View Full Version : Defense Spending

08-30-2001, 03:42 PM
Seattle P-I story today states that George W. told the annual convention of the American Legion, the country needed what he called "the largest increase in military spending since Ronald Reagan was president," or $39 billion over 2001 levels.

He continued, "We have a clear-eyed foreign policy...I know this nation still has its enemies and we cannot expect them to be idle. And that's why security is my first responsibility, and I will not permit any course that leaves America undefended."

Ronald Reagan served during a time when the United States (ostensibly) still faced the biggest threat in the in the history of our country--the USSR. That union is long gone but military spending continues to rise and this year our President takes pride in increasing military spending more than his predecessors (who assumedly governed during a period of similar threats as he).

Are these increases really necessary?

Would America be "undefended" if we failed to spend on military at higher than Cold War levels? Will the Pentagon ever consider themselves fully armed and ready or are perennial increases inevitable?

Who benefits most from increases in military spending?

Is this a responsible way to spend federal money during tight economic times and a dwindling surplus?


<a href=http://seattlep-i.nwsource.com/national/37039_bush30.shtml>story in p-i</a>

08-30-2001, 05:15 PM
At least when you spend it on weapons you get cool stuff. I mean, B-2 bombers are cool. The new fighter plane is cool. You can sneak in other peoples' countries. You can blow stuff up. When you spend it on health care and old people and programs, all you get are whiners who vote for Democrats. :-)

08-30-2001, 08:17 PM
Only HALF of defense spending is on "cool stuff" like the B-2 bomber, tanks, artillery, battleships, and so forth.

The other half is spent on PEOPLE. That is, military pay and benefits, retirement, medical, housing, etc.

Why don't those who want defense cuts ever lobby for DECREASING THE MISSION? Do we really need to be in the Balkans, the Persian gulf, Haiti, Korea, and all points in between?

08-30-2001, 08:43 PM
Theme: I keep my gun loaded and so should you.

There is no doubt our defense spending is mismanaged and costs us more than it should due to inefficiency and pork-barrel orders that benefit corporate contibutors to members of congress. That is a mess, certainly.

However... I hesitate to downplay the importance of a strong military. I simply refuse to believe that this is the first time in the history of the human race that the world is a safe place. The rest is in the details. We may need to spend more, we may need to spend less and just focus more on certain aspects. Whatever the approach we need a strong military because humans suck.

Remember, World War One was called the "war to end all wars". In the aftermath, many of the world's most brilliant and influential leaders believed and acted as if we had entered a new era of everlasting peace where it was simply impossible to imagine any kind of threat to the world's peace and freedom. We know how that turned out, and how quickly.

It's easy to become complacent and I don't think now is the time for it. Now is not the time to think of Russia as a harmless old man or to think of China as an eager hopeful participant in responsible world leadership.

Personally, I believe there's a good chance there will be a major conflict in Asia sometime within the next forty years and western nations could easily be dragged into it.


08-30-2001, 11:52 PM
Conservatives throw money at defense and criticize liberals for throwing money at social problems. Liberals throw money at social problems and criticize conservatives for throwing money at defense. If simply putting more money into the pot is wrong, it is wrong wherever it is done.

If George W. thinks we need to spend more money, he needs to tell us why. Where and how is our inadequate spending hurting us? Precisely what weapons and programs do we need and why? What threats does he see on the horizon and what strategy does he advocate to go along with the increased spending to counter those threats?

I doubt he can answer these questions, but hopefully some people in his administration can so that we can judge the merits of their views. We pissed away a lot of money when the Evil Empire was allegedly the root of all evil in the world and we therefore had to counter on every front. We should be wary of those who might present the same faulty arguments now.

08-31-2001, 05:31 AM
One of the reasons we are seeing a requirement for increases in defense spending is the US public's lack of willingness to see casualties in combat. Body bags are very bad press for any military commander. Because of that, we see the nation's military investing in things like F-22 fighters and stealth technology. Big dollar, high cost, high overhead systems that make big news when they drop bombs and get away unscathed.

