On Tuesday, news broke that the President is planning to request the largest Pentagon budget in history.
You read that right. President Obama will likely ask for a $534 billion base budget, in a move that’s being sold as part of a strategy to beef up responsiveness to emerging worldwide threats and fund efforts against ISIS and others.
This plan will blow past budget caps to the tune of $34 billion in 2016 and $150 billion over the next five years.
Many in the new Congress, it’s sad to say, are eager to both hike overseas spending and ignore budget controls, with some Republican leaders saying they’ll do anything they can to “fix” sequestration.
The argument that more money – and fast! – is what’s needed to keep us safe is dishonest at best.
For one, when it comes to wars, the money’s already there. It’s in the Overseas Contingency Operations budget. This money is immune to budget caps, and is often used as a slush fund to spend beyond them. OCO got an additional $64 billion in the latest “CRomnibus” budget deal, and now President Obama is set to request about $60 billion more.
It’s hard to imagine that the fund has dried up, or that it needs the extra billions the President wants. Meanwhile, the suggestion that even more base funds are needed to keep us safe is dubious and should be questioned.
This assumption misses a key part of keeping America truly safe: Reforms, streamlining, and a real modernization strategy. Simply piling on more money allows the Pentagon bureaucracy to avoid any tough choices.
As retired Lt. Col. Tony Shaffer said in 2013, “We need an effective defense, not an expensive defense. There are tons of cuts we can still make.”
He’s right. Any honest assessment of the Pentagon reveals that it, like any other government agency, is absolutely loaded with waste, fraud, and abuse. Whether we’re talking about over $1 trillion for a jet that barely works or hundreds of millions in excess military-grade equipment controversially gifted to local police forces, it’s clear that there’s no reason to treat this particular bureaucracy with kid gloves.
That’s exactly what the President and likely many Republicans in Congress want to continue doing, though.
Few would argue against giving our military the funding it needs; not many would say the sequester is anything close to perfect. It’s obvious that arbitrary and tiny discretionary spending cuts will never solve our long-term budget shortfalls.
But when both parties run screaming from the mere suggestion of spending reform, while dishonestly pretending our national security depends continuing to pile money into a bloated bureaucracy with almost no oversight, “fiscal responsibility” becomes nothing more than a campaign slogan.
When you hear politicians inevitably use such rhetoric in 2016, remember that very few, if any, really mean it.