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Home Publications Blogs Beat the Press Gates Can't Build Every Weapon System in Sight and Still Meet the Rising Defense Budget: Where is the Paradox?

Gates Can't Build Every Weapon System in Sight and Still Meet the Rising Defense Budget: Where is the Paradox?

Friday, 23 July 2010 04:33

The NYT had a peculiar front page article in which it portrayed Defense Secretary Robert Gates as a budget cutter even though he wants to increase the defense budget by 1.0 percent a year in excess of inflation. It notes that he doesn't want the government to buy some of the weapons system being pushed by Congress. It then comments:

"In one of the paradoxes of Washington budget battles, Mr. Gates, even as he tries to forestall deeper cuts, is trying to kill weapons programs he says the military does not need over the objections of members of Congress who want to protect jobs."

It is not clear what the article views as paradoxical. Increasing the defense budget by 1.0 percent a year in excess of inflation does not imply an austere budget. Nonetheless it also doesn't imply an infinite budget. There is nothing paradoxical about the defense secretary having to set priorities in this context.

The article also includes the peculiar comment that defense spending:

"has averaged an inflation-adjusted growth rate of 7 percent a year over the last decade (nearly 12 percent a year without adjusting for inflation), including the costs of the wars."

Inflation has not averaged anywhere near 5 percent over the last decade, so the 12 percent nominal growth rate is inconsistent with the 7 percent real growth rate.

Comments (14)Add Comment
..., Low-rated comment [Show]
Re: ...
written by Erik, July 23, 2010 5:58
The US isn't being asked to be jack shit, where the fuck would anyone get an idea like that?

(from chickenhawks trying to invent yet another "truth" out of thin air, that's where)
Endless Wars?
written by deanx, July 23, 2010 5:58
For some reason folks always feel compelled to keeping 'investing' in the next military confrontation, like Asia. We are repeatedly exacerbating tensions by taking offensive military positions.

We can not police all the bad things that can happen, and we can apparently not resolve much by force even when we try. After nearly a decade we have not measurably 'improved' situations in Iraq, Iran, North Korea and Afghanistan ,,, but we sure have devoted alot of gelt to the causes.

The more we endeavor to become the biggest gunsligger around, the more gun play we will encounter.
written by izzatzo, July 23, 2010 6:29
The only reason defense spending is in the news about reducing its budget is the jobless deep recession, which has triggered a new look at all government spending.

If defense spending, for which a great part is simple entitlements, was subject to the same criticism and scrutiny directed at Social Security for example by the austerity crowd, there would be howls and cries backed up by reams of analysis to easily justify reducing it by half and still provide the same amount of effective defense.
War budget
written by Anon, July 23, 2010 9:28
When the wars end, does Gates intend to keep the extra funds, or will the budget actually drop?
written by vorpal, July 23, 2010 2:38
I like Erik's comment.
written by vorpal, July 23, 2010 2:42
Notice how "Purple" used the term "counterbalance", because strategy shouldn't be left to the hoi polloi. It's very technical and we probably just can't understand the nuances of international conflict.

They would give us the truth about China, but "We can't handle the truth!"
written by Ryan Toso, July 23, 2010 3:01
Erik is correct. China gives no noticeable indication of wanting to start military conflicts; why would they? They get 8% stronger every single year by maintaining the status quo. That is what they will do until our roles are reversed. No need to fire a shot.

written by Queen of Sheba, July 23, 2010 6:46
In order to "counterbalance" China's influence in the Far East we have to spend eight times as much on our military budget as China spends on theirs? Does this make sense to anyone?

What makes more sense is that Gates' main job is making sure the military budget keeps growing - hence the political power of the DOD also grows - every other need of the country be damned. Calling the defense budget bill a "jobs" bill just keeps this country from having to start another war somewhere to justify the department's bloated spending.
written by zinc, July 23, 2010 6:52

IMO, there really is no justification for the current military expenditures other than the militaristic Fascism that has been brewing in the US since the political re-emergence of the Old South. Reagan (Indiana), Bush (Texas), Clinton (Arkansas), Bush (Texas).

The tracks of the Plantation capitalists are unmistakeable. Racism, wealth concentration, militarism, agricultarism, agricultural trade over manufacturing, special interest corruption of government, religiosity, and destruction of the social safety net.

written by zinc, July 23, 2010 6:55
Whoops, forgot Carter (Georgia)
purple has a point
written by fred, July 23, 2010 10:00
But he is off on the dates and the solution. Tensions will increase in Asia as oil and other raw materials get scarcer, but probably not until after 2020. China and Russia will let the Iranians do the dirty work of bringing the US to bankruptcy by fighting a long war of attrition. The Iranians will be able to do this courtesy of high-tech weaponry supplied by the Chinese and Russians. The Russian will supply the technology, the Chinese can supply the low-cost mass manufacturing capability. As the world's largest arms dealer, the US certainly can't complain about arms sales by the Chinese and Russians. The Iranians will concentrate on destroying expensive targets, like carriers and aircraft, rather than killing troops, so as to avoid escalating the war. Perhaps they'll even make a big publicity stunt of trying to rescue American soldiers and sailors. President Palin will walk right into the trap, with people like purple cheering her on. Nor will the US be able to hold the Chinese or Russians hostage due their ownership of dollars--they will trade those for euros before the hostility starts.

The good news is that the huge military expenditures of this war will finally bring about a full-employment economy here in the US, and also fix the trade-deficit, and also do much to reduce the disparity in incomes and wealth between rich and poor. The bad news is that the war will impoverish us. Ten or so years of labor that could have been put to good use will instead be wasted on war production. If we are really unlucky, the military will stage a takeover to hide its incompetence.
written by Erik, July 24, 2010 4:03
Cool story, Tom Clancy
written by X.S. Tenchull, July 26, 2010 11:03
If inflation has averaged about 2.75% in the past decade, than the reporter simply doesn't understand the concept of annualizing. "70%" and "120%" may have been simply divided by ten (years) to produce "7%" and "12%" ("averages"), rather than taken to the tenth root to produce 5.45% and 8.2% (annualized), which would indicate roughly a 2.75% inflation rate. Reporters are stupid, so this might be correct, but I don't feel like looking it up.

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Dean Baker is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C. He is the author of several books, his latest being The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive. Read more about Dean.