Donald Marron, a member of George W. Bush’s Council of Economics Advisers, thinks that the costly intervention in Libya underscores a need to reduce defense spending:
This year the US will spend about $110 billion in Afghanistan and $44 billion in Iraq. Regular defense spending is even larger, at about $550 billion. Military spending will total more than $700 billion this year.
Defense should be on the table as well. Military spending has more than doubled over the past decade. Some of that increase has been necessary to respond to the 9/11 attacks and the new challenges they revealed. But not all. Some of the increase has simply been excess.
Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, made this clear in remarks in January. Because of the dramatic expansion of the Pentagon budget, he said, “We’ve lost our ability to prioritize, to make hard decisions, to do tough analysis, to make trades.”
We also have embarrassingly little ability to track that spending. When the Government Accountability Office recently audited the government’s finances, it concluded – as it has for many years – that the Defense Department’s books are so poorly kept that they can’t be audited. Taxpayers are thus giving $700 billion a year to an organization that can’t prioritize and can’t tell us where the money is going. That’s unacceptable.
The problem of ever-increasing military spending is real. Yet military spending, unlike so much else that contributes to the deficits, is a legitimate function of government. And with a president who entered the national scene as an antiwar candidate bringing the number of wars we’re fighting to three, it’s hard to see where or how the government is going to cut military spending.