It may seem like eons ago now, but if you search deep in your memory banks you may remember that George W. Bush campaigned for president as a Pentagon reformer who would cut back unnecessary Cold War weapons programs to make room for lighter, quicker more mobile systems. It's true that Bush mentioned the word "missile defense" at every available opportunity and spoke disparagingly about arms accords like the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty, but when it came down to how much he would actually spend on the military, he pledged a modest $50 billion increase over ten years, about $5 billion per year. By contrast, Al Gore promised to increase military spending by twice that amount, or $100 billion over ten years. When Gore confronted Bush with this fact in one of the debates, Bush argued that "if this is a contest to see who can spend more money, I'm going to lose."
The implication was that Bush's proposed reforms-- including a pledge to "skip a generation" of weapons systems to make room in the budget for new designs that would be more compatible with the strategic realities of the post-Cold war world-- would create room in the budget for his ambitious missile defense plan and R&D on next generation conventional weapons without blowing the lid off the military budget.
The $396 billion military budget proposal that his administration dropped on Capitol Hill earlier this week has put Bush's "reform" image to rest, once and for all. As Paul Krugman of the New York Times noted in his February 5th column, "the military budget seems to have little to do with the actual threat . . . We non-defense experts are puzzled aboug why an attack by maniacs armed with box cutters justifies spending $15 billion on 70-ton artillery pieces, or developing three different advanced fighters (before September 11th even administration officials suggested this was too many). No politician hoping for re-election will dare say it, but the administration's new motto seems to be 'Leave no defense contractor behind.'"
A quick review of the Pentagon's "Program Acquisition Costs by Weapon System" for FY 2003 indicates that more than one-third of the Pentagon's $68 billion weapons procurement budget for the year will be allocated to big ticket, Cold War era systems that have little or nothing to do with the war on terrorism. In fact, many of these systems were mentioned as candidates for major reductions or cancellation during the Bush campaign and during the early months of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's defense review.
The Cold War relics, along with their prime contractors and their budget allocations for 2003, as follows: the Army's RAH-66 Comanche helicopter (Boeing and the Sikorsky Aircraft Division of United Technologies, $941 million); the Air Force's F-22 Raptor (Lockheed Martin, Boeing, and the Pratt and Whitney Division of United Technologies, $5.2 billion); the Navy's F-18E/F fighter plane (Boeing, General Electric, and Northrop Grumman, $3.3 billion); Joint Strike Fighter/F-35 (Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman, $3.5 billion); the V-22 Osprey (Boeing Vertol and the Bell Helicopter Division of Textron, $2 billion) the DDG-51 destroyer (Bath Iron Works and the Ingalls Shipbuilding Division of Northrop Grumman, $2.7 billion); the Virginia class attack submarine (Electric Boat Division of General Dynamics and the Newport News Shipbuilding division of Northrop Grumman, $2.5 billion); the Trident II Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missile (Lockheed Martin Missiles and Space, $626 million); and the Crusader artillery system (Carlyle Group/United Defense, $475 million).
In total, these systems are slated to receive $21.2 billion in the FY 2003 budget, despite the fact that they have been criticized in the past by Bush advisors or independent advocates of military reform as being too heavy (the Crusader), redundant (the three new fighter plane programs), or otherwise out of step with a world in which the likely adversary is not a massively armed Soviet Union but a regional power or terror network which is not setting out to match the United States plane for plane or ship for ship. By contrast, increased spending on precision munitions like the Boeing Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM), the Raytheon Tomahawk cruise missile, and a variety of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, all of which were heavily utilized in the war in Afghanistan, are slated to receive $3.2 billion in the FY 2003 budget.
Add to the funding for the Cold War leftovers mentioned so far the more than $9 billion allocated for ballistic missile defense (including the SBIRS-High Satellite, the Airborne Laser, and the $7.8 billion in R&D controlled by the Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency) * at a time when the U.S. government's own top experts on missile proliferation agree that a ballistic missile is the least likely way a hostile state or terrorist group would choose to launch a weapon of mass destruction against a U.S. target * and it ends up that more than 44% of the weapons funding contained in Bush administration's military budget has nothing to do with the "war on terrorism."
Beyond the issue of whether it funds too many obsolete systems, the Bush administration's war budget raises a more fundamental question: is the use of military force likely to solve the problem of terrorist violence? Destroying the Taliban and killing some Al Qaeda operatives in Afghanistan does little to disrupt the financing or long-term operating capabilities of a network that allegedly has cells in as many as 60 nations. And the efforts to cut off funding, hunt down network members, and stem the flow of weapons technology that allows networks like Al Qaeda to pose a threat will all require cooperation with other nations, many of whom have been alienated by the unilaterlalist posture that the Bush administration has been taking towards the war on terrorism. From his "axis of evil" statement during the State of the Union address, which was too much even for the political and corporate elites who gathered in New York for the recent World Economic Forum, to the Pentagon's apparent indifference to human rights concerns raised by civilian casualties caused by U.S. bombing raids and the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, the administration is creating a gulf between itself and key allies in the anti-terror "coalition." The administration's unwillingness to increase spending on diplomacy (e.g., the State Department's core budget) or foreign economic aid underscores the extent to which it is treating the war on terrorism as being primarily a military enterprise, in which the United States rounds up a series of ad hoc "posses" to go after the enemy of the moment. This go-it-alone attitude is at least as dangerous as the military buildup that is being justified in the name of fighting terrorism.
William D. Hartung is a Senior Fellow at the World Policy Institute and the Director of the Arms Trade Resource Center. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.