Defense Department Budget Shortfall or Windfall

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Americans are facing tightening budgets as the economy continues to worsen. The American military budget, on the other hand, continues to balloon. Next year, the Department of Defense will have a budget of more than $600 billion (pdf), “roughly equal to the rest of the world,” according to retired Air Force Colonel Chet Richards, writing for the Center for Defense Information. “Because we are not facing the possibility of conflict with the rest of the world put together,” Richards writes, “it’s clear that some adjustment is appropriate.”

The $600 billion estimate is conservative, according to Lou Dubose of the Washington Spectator. Including supplemental appropriations for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, defense programs at the Department of Energy and Department of Veterans Affairs, and defense-related interest on the national debt, Dubose estimates that the 2009 defense spending will be closer to $1 trillion dollars

Dubose suggests that the incoming Obama administration should cut back on military spending, scrapping expensive programs like the F-22 jet fighter, which Dubose describes as an out-of-date “winged white elephant.”

Some argue that a cutback in spending would be a mistake. Writing for the Wall Street Journal‘s editorial page Martin Feldstein writes that government stimulus money should be dedicated to military spending. “A substantial short-term rise in spending on defense and intelligence,” according to Feldstein, “would both stimulate our economy and strengthen our nation’s security.”

A better use of that money would be to spend it on green jobs and education, Phyllis Bennis writes for Foreign Policy in Focus. More money should also be dedicated to finding jobs for soldiers once they return home. “War production doesn’t create real economic health,” according to Bennis, and the United States is already spending enough on the wars.

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