If the US is going to continue to insist on the silly assed mission of "peace keeping" then we're going to need more weapon systems that can deliver effective strikes without putting troops at risk. The same holds true for future war fighting. Look at the Gulf War. It is still viewed as a video game with real planes. For every frame of footage showing a group of grunts running across the desert, you see a dozen frames of FLIR images showing laser guided bombs dropping through air vents and Hellfire missles swatting tanks.

The nation needs to decide what it wants. If they want to continue misusing the military in humanitarian and peace keeping missions, then they're going to need to spend the money on complex technologies to keep the soldiers from getting hurt. If they want a military which is intended to engage in warfare, then they need to restructure their budgets to provide training funds, training ammunition, workable boots for the Infantry, modern parachute technology for the Airborne, etc. Unfortunately boots and parachutes aren't billion dollar defense programs. They don't provide pork to a dozen congressional districts and get the congressdrones face on TV. What they do provide is adequate equipment for soldiers, airman, sailors and marines to do their job.

Throw away the F-22, replace each of them with something approaching 250 cruise missiles. Do the same with the B-2 fleet only then replace each of them with closer to 2500 cruise missiles. Get rid of the JSF and develop specific mission aircraft. Upgrade the A-10s and forget the stupid idea of using F-16s and F-15s as ground support aircraft. Upgrade the 15s and 16s to meet the avionic standards necessary to employ the AMRAAM to it's fullest extent and turn them back into fighters. If we need a limited range, tactical bomber, build one dedicated to that mission, throw the F-15E away and replace it with a dedicated Attack plane. Replace it with what the F-111 was originally intended to be.

Then replace all of the politicians and military commanders who want to put soldiers into police officer's jobs and nursing positions. When politicians want to committ troops to places like Kosovo, if there's not a war there, there's no business putting soldiers there. Same goes for Somalia, Haiti and every other piss trickle place the US has sent soldiers and warfighters to enforce the peace. It's a conflict of purpose for the troops and it does little but reinforce the public impression that our military can do its real job without anyone getting hurt. Of course, YMMV.

08-31-2001, 09:51 AM
You make some good points about defense spending, but the Soviet Union really was a problem. The Cold War made sense. We won it and stopped a true force of evil in the world. I don't understand the retro-apologizing for the Soviets, who were absolutely rancid, murdered millions, and took over any countries they could. Good riddance, but too bad we have the ChiComs to deal with now.

08-31-2001, 01:38 PM
agree about the need to stop the commies. I just wonder if we didn't devote a little too much of our resources to the military build-up. I mean the amount of nuclear weaponry we have is just ridiculous.

I've also heard some sound arguments that once both the Russians and US had nukes, neither side was going to battle. the cost is simply too high.

this is also the reason I don't fear a large scale confrontation with China. It would be suicide to go to war if either side had even a small nuke arsenal. the commies may be evil, but they're not crazy.

08-31-2001, 03:01 PM
The Evil Empire was indeed evil. I didn't mean to retro-apologize. Certain aspects and policies of the Cold War did make sense.

But not all. The United States assumed that Stalin and his successors were responsible for all the trouble in the world. They were not. This caused us to spend unwisely and to make a lot of bad decisions that caused a lot of suffering. The people of Guatemala come to mind, following our overthrow of their government in 1954. Vietnam, of course, is another prime example. People we supported, in the name of anti-communism, also murdered large portions of their own country's populations.

This is not retro-criticism. George Kennan, Walter Lippman and Henry Wallace, to name 3 prominent people, foresaw all of the problems in the 1940s, including the rise of McCarthyism. These were not radicals. Kennan basically invented containment. Lippman was a mainstream political commentator, the most respected and famous in his time. Wallce moved left, but he was Secretary of Commerce in the Truman administration and Vice President before Truman. (Interesting to speculate how the world would have been different had Roosevelt died while he was VP.)

There are certainly still evil people in the world and we need a strong defense. But to blindly spend more for the sake of doing so is foolhardy, as it was during the Cold War. We were told then that we needed to spend more because the Soviets were. It never ocurred to us that they were A) woefully inefficient; B) bastards who didn't care about the welfare of their own people; and C) spending themselves into bankruptcy.

