The Truth Behind The Military Budget Fight

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September 7, 2016 by Chris Kite

Paul Ryan is upset. He is on record as calling the Pentagon’s tactics of stopping his defense spending bill as shameless and pure politics. Other Republicans have also called it overly political and wrong.

So what is really happening?

Thanks for asking!

The Republican Congress has decided to increase military spending. They have painted it as critical to our troops. They want to increase spending over the budget by $18B. But they don’t want to increase the budget. So they plan to take the money from the overseas contingency fund. You know. The money set aside for our war on terrorism.

It sounds simple enough, so what’s the problem?

Thanks for asking again!

First, the Pentagon has not requested much of this spending. This is typical pork barrel defense spending where Congress is trying to tell the Pentagon how to do it’s job and that it is wrong when it told Congress what it wanted in its budget. It includes money the Pentagon has not asked for by adding 11 additional F-35 fighters, more Blackhawk and Apache helicopters, and more tilt rotor V-22 Ospreys. The Pentagon hasn’t asked for spending on those things because it knows that in addition to the initial expense, the ongoing expense will inflate the Pentagon’s future operational budget. The bill also includes money for training and equipping Syrian rebels, as well as money for Ukraine. And it undoes the Pentagon’s request to reduce one of the Navy’s 10 carrier air wings. Again. The Pentagon doesn’t want these things.

Second, Republicans don’t want to increase the federal budget to cover it. They like to call themselves fiscally conservative and you certainly can’t go increasing budgets if you want to call yourself that. So they want to take the money from the overseas operations budget. Does anyone remember the Bush years and his two wars combined with tax cuts. And the huge deficits? Well one of the ways we got into that trouble was pretending that the budget wasn’t going up even though the money was being spent. But it wasn’t being allocated. That is kind of like saying, we’re going to take this big vacation but it won’t impact our budget because we’re going to take the money out of the kid’s college account. Not a good idea!

Third, Paul Ryan is accusing the Obama administration of playing politics. But Paul Ryan is not being forthcoming about the reason the Obama administration won’t sign off on it. It has far less to do with politics than with common sense. President Obama remembers the trouble we were in when he took over in 2009. He remembers the budget games the Republican administration had played and the huge deficits it created.

Fourth, the Obama administration is being clear about this. The Pentagon hasn’t asked for the money. The money is not in the budget. Therefore the President is not going to approve it. When you put it that way, it seems perfectly reasonable.

Paul Ryan and his Republican defense contractor lapdogs should at least have to admit they are spending more money and increasing the budget. But I guess they don’t want people asking questions about how fiscal conservatives can be increasing the budget to pay for military stuff the Pentagon hasn’t asked for.

This is exactly the type of spending games that created so much trouble in the past. Spending money we don’t have on things the Pentagon doesn’t want and using a budget game to hide the fact that we are spending money that isn’t in the budget.

Hardly fiscally conservative now, is it?

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