(MintPress) – The military is sounding the alarm over sequestration cuts to the U.S. defense budget, which its leaders indicate will have enormous consequences on the nation’s national security efforts. Yet U.S. Treasury Department data indicates that in the last 10 years, the Defense Department has seen an increase of funding to the tune of […]
(MintPress) – The military is sounding the alarm over sequestration cuts to the U.S. defense budget, which its leaders indicate will have enormous consequences on the nation’s national security efforts. Yet U.S. Treasury Department data indicates that in the last 10 years, the Defense Department has seen an increase of funding to the tune of 54 percent.
The across-the-board sequester cuts were sent into motion March 1 when Congress failed to reach a budget deal. To the dismay of both parties, social programs and the Defense Department were on the chopping block — costing programs more than $85 billion.
The cuts hit America’s lower class the hardest, with more than 600,000 women and children assisted through the WIC nutritional service being dropped from the program, according to a White House fact sheet. Cuts to education will leave 70,000 students without access to Head Start and likely will lead to the elimination of 10,000 teaching jobs.
Rather than highlighting wasteful spending in Iraq, which totaled $8 billion, according to a recent report by the U.S. inspector general, the lower class has been told to bear the burden of budget cuts. Republican Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee called on the State Department to complete a full review, yet his cries fell on deaf ears.
Meanwhile, other conservatives, especially those with Tea Party leanings, applauded cuts to portions of the budget, including social programs. Their argument halted, however, when discussing cuts to the Defense Department.
“What’s happening with the defense sequester is the worst thing I’ve seen in 20 years,” said former Missouri Republican Sen. Jim Talent in a recent address at the University of Missouri – St. Louis, adding to his speech that “funding defense on the cheap is not going to prevent the disastrous consequences.”
The Obama administration doesn’t necessarily disagree, but argues that if Republicans had been willing to raise taxes on the wealthy, the current scenario could have been avoided.
“Unfortunately, many Republicans in Congress refuse to ask the wealthy to pay a little more by closing tax loopholes so that we can protect investments that are helping grow our economy and keep our country safe,” a White House statement regarding the impact of the sequester stated. “By not asking the wealthy to pay a little more, Republicans are forcing their children, seniors, troops, military families and the entire middle class to bear the burden of deficit reductions.”
Congress works to spare defense budget, not social programs
Last week, Congress agreed to alter portions of the sequestration, including cuts to the defense department. Rather than issue across-the-board cuts, the new resolution will allow the department to cut specific programs and agencies.
Todd Harrison, a defense analyst for the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, told Bloomberg News the spending bill reduces the impact of defense department cuts by adding money to the Pentagon’s maintenance and operations budget, leaving the military with a 9 percent budget cut.
Even so, the Defense Department has said layoffs are on the way, as it plans to release furlough notices within the coming weeks.
And while positions are being cut, there’s question over whether there are other areas the Defense Department could trim down. The value of military contracts this year alone has already totalled $67 billion, according to Department of Defense figures.
In November 2012, Republican Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma released a report detailing wasteful spending inside the Department of Defense.
“I prepared this report because the American people expect the Pentagon’s $600 billion annual budget to go toward our nation’s defense,” he wrote in the “Department of Everything” report. “That isn’t happening. Billions of defense dollars are being spent on programs and missions that have little or nothing to do with national security, or are already being performed by other government agencies.”
His report’s key findings, as detailed by the New American magazine, included the $6 billion spent on “research projects that have little or nothing to do with national defense.” It also highlighted $9 billion spent on Pentagon-run grocery stores in the United States.
As pointed out by New American writer Bob Adelmann, the defense budget in 2000 was half of what it was in 2012 — if the nation were to operate on the equivalent of that today, it would save up to $300 billion annually.
While there clearly are more expenditures, $300 billion is a rather large figure, considering sequestration cuts this year totaled across-the-board $85 billion worth of cuts, hitting social programs, including $543 million in cuts to nutrition programs aimed at helping women and children in need.
And still, as Sen. Corker points out, the wasteful spending that has gone on in the reconstruction of Iraq has remained unpunished, brushed aside as the nation deals with how to rein in its spending habits.