Even by Bush administration standards, the military spending proposal for Fiscal Year 2008 - the budget year beginning on October 1,
2007 -- is enormous. The request for the "regular" military budget, which includes Pentagon spending plus work on nuclear warheads
and naval reactors at the Department of Energy, was $499 billion. This represents a $46 billion increase from the current budget
Figures for the regular military budget exclude the costs of the current wars that the United States is engaged in. A proposed
supplemental appropriation to pay for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq of $141.7 billion brings proposed military spending for FY
2008 to $647.2 billion, the highest level of military spending since the end of World War II - higher than Vietnam, higher than
Korea, higher than the peak of the Reagan buildup. There will also be a proposed supplemental of $93.4 billion added to this year's
(FY 2007) budget, bringing the total for the year to $622.4 billion.
This spending spree comes at a time when America's main enemy is not a rival superpower like the Soviet Union, but a network of
terrorist groups armed primarily with explosives, shoulder-fired missiles, and AK-47s. And even if one accepts the "need" to fight a
war like the current US occupation of Iraq, there are tens of billions of dollars in the administration's budget proposal that will
never be used in that conflict. Requests for systems like the F-22 fighter ($4.6 billion), the V-22 Osprey ($2.6 billion), the
CVN-21 aircraft carrier ($3.1 billion), the SSN-774 Virginia attack submarine ($2.7 billion), the Trident D-5 Submarine-Launched
Ballistic Missile ($1.2 billion), and Ballistic Missile Defense ($10.8 billion) are just a few examples of weapons that are
unnecessary, unworkable, or both.
What do all these figures mean? How can the average person make sense of these billions and billions and billions of dollars? Some
comparisons may be helpful.
Proposed U.S. military spending for FY 2008 is larger than military spending by all of the other nations in the world combined.
At $141.7 billion, this year's proposed spending on the Iraq war is larger than the military budgets of China and Russia combined.
Total U.S. military spending for FY2008 is roughly ten times the military budget of the second largest military spending country in
the world, China.
Journalist Jim Lobe of the Interpress Service notes that proposed U.S. military spending is larger than the combined gross domestic
(GDP) of all 47 countries in sub-Saharan Africa.
The FY 2008 military budget proposal is more than 30 times higher than all spending on State Department operations and non-military
foreign aid combined.
The FY 2008 military budget is over 120 times higher than the roughly $5 billion per year the U.S. government spends on combating
FY 2008 military spending represents 58 cents out of every dollar spent by the U.S. government on discretionary programs - the items
that Congress gets to vote up or down on an annual basis. This means that military spending is more than the combined totals of
spending on education, environmental protection, administration of justice, veteran's benefits, housing assistance, transportation,
job training, agriculture, energy, and economic development.
As the poverty rate continues to climb, the FY 2008 budget proposes cuts of $13 billion in non-military related discretionary
spending, including cuts of $1.4 billion from the Community Development Block Grant; $436 million from Head Start; $1.1 billion from
the Low-Income Energy Assistance Program; $669 million from Special Education; and $111 million from the Child Care and Development
Progressives need to come up with more ideas about how to describe the size - and impact - of military spending levels. Educating
the broader public on this issue will depend in significant part on whether we can find comparisons that make these massive numbers
real to people.
One last point -- despite spending these huge sums on the military, the situation in Iraq is getting worse by the day, and U.S.
troops are taking greater and greater risks as a result of shortages of equipment and training and reductions in down time between
deployments. For a big picture look at the impacts of the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan on the U.S. military, see a new
report by David Isenberg on "Budgeting for Empire" (details below).
David Isenberg, "Budgeting for Empire: The Effect of Iran and Afghanistan on Military Forces, Budgets, and Plans." Independent
Institute, January 30, 2007, available at www.independent.org.
Jim Lobe, "Proposed '08 Budget Earns Superlatives All Around," February 7, 2007, available at www.antiwar.com.
Christopher Hellman, "Highlights of the Fiscal Year 2008 Pentagon Spending Request," February 5, 2007, available at
Steven M. Kosiak, "Both DoD Base and War Budgets Receive Big Boosts, Total Funding at Highest Level Since the End of World War II,"
Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, February 5, 2007, available at www.csbaonline.org.
Winslow Wheeler, "The 2008 National Security Budget and Briefing Slides," Straus Military Reform Project, Center for Defense
Information, February 6, 2007, available at www.cdi.org.
National Priorities Project, "The President's Budget: Impact on the States," February 5, 2007, available at
Sharon Parrott and Matt Fielder, "President's Budget Calls for Deep Cuts in a Wide Range of Domestic Programs: Cuts Start in 2008
and Grow Deeper Over Time," available at www.cbpp.org.
William D. Hartung is a Senior Fellow at the World Policy Institute in New York. Email to: