A nation’s budget generally sums up its priorities – and President Bush’s budget, with a $48 billion increase in military spending, makes clear his priorities. His budget for fiscal year 2003 includes $767 billion for discretionary spending (the money the President and Congress must decide and act to spend each year), $396 billion of which will go to the Pentagon. The “National Defense” category of the federal budget for FY’03 accounts 51.6 percent of all discretionary spending.

The Bush administration has used the war on terrorism to justify huge increases in military spending, but most of the projected increases have nothing to do with stopping terrorism, including:

• $8.6 billion for Star Wars in 2003 that is expected to rise to over $11 billion annually by FY’07.*

• $2 billion for the dangerous and accident-prone Osprey tiltrotor aircraft.

• $2.5 billion for unnecessary and expensive “Virginia” attack submarines.

• $910 million for Comanche helicopters, a program plagued with delays and cost overruns.

• $475 million for the Crusader artillery systems, too heavy for a mobile force.

While waste continues unabated in the Pentagon, social programs are underfunded and valuable programs are cut, including:

• $700 million in job training and employment programs.

• $85 million to train doctors in children’s hospitals.

• $596 million from the Department of Education, after inflation.

• $9 million from worker safety programs.

• $268 million from Community Block Grants to states, as they face $40 billion in deficits.

• $417 million to repair public housing.

The real costs of the war in Afghanistan – both human and monetary – may not be known for months or years. However, early estimates of the monetary cost of the war range from $1 billion to $2 billion per month. President Bush and Congress authorized $29 billion in fiscal year 2002 in emergency money to pay for the war, and Bush wants authority to spend another $10 billion.

This borrowing will haunt the U.S. taxpayer with increased debt for years to come. When compared to the rest of the world the amount the United States alone spends on its military is simply staggering.

At $396 billion, the U.S. military budget request for FY’03 is more than six times larger than that of Russia, the second largest spender. The requested increase of $48 billion in military spending is greater than the total military spending of any other country except Russia, whose 1991 budget came to $60.0 billion. It is more than 26 times as large as the combined spending of the seven countries traditionally identified by the Pentagon as our most likely adversaries (Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Sudan and Syria). It is more than the combined spending of the next 25 nations.

The United States and its close allies spend more than the rest of the world combined, accounting for more than two-thirds of all military spending. Together they spend over 39 times more than the seven states targeted in the Nuclear Posture Review. The seven potential “enemies,” Russia and China together spend $117 billion, less than one-third (30 percent) of the U.S. military budget.

Small wonder, then, that Admiral Eugene Carroll, Jr., U.S. Navy (Ret.), deputy director of the Center for Defense Information has termed U.S. military spending “an arms race with ourselves.”

The House of Representatives has already adopted a budget that includes the priorities outlined by Bush in Febraury. The battle now goes to the Senate where there is one question as yet unanswered: Can those who come to Washington on April 20 muster the strength to win a different set of priorities?

* All statistics are from the Center for Defense Information

The author can be reached at fgab708@aol.com


Fred Gaboury
Fred Gaboury

Fred Gaboury was a member of the Editorial Board of the print edition of  People’s Weekly World/Nuestro Mundo and wrote frequently on economic, labor and political issues. Gaboury died in 2004. Here is a small selection of Fred’s significant writings: Eight days in May Birmingham and the struggle for civil rights; Remembering the Rev. James Orange; Memphis 1968: We remember; June 19, 1953: The murder of the Rosenbergs; World Bank and International Monetary Fund strangle economies of Third World countries