Is the American Military Depleted?

In a comment on a friend’s post on Facebook, someone answered my question for examples on our military being weak, decimated, needing more funding with the following challenge:

Desert Storm was 2002 under GW Bush … The military has been descimated [sic] by Obama over the past 8 years. My question is have you not been watching the news for the last 8 years or just ignoring it??? Military is below pre-WWII levels … All branches.

I might note that he didn’t provide any examples, but simply taunted me with another set of questions: Have I not been watching the news? I don’t generally get my data from watching the news, but I try to do my own research. As we all know, there are too many “alternative facts” in the news and the “news media are some of the most dishonest people on the planet.” One can’t be too careful.

One of the core paragraphs in Trump’s inauguration speech was this:

For many decades, we’ve enriched foreign industry at the expense of American industry; subsidized the armies of other countries, while allowing for the very sad depletion of our military. We’ve defended other nations’ borders while refusing to defend our own; and spent trillions of dollars while America’s infrastructure has fallen into disrepair and decay.

— President Donald Trump

Whether I agree with its message and content or not, Trump’s inauguration speech was probably the most coherent and organized speech in his life, and the above paragraph is, in my opinion, the most important one.

I agree that things should change regarding American trade agreements, American industry and how we spend money on the military. I support all premises of the above paragraph, while only disagreeing with the “allowing for the very sad depletion of our military” part. I do not think we have depleted our military, as most people are led to believe by Trump and his supporters. Our military is not a disaster, and when our commander-in-chief makes such a statement, he insults all people in uniform.

Yes, the numbers are down for some things that no longer make sense. Remember the famous Obama statement in a debate with Romney four years ago: We don’t have as many horses and bayonets as we used to. I also think that it makes no sense to compare today’s military to that of pre WWII times. This is a massively different world and requires different analysis. Counting horses, bayonets and tanks makes no sense.

When Air Force Gen. Paul Selva, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was asked about whether the U.S. military had, in fact, been “gutted.” No, he argued. If it’s smaller than it could be, it’s still very powerful.

“At no time in my career have I been more confident than this instant in saying we have the most powerful military on the face of the planet. Do we have challenges? Of course we do. When you are faced with a global set of threats, you have to make choices on where you focus your energy.”

— Gen. Paul Selva

True, under Obama, military spending went down, and this is partly due to curtailing the massing hemorrhage of money in Iraq and Afghanistan during the Bush years. The chart below shows military spending by president:


Here is a site with a treasure trove of information about military spending worldwide and all the data you might ask for.

Here is another view, which shows that under Obama, spending has gone down somewhat, but it still puts it into perspective over the cold war years:


Of course, if you listen to the Heritage Foundation, you hear a different story. They say that the U.S. is only marginally able to defend the nation. I am not sure I should call this alternative facts, but here it is.

Over the years I have posted much about military spending. You can search for the keyword “military spending” in this blog and find many entries. Here are a few:

Military Spending by President

Military Spending in the U.S

Here is one about military spending compared to other nations

Another view of military spending worldwide as pivoted against social security

Overall, I think that our nation’s military is not decimated, and I also think that some review of our military spending is in order. Here is a comment I made about Trump’s attack on the F-35, which illustrates my concerns. We need to reduce military spending in our country, but we need to keep our readiness up. Money, in the hands of the military, is not necessarily a formula for success. Money must be spend in a smart way. If Trump can accomplish this goal, he will be a hero.

Military Spending in the U.S. in 2017

Trump complained during the campaign that our military was a disaster, and that military spending was way down. That’s actually far from the truth.

At the end of the Obama administration, starting in 2017, we’re spending a record 608.6 billion dollars on the military. This is more than we spent during enormous Reagan buildup which started in 1980. Obama spent more money on the military in his eight years than George W. Bush did.

We are now spending four times the amount China spends and 10 times the amount Russia spends annually on the military.

I wonder whether Trump actually knew that when he campaigned or not? Was his rhetoric just the same hot air he needed to blow to get voters? Regardless of Trump’s talk, it’ll be tricky to crank up spending any more, given budget constraints. But the military industrial complex loves the talk.

More weapons.

Just what we need.


U.S. Military Spending – Take Two

In January of 2013, I wrote this post about U.S. Military spending. Most of the numbers and basic facts, as well as my suggestions on what to cut still stand today, three years later (the numbers used here are for 2014). However, there are some developments that I should point out:

[IISS – click for image credit]
The U.S. military spending has gone down from $711 billion to $581 billion, if I can take the two different sources as valid and make an apples-to-apples comparison. China’s has gone down a bit, also. Russia is about the same, and so are most of the other nations. Interestingly, Saudi Arabia has doubled its spending during those years and risen to slot number 3 with $80 billion.

I put these numbers in a chart ranking the top ten military spenders in the world.

military spending 2014-1

The U.S. still spends more than the next NINE COUNTRIES COMBINED on the military, yet the population of the U.S. (321 million) is about one tenth of that of all those countries combined (3.1 billion). So overall we’re spending more than 10 times as much per capita as every other country in the world on the military. And this is AFTER all the “terrible” cuts by Obama.

Interestingly, with the rise of Saudi Arabia in this chart, they are above our ranking in spending per capita. The U.S. does about twice the spending of the major European nations per capita, about four times that of Russia and 18 times that of China.

When I listen to the Republican candidates during the debates, they are ripping into the current administration for slashing the military budget and destroying our military capability.


