Letter: Cut defense spending
We constantly hear our elected officials, media outlets and talk show pundits telling us that our country needs to start making some "hard choices" regarding our expenditures. I would like to ask you to remind your elected officials and your favorite pundit—Republican, Democrat, Tea Party, Libertarian or Independent—about cutting defense spending.
Have you noticed how the media, the candidates, the people in office all talk about "entitlements?" It’s time we start thinking about the real meat of where our taxes go.
Total defense spending—between 2001 and 2011, the United States spent $7.2 trillion dollars (in constant FY2012 dollars) on defense, including the Pentagon’s annual base budget, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and nuclear weapons-related activities of the Department of Energy.
The Pentagon’s annual budget—not including war costs or DoE’S nuclear weapons activities—grew from $290.5 billion in FY2000 to $526.1 billion in FY2011. That’s a nominal increase of $235.6 billion (or 81 percent) and a "real" (inflation-adjusted) increase of $160.3 billion, or 43 percent.
Annual funding for the Department of Energy’s nuclear weapons activities rose more slowly between FY2000 and FY2011, from $12.4 billion to $19 billion. That’s a nominal increase of $6.6 billion (or 53 percent) and a "real" increase of $3.3 billion (or 21 percent).
The total costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, including the Department of Defense and all other federal agencies, will reach $1.26 trillion by the end of the current fiscal year. Of this, $797.3 billion is for Iraq, and $459.8 billion is for Afghanistan. In constant FY2012 dollars, the totals through FY2011 are $1.36 trillion ($869 billion for Iraq and $487.6 billion for Afghanistan).
These figures are well known and fairly simple to track. Both the Department of Defense and the Office of Management and Budget provide data on Pentagon and other military-related spending as part of the annual federal budget request released in February each year.
Also, here’s another little tidbit of information about the Department of Defense. The U.S. Government Accountability Office was unable to provide an audit opinion on the 2010 fiscal statements of the U.S. government because of "widespread material internal control weaknesses, significant uncertainties and other limitations." The GAO cited as the principal obstacle to its provision of an audit opinion, "serious financial management problems at the Department of Defense that made its financial statements unauditable."
Here’s something to think about. Funding the wars is killing the troops. The Department of Defense and defense-related expenditures are killing our economy. Call your representative today. Tell them to cut defense spending and not to cut the benefit to the troops and their families. They are putting their lives on the line.