Defense Budget Series


Shock and Audit, by Rachel Morris

I’ve skimmed the series and it seems worth a more detailed read.  In the meantime, the opening paragraph contains this checklist, which reads like a manifesto of the Defense Reform Movement (of which Boyd was a founding member):

But although the press touted the proposals as bold and ambitious, they sounded suspiciously like the basic budgeting tips a financial adviser would dispense if you’d lost total control of your personal expenses. The essential principles were:

  • Keep track of money that comes in and goes out
  • Don’t buy things you don’t need
  • Don’t buy things that don’t work
  • If you do buy something that doesn’t work, don’t order 200 more of them

Now, we can argue over “need.”  I for one don’t feel that we need to keep a significant amount of conventional forces (particularly ships and tanks/ other armor), but there are people with reform credentials better than mine who  disagree.  Nonetheless, tough to argue with the other three.

Here’s another observation:  The cumulative cost overruns, about $300 billion, of weapons now in the defense budget is more than three times the entire defense budget of China, the world’s second biggest spender on defense, and, parenthetically, a country with a nearly 14,000 mile long border, every inch of which represents a potential threat.

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5 Responses to “Defense Budget Series”

  1. TBon 29 Jun 2009 at 9:37 pm 1

    The other day there was a blog discussion with the author stating the DoD budget needed to be a specific percentage of the GDP. The author did not specify why or say what the money was needed for other than to show with a historical graph that that was how it used to be.

    Money doesn’t equal a good military and we’ve had our rear ends handed to us on many occasions by opponents with the income of a newspaper route.

    Just like our parents taught us, we should decide what we’d like our standard of living to be (national military strategy), ensure we can afford it, and then resource it. If we cannot, then we must decide what is a strategic objective and adjust accordingly. If a specific dollar amount is required to pursue our CLEARLY STATED national objectives, then it should be as easy to display and prove as my personal budget on payday. (which still doesn’t guarantee a good military, just one that spends a reasonable amount of money to attain a defined goal)

    [CR: Excellent points. Next time you hear someone state that the DoD budget should be x% of GDP, ask them where they got x. Invariably they’ve pulled it out of thin air or from some part of their anatomy.]

  2. Maxon 30 Jun 2009 at 7:36 pm 2

    ” Next time you hear someone state that the DoD budget should be x% of GDP, ask them where they got x. Invariably they’ve pulled it out of thin air or from some part of their anatomy.”

    Now, now, Chet, it’s a nice reasonable, round, inocuos figure that’s desired as being essential to sustain and further expand
    the Congressional Mil. Ind. wellfare state, er, ah,,
    I mean, “to keep America safe.”

    Loggie will back me up on that one.


  3. loggie20on 30 Jun 2009 at 10:01 pm 3

    CR is correct. % GDP is no measure of the strategy, need justifying the expenses or other value force structure taking resources away from more productive uses.

    During Vietnam the % GDP spent on warfare was around 8%.

    Since the loss of any industrial age adversary the dollars spent on defense stay about the same, what declines is % GDP since as the military industrial complex devours about the same resources the economy has grown nearly twice so the old 8% is now 4% GDP.

    Heritage institute and a few others advocate % GDP as the metric.

    However, they quiet right down if the 1% spending on warfare in the first world is mentioned.

    When I most often hear this is in discussions on entitlements: Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and welfare.

    The argument is the US cannot abide with such and such a part of GDP going to entitllements while 5% of GDP for warfare is too little………….

    With as CR points out no rational for the level of spending in terms of threats or strategic impetus to deal with the non threats.

    Long post % GDP is a gut issue and has no rational value as a mneasure of anything by itslef.

    But that sells for some commentators in the media.

  4. loggie20on 30 Jun 2009 at 10:11 pm 4

    The reason that Motherjones is writing these things is well founded.

    The people running the defense department are not interested in any thing other than sending checks out the (revolving) door.

    There is no process for acquiring weapons, particularly when they create profits and PAC’s get involved.

    When the V-22 killed 19 Marines in Apr 2000 in Yuma, Az and flunked a big part of it tests the Navy got a full rate decision from the political side with the purse strings. Only thing derailed it was a fatal crash out of New River in Dec 2000.

    But it went to full rate in 2005.

    Still hugely unsuitable and costly and cannot do many missions the helicopters it is to replace do.

    Just one example.

    In my experience in defense acquisitions the standards of “good management” are no higher than the leadership not being violent felons. The standard for process is what is required in the 10 US Code on major procurement, anything more that that politically developed and vague set of actions is considered unaffordable and the proponents need to fight the uphill battle to do things that might deliver effective systems, if they don’t suffer whistlenlower retaliation for having a higher standard for managing trhe taxpayers’ resources than avoiding gross felony.

  5. Maxon 02 Jul 2009 at 3:12 pm 5

    “In my experience in defense acquisitions the standards of “good management” are no higher than the leadership not being violent felons.”

    Doing the math on the big picture, I’m taking about every cost, in every sense, I go so far as to say
    that in terms of being dead wrong and undermining our civilisation,
    and the ROW, there’s really not a very big difference between
    all that, and what Madoff was doing.