A Short Introduction to Defense Spending
Morgan Reynolds — January 5, 2008
The neo-conservative think tank founded by Richard B. Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld—Project for the New American Century—issued a paper entitled “Rebuilding America’s Defenses: Strategies, Forces and Resources for a New Century” in September 2000. Among other policies to accomplish the recommended American preeminence and military “dominance” including “space dominance,” it stated: “While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein.”
How to achieve such a massive military build-up and so-called pre-emptive wars like the unprovoked invasion of Iraq? “The process of transformation is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event—like a new Pearl Harbor,” suggested the PNAC document. PNAC was full of people who were subsequent appointees in the Bush/Cheney administration like Donald Rumsfeld, Elliot Abrams, Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Paul Wolfowitz, Dov S. Zakheim, and Zalmay Khalilzad. Lo and behold, the attacks of September 11, 2001 occurred exactly 12 months after PNAC pointed to a “new Pearl Harbor” as a “catalyzing event” for a military build-up worthy of a superpower. CBS News reported that the president on going to bed on 9/11 wrote in his diary: “The Pearl Harbor of the 21st century took place today.” Administration officials declared 9/11 an “opportunity,” an opportunity to reshape the world.
On September 30, 2005, Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice said at Princeton University: “But if you believe, as I do and President Bush does, that the root cause of September 11th was the violent expression of a global extremist ideology, an ideology rooted in the oppression and despair of the modern Middle East, then we must speak [sic] to remove the source of this terror by transforming that troubled region. If you believe as we do, then it cannot be denied that we are standing at an extraordinary moment in history.” Agreed, a “global extremist ideology” is at work but the issue is whose ideology is wreaking havoc in the world for whose benefit?
When Bush/Cheney took power on January 20, 2001, the Soviet Union had imploded nearly ten years earlier, U.S. defense expenditures had stagnated, and the Department of Defense, the intelligence services and their contractors were moribund. No worthy enemy was to be found. In each decade following WWII, defense spending had increased routinely except during the 1990s. In the Reagan era, for example, defense spending grew lushly from $157.5 billion in 1981 to $303.5 billion in 1989, a 93% increase. During the 1990s, however, with no worthy adversary for the American people to fear, defense spending slumped from $299.3 billion in 1990 to $274.8 billion in 1999, an 8% decline in annual spending despite price inflation. The fiscal wolf for the military industrial complex was at the door: permanent peace threatened to break out. The last two years of the Clinton administration, fiscal years 2000 and 2001, brought a bit of relief with consecutive $20 billion annual defense increases but only single digit growth rates. The attacks of September 11th cured the problem for the military-industrial-intelligence complex: a $44 billion increase in on-budget, reported defense spending in 2002 (+14%), a $56 billion increase in 2003 (+16%), a $51 billion boost in 2004 (+13%), a $40 billion increase in 2005 (9%), and a $26 billion increase in 2006 (5%) [figures calculated from Economic Report of the President].
In a few years, the defense establishment had its allowance raised by a staggering $4 billion per week and doubled its spending during the Bush/Cheney era. Because of hidden black budget spending for the intelligence services, lavish Homeland Security spending and other reasons, overall spending grew undoubtedly faster than so-called national defense spending alone. With its new enemy termed “terrorism” and active wars, the military-intelligence-police-contractor complex has prospered once again, at least on the surface. Beneath it, the military is disintegrating while war and the debt, taxes and inflation that go with it increase. Well, at least favored defense contractors profit, a “comforting” thought.
“Find me a way to do this [invade Iraq].”
— George W. Bush, eight months before 9/11