Politics

Current Military Spending $700 Billion
Conn Hallinan


An inordinately large section of Bush's military budget will end up in the coffers of the "Big Five" - Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Boeing, Raytheon, and General Dynamics. But unraveling that budget is no easy task.

The budget request for fiscal 2005 is $401.7 billion, a 9.7% jump, but there are a host of programs hidden in other budgets.

For instance, the $401.7 figure doesn't include $18.5 billion for nuclear weapons, because that expense is tucked away in the Department of Energy budget.

Homeland Security, and related programs in Transportation, Justice, State, and the Treasury, add another $42.5 billion.

What should also be included are the Department of Veterans Affairs ($50.9 billion)

The Interest on defense-related debt ($138.7 billion).

The administration has already informed Congress that it intends to ask for a $50 billion supplement for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (it got $62.6 billion last spring and $87 billion in November).

Hit the add button, and the military budget looks more like $702.3 billion. That's real money.

Troops Left Out

But not for the troops. The average front-line trooper makes $16,000, the same as a Wal-Mart clerk, and according to a study by Nickel and Dimed author Barbara Ehrenreich, more than 25,000 military families are eligible for Food Stamps. The new budget will raise wages 3.5%, but most of that hike will go to the high-tech Air Force (9.6%), not the larger Army (1.8%).

The arms corporations are another matter. Lockheed Martin, Boeing, and Northrop Grumman will corner one out of every four of those dollars.

There are other spigots besides the military budget that pour money into the coffers of the Big Five. The big winners in NASA's budget boost will be Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and TRW - all major space contractors.

This generosity is repaid come Election Day. In the 2002 election cycle, defense firms, led by Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman, poured over $16 million into Political Action Committees (PAC) at a ratio of 65% for Republicans and 35% for Democrats. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, those figures appear to be holding in the run up to the 2004 elections as well.

The collusion between politicians, the military, and the defense firms is particularly egregious in the administration's race to deploy an antiballistic missile (ABM) system. The ABM soaked up 15% of the $43.1 billion slated for weapons development in 2003 - 60% of which went to Lockheed Martin, Boeing, and Raytheon - and it is getting a major boost in the new budget.

The hemorrhaging of money by the ABM has churned up opposition from current and former military leaders. Led by retired Admiral William Crowe, former chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, 48 admirals and generals recently urged that the administration halt deploying the ABM and instead divert the $53 billion slated to be spent on the system over the next five years to protecting the nation's ports from terrorism.

While the military budget and ancillary programs continue to balloon, domestic spending will rise a tepid 0.5%; the White House is highlighting its plan to raise education spending by 3%, but that will only mean a jump of $1.6 billion, less than the cost of a single Northrop Grumman B-2 bomber.

Conn Hallinan is an analyst for Foreign Policy in Focus and a provost at UC Santa Cruz. Posted with permission from Foreign Policy in Focus.
April 17, 2004

 

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