America’s Bloated Military

When one thinks of government largess and inefficiency, the military is hardly the first thing to come to mind — in fact, it’s very often seen as representing the pinnacle of efficiency and integrity, acting as a sort of foil for the incompetent bureaucrats and sleazy politicians in Washington.

Unfortunately, like any large institution, the military — and the rest of the defense apparatus — is just as prone to waste, abuse, and inefficiency, especially when you throw in the pernicious influence of big business (and their supporters/benefactors in Congress).

Mother Jones has provided an excellent in-depth look that explores just how costly our national defense is becoming. From opaque accounting practices and messy bookkeeping, to overindulgence in over-priced and questionable projects, it seems that our military is becoming an increasingly unsustainable burden on our budget and our wider economy (insofar as it drains resources from other worth initiatives).

I encourage you to read the piece in its entirety, as it’s one of the most comprehensive reports on the subject (at least to my knowledge). Obviously, investing in national security to some degree is necessary; but it’s unlikely that defending our borders to the fullest extent requires the amount of spending currently demanded.

Indeed, much of the money goes to things that seem irrelevant in the 21st century battlefield: are all those expensive overseas bases, particularly in peaceful allied countries and regions, necessary? Do we really need to invest tens of billions of dollars in maintaining a fleet of aircraft carriers, when only a handful of countries maintain no more than one or two? Maybe a case could be made to justify it, but in that instance, we should be evaluating such investments, not granting them as a given.

Of course, this is made all the trickier by the fact that many other industries — which tend to employ American labor — are dependent upon the defense apparatus’s largesse: from weapon’s builders to suppliers of food or textiles — not to mention the millions who work directly or indirectly for the many agencies and departments that fall under the national security umbrella. Cutting back on this military-industrial complex — and shifting the resources, money, and manpower to other needs — will take a lot of effort, especially with so many members of Congress having military-centered businesses in their constituencies.

Ultimately, our society and economy alike need to shift focus to more constructive pursuits, such as infrastructure development and job training, perhaps in some cases through the existing military structures (such as the Army Corps of Engineers, which is responsible for many building and maintaining civilian public works). Otherwise, there’s no doubt that far too much financial and productive power is put into national security than what is needed — and not enough people are questioning that, let alone doing something about it (although that seems to be changing, encouragingly).

What are your thoughts?

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