a growing portion of the money from defense and use it for infrastructure, maybe even high-speed rail? We would have something to show for it in 20 years, and might be safer if we stayed out of other countries affairs (unless they attack us first!).

    July 9, 2010 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  25. Bill from GA

    And, Hey, who made us the world's police force anyway? You gotta love it how we make a country (relatively) safe and China comes in and scoops up the assets. Watch Afghanistan for more of that. Whose fool are we??

    July 9, 2010 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
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