The Doomsday Clock is an internationally recognized design that conveys how close we are to destroying our civilization with dangerous technologies of our own making. First and foremost among these are nuclear weapons, but the dangers include climate-changing technologies, emerging... Read More
When taking into account the costs of military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. defense budget has more than doubled since fiscal year 2001. And yet, despite this growth, the appetite for more defense funding has continued unabated, and our security dilemmas appear to grow.
The next war--the battle for even more defense spending--is now under way. Major weapons program manufacturers are worried that Defense Secretary Robert Gates may be serious about looking for "hard choices" that need to be made in the Pentagon's procurement program.
When we think about controlling the budget, we think about things like Medicare, Social Security, and urgent domestic needs such as education and alternate minimum taxes. But the most urgent fiscal and planning challenge the next president will face is the defense budget.
The United States badly needs to get its act together in promoting its national interests and national security objectives. And it badly needs to "rebalance" its statecraft toolkit, so U.S. civilian tools can perform their missions. Currently, too much of the domestic dialogue about our role in the world has focused on near-term security problems--namely, defeating Al Qaeda and stabilizing and reconstructing Iraq and Afghanistan.
In 2008, the United States will spend more than $600 billion on defense, including funding for the Iraq War. If Congress adds the remainder of what President George W. Bush has requested for Iraq and Afghanistan, spending will top $700 billion.
Congress is once again working overtime to complete the federal budget. National security is at the forefront of the debate, as Congress has finally passed (and the president has signed) its $459.3 billion defense appropriations bill for fiscal year 2008. (The bill also contains another $11.6 billion in emergency spending for the new mine-resistant, ambush-protected armored personnel carrier intended for the army and marines in Iraq.)
As the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan batter our national consciousness, we should recall that heady time a few years ago when some observers thought the United States would serve as the benign hegemon of a globalized world and the enforcer of global stability.
The United States seems to be experiencing a never-ending, rapidly growing demand for money from the armed services and Defense Department. On an upward slope since 2001, this demand now stands at unprecedented levels. If Congress provides all of the resources requested by Defense in its new budget, the United States will spend more on defense in comparable (constant) dollars than at any time since World War II.