By all means let's not revise history to make the Soviets anything other than what they were. Your "rancid" seems particularly apt. But let's also not revise history to sugarcoat our own evil actions and mistakes.

08-31-2001, 03:11 PM
I am not an expert on nuclear strategy, but I have read some stuff that leads me to believe we came closer to nuclear war than we might want to imagine. There was a long period of time where we could have had a successful first strike against the Soviets, and I am not naive enough to think we didn't think long and hard about it. Once the Soviets had enough weapons we went to the MAD strategy, at least for public consumption, but our victory in the Cold War was because we always explored the first strike option. That is, accurate silo busters and counterforce strategies put pressure on the Soviets to spend more on missiles because of the threat of a survivable first strike. Not many missiles are necessary for a credible MAD strategy, so I don't think the nuclear war planners believed in MAD as a strategy. As a result of their strategy perhaps, but not as the goal. The brilliance of the Star Wars program was that we sent the Soviets into a spending panic trying to keep up. We spent very little money, relatively, on Star Wars stuff but forced the Soviets to spend a very high percentage of their miniscule wealth on weapons. No doubt there was wasteful spending in the Cold War, but we got a lot more for our dollar than the Soviets.

China may not get into a direct conflict with us, but I wouldn't be surprised to see them take over Japan and other Pacific nations. They will test us by attacking Taiwan, then go on to other things. I think this is why they are developing technology for accurate MIRVs and nuclear missile submarines. Our response to the Taiwan attack will say a whole lot. Given the fact that the Chinese have a very long view of things, I don't think they've forgotten what Japan did in WWII. I don't think they have forgiven and forgotten the war crimes and genocide committed by the Japanese. But this is speculation on my part. Read some Bill Gertz stuff to heighten your suspicion level on China's motives.

08-31-2001, 03:35 PM
Good points, although I think we knew how inefficient the Soviets were and used our spending as a war strategy. See my nuke war post above on that. Nobody can defend everything we did in the Cold War. Certainly we made our fair share. But a lot of people got a lot for the money we spent, when we look at it in broad terms. I think Germany probably thinks our money was well spent.

BTW, as to McCarthyism, I was talking to a guy recently who mentioned some new research about the Soviet infiltration of the State Department in the post-war years. As it turns out, McCarty might be an example of "just because you are paranoid doesn't mean they are not after you." Anyone familiar with this research? I don't have a cite for it and would like to read some about it.

08-31-2001, 08:50 PM
No doubt Soviet espionage was a real thing. One should always expect our enemies to be at their worst. But the harm caused by McCarthyism was horrific and beyond what we should have to endure in democratic society. McCarthy was not paranoid. He was a pathological liar and a demagogue. If he cared at all about Communists in government it was because he wanted more of them to drive his political crusade.

As for Soviet "infiltration" of the State Dept., while it would be unreasonable to expect that no people passed on info. to our enemies, paranoia more closely defines the situation than anything else. Who did more damage to our country: Alger Hiss or John Foster Dulles? Zero Mostel or John Rankin? Daniel Ellsburg or Henry Kissinger? I don't think it's a close call. Those who were paranoid about communism need to be held accountable for the tremendous harm they caused.

No one denies the importance of combatting Communism and Communist influence in the U.S. during the Cold War. It was the extent and the methods of that combat that were ill-advised.

08-31-2001, 10:27 PM
The whole concept of the "Missile Defense System" boggles my mind. We're supposed to develop this system to prevent "rogue nations" from using ICBMs to hit the continental US.

Here's a brief bit of technical data about modern nuclear weapons. The actual warhead (includes the "physics package" the initiator, the spark plug, necessary tampers, foam buffers, nutron injectors and tritium reservoirs) for the typical modern nuclear weapon make up approximately 1/3 its overall length and approximately 1/4 its overall weight. Given that modern US nuclear devices are based on widely available technological foundations and engineering practices, it's reasonable to assume that the warheads posessed by the "Big-5" nuclear powers are similar in size.

In the current US active stockpile, the most common warhead is the W-80 and it's variants such as the W-83 and W-90. In it's typical form, it's intended to be the nuclear warhead for a number of different cruise missile systems such as the Tomahawk. The W-80-0 and the W-80-1 are the two warheads kept in the enduring stockpile. the -1 has a slightly lower yield which, since it's intended for the Air Launched version of the overall system, indicates that it has a slightly lower "boost" factor. Likely from the replacement of one or more tritium reserviors with internal guidance and safety systems. The -0 is intended for the Surface Launched Cruise Missile and has a yield adjustible between <5kt and variable between 170kt and 200kt. The first yield is most likely the unboosted primary of the system. The variability in the other yields comes from the addition of tritium boosting and the amount and injection rates of that tritium.

Okay, the boring part is out of the way. Here's the clincher. the W-80 in either of it's fielded versions is approximately 12 inches in diameter and 32 inches in length. It's a metal cylinder with a domed top and a flat bottom fitted into a slightly expanded flange. All of the warhead access is through the flanged panel at the flat end. It weighs 290 pounds. That's right friends and neighbors, a 200 kiloton nuclear bomb that will fit in the floorboard of any car on the road today. If you've got a really ballsy terrorist, it can be carried in a backpack.

Then we go to the really scarey bombs. My personal favorite is the MK-54. It's roughly oval, approximately 11 inches across the short diameter, approximately 18 inches across the long. About the size of a good watermelong. It it's current warehoused configuration, it weighs approximately 52 pounds. It's yield is adjustable between ten and twenty tons. Now, stop to consider that the bomb that McVeigh used in Oklahoma City was just over two tons, used an explosive approximately 1/3 as energetic as TNT and was less than 35% efficient. It generated approximately .5lbs TNT equivalent yield.(I know the numbers don't come out exactly right, there were some atmospheric and blast dynamic effects that made McVeigh's bomb have a bit more effect than it's total explosive yield would indicate." The MK-54 is approximately 40 times as powerful as the OKC bomb, Can fit in an oversized tool box, a backpack, a bowling bag, a typically sized salesman's sample case.

Okay, where's this going? We have a government who wants to spend trillions on a missile defense system to keep rogue nations from shooting ICBMs at us. Friends and neighbors, we can be able to develop a system that will have 100% reliability at shooting down even near shore detected, submarine launched missiles and it will generate very close to Zero in terms of expectation of reduction of our threat of nuclear terrorism or attack.

Tom the Terrorist, or his cousing Mustafa, Chang, Kim, Miguel, etc, doesn't need an ICBM. In fact, the money these nations have to spend to develop a viable missile system that can hit the US from either a submarine, surface ship or land base, is orders of magnitude greater than they need to simply build small bombs. Assume their engineering ability is only half that of the US folks like Los Alamos and Pantex. Assume the bomb will have to be the same size as the device built by South Africa during the late 70s. It was able to be fitted into an air droppable bomb case which makes it less than two feet in diameter, studies of the explosion after their test indicate the type and efficience of the device which gives a rough size for overall length and weight. give or take an inch or two, it was roughly 19 inches in diameter, 36 inches in length, weighed approximately 500 pounds. It also had the highest historical yield for the "gun type" nuclear weapon. In short, the technology is now were a moderately advanced industrial nation can build a bomb approximately the size of a 30 gallon water container. Build it to a level where they obtained a yield of between 255 and 275 kilotons out of a smaller nuclear core than was used in the Hiroshima bomb. 17 times the bang of Little Boy, 1/18 the weight and will fit in the trunk of the rental Hyundai you drive to the Port of Seattle where you pick it up from the shipping container full of scrap metal parts being shipped in by a scrap metal broker so you don't even have a realistic way of interpreting the source of the contents of the container.

We now have a very efficient, very safe, very easy to use nuclear weapon in our Hyundai and the odds of it being picked up by customs were outlandishly good and definitely gave us the pot odds to bet we're going to get it into the country.

Now, what exactly is this multi-trillion dollar anti-missile system going to do to prevent our illustrious terrorist crew from driving that Hyundai right up in front of the US Capitol Building the evening of the State of the Union Address and taking out our entire national leadership except for some knob from the President's Cabinet such as the Seceretary of Agriculture who's been scooted away so as to ensure succession of power? "Poof", no federal government.

More interested in a more "pure" terrorist attack? We drive south from Seattle to Los Angeles and wait for the highest air traffic rate in and out of both LAX and Orange County. The traffic rates are published by the FAA and the airlines so we'll know to within a quarter hour or so. Park it in the long term parking, set the timer. Hop our plane for TaiPei and hear the horrible news as we wake up the next morning to meet our PRC ally who's going to sneak us across the straight back to China. LAX is literally gone. All of the aircraft in a roughly 600 mile range lose their GPS, LORAN and most of their internal electronics. (Hint: Shielding them against lightning strikes isn't really in the same league as shielding them against the EMP from a 1/4 megaton nuke) In short, from San Francisco to Cabo san Lucas and from Vegas out into the Pacific, virtually every airborne aircraft either crashes from lost power, crashes on landing because of lost air traffic control or survives landing but is essentially irreperable. How many airlines are hubbed at LAX? How many banks have major financial centers in Los Angeles County?

The missile defense is an abolutely silly waste of time. Anyone who shoots a missile at us already knows that we'll see it launch, track it and know where it's going to land. Its flight characteristics, launch signature, flight profile changes and reentry profile will tell us exactly what kind, down to the production lot, missile it is. Before that missile is on the ground, the 82nd Airborne Division is going on alert, half of our aircraft are leaving the ground and the Navy is powering up to head to kick some missile launchers asses. Or, it comes in through the port of Longview, Washington and the first thing we know about there being a problem is when it and six if it's warhead brothers simultaneously take out the US Capitol, Manhattan Island, Atlanta, Denver, Seattle, Chicago and Honolulu.

We don't need a missile defense, we need to find the lost weapon grade fissiles and take them away from people who won't play with them nicely. Oh, but that would require increasing the budget in areas of intelligence collection and that doesn't provide any trillion dollar projects for the CongressDrones to get their pictures taken with.

Never mind, what was I thinking...

09-01-2001, 02:41 AM
"Poof", no federal government.

Stop teasing me. You're making me weepy.


09-01-2001, 08:09 AM
"Who benefits most from increases in military spending?"

Investors and owners, primarily. The military and intelligence services help stabilize the international business environment by threatening foreign powers that might interfere, however indirectly, with the flow of commerce and conditions for favorable investment, and by propping up regimes that facilitate the process. There are also domestic advantages of having a significant portion of the economy under government control (building more tanks and planes during recessions) and in subsidizing high-tech R&D before spinning it off to the private sector for profit. There's also the old-fashioned graft of defense corporations and their representatives funding political campaigns, but that's more about the particulars of the process.

The American public pays for a disproportionately large military -- several times larger and infinitely more powerful than the combined military forces of all states it considers adversaries -- because it's disproportionately inclined to accept proclamations about foreign "threats," even ones so absurd that they're lampooned in "Doonesbury." They're also not privy to much discussion of questions like the one above because the same institutions that benefit from defense spending exert powerful influence over the mainstream media.

I read somewhere Austrians, during the height of the cold war and somewhat nestled at its crossroads, spent more money on their national opera than on their national defense. I suspose they piggybacked on NATO, but I suspect this had something to do with having a different experience with the benefits of military spending.

09-02-2001, 12:57 AM
Can't disagree with you - Star Wars worked as a Cold War strategy, but I don't think it can stop the most likely attack. Perhaps no attacks.

Oh, and it sorta seems like you know what you're talking about.

09-04-2001, 07:39 PM
Of course it is not. You must realize that George W.Bush, though a deserter, was installed as president by the inteeligence community in FLorida, and illegal Military ballots were part of it.

He is beholden to right wing extremists that percieve the supremacy of the miltary industrial complex. Anyone that fails to agree with them shall have problems.

A coup d'etat took place in Florida without firing a shot.

09-06-2001, 02:43 PM
People who inform should not be surprised to find that their Karma bites them in the ass. You have a tax problem.