Are they telling me that it takes ten times the spending per capita of the next nine countries combined to defend our country?

Are we getting that much less value for our spending than China and Russia?


Or are we just spending stupidly, to use a Trump term?

Perhaps we should stop spending our military money in other countries. We’re not defending the United States and its citizens. We’re blowing money on the military industrial complex which has a vested interest in wars going on overseas all the time.

We are fanning the flames of terrorism on purpose. We’re killing innocent civilians and children by the scores with our drones. And at home we’re telling the voters that we have to be afraid of terrorists killing us.

Fear works.

None of this makes any sense to me.

U.S. Military Spending

The news is full of a purported Obama spending binge, a term coined by Romney. While spending is high, fact-checking reveals that Obama is not alone responsible for the current spending. Much of it was initiated by Bush and the Congress before Obama. I also remember that Obama was in favor of military spending cuts.

Now, of all our budget items, in my opinion, the military budget actually has room for spending cuts. Sacred cow or not, let’s take a look:

Military Spending A

All numbers are in billion dollars. Here we can see that the United States spends more on the military than the next 14 countries combined. In fact, we have 5% of  the world’s population, but spend 41% of the world’s military dollars. The next runner-up, China, spends 8.2% of the world’s military budget, or $143 billion.

Graphically, it looks like this:

Military Spending B

How much firepower do we need to hold off the rest of the world from coming after us?

I suggest we cut our military spending in half, saving over $350 billion a year. Now the chart looks like this:

Military Spending C

We’re still spending 20% of the world’s military budget, and still more than 2.5 times as much as China.

Really, we can’t hold off the bad guys in the Middle East with $350 billion a year? How about we try it for just a year? Would the bad guys in Afghanistan even notice?

This is my proposal to cut spending.

My New 5 – 50 Rule

The United States has 5% of the world’s population, but 50% of the world’s guns.

The United States has 5% of the world’s population, but does 50% of the world’s military spending.

We used to use 50% of the world’s energy, too, but that has gone down to 25% now, not because we’re using less or saving more, but because China, India and Brazil have stepped their energy use UP by so much in the last 25 years.

It boggles my mind that half of our nation (the conservative side) seems to insist that we cannot cut military spending, but has no problem taking away social security benefits from those very citizens  that carried us, and paid for us, and educated us, through the golden years of the United States between 1950 and 1970. Now they need us to take care of them, and we don’t seem to give a damn.

But by golly, we do have a lot of fire power. And nobody’s going to catch up with us on that!

Fighter Jets and Park Rangers

The media are full of divisiveness. For some, the sky is falling because Romney will never move into the White House. Others are elated that Obama won a second term. The country seems to be divided right down the middle.

Obama didn’t meet his goals of getting down unemployment, and according to Romney, he is 9 million jobs short of his goal. The economy is still sputtering. Given these results, Obama had no business winning the election. I think Obama didn’t win because of his record, I think Obama won because of Romney’s character and personality.

If the GOP had delivered a statesman like Colin Powell, I would  have gladly voted Republican. Romney, to me, didn’t run because he had a passion for the country or the people. Romney, to me, looked like he was on a power trip and he was running for president to round out his resume.

That just wasn’t enough for me. Emptiness came through in his so-called plans and policies, which simply didn’t add up for me. I still can’t figure out how you can spend $2 trillion more on the military and bring down expenses. Everything else combined does not make up $2 trillion. The math, to me, always seemed ludicrous.

This morning I heard a conservative talking head say this:

Clearly, when you cut spending by buying less fighter jets or hiring less park rangers, you hold back  money that goes into the economy and you bring along a recession.

Talking about cutting fighter jets and park rangers in the same breath shows how out of touch the conservative side of our country is. The current state-of-the-art fighter jet, the F-22, costs $420 million each. A park ranger makes $12k to $20k a year, if that. The entire budget of the National Park Service for 2011 was $3.14 billion with 21,501 employees.

This math says that you could completely wipe out the entire National Park Service, lay off all 21,501 employees, and save $3.14 billion, which would pay for the cost of EIGHT F-22 jets.

Talking about jets and park rangers in the same sentence is ludicrous.

And here is something even more ridiculous: We have taken delivery of the final F-22 jet. The program cost $79 billion. Even though we have had these jets since, 2005, not a single combat mission has been flown by an F-22, ever. Not in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, anywhere. John McCain, a jet fighter veteran who knows his business, says that the entire program is wasted. He says that the plane has no mission in today’s military. It’s an air-to-air combat plane. Until al Qaeda starts flying fighter planes, there won’t be any mission either.

The entire federal government subsidy to PBS in 2012 was $444 million. One big bird, one F-22, pays for the entire PBS program for a year. One plane for Big Bird, Mr. Romney.

The  Republican establishment, publicly announcing cutting park rangers and Big Bird, but increasing the military spending, exposes a vast, unconscionable, ludicrous lack of sense of reality.

They smoked themselves out.

That is why we voted the way we did.

U.S. Defense Budget Going Forward

The current political discourse brings up defense budgets.

Under the terms of the Budget Control Act (BCA) of 2011, the Obama administration has agreed to a reduction of the planned expenditure of the Pentagon by $487 billion over the next decade. This will be painful, but the huge rises in spending during the Bush years now force drastic belt-tightening. The military, in general, regards these actions as justifiable and defensible.

Romney, however, wants to not only reverse the cuts but put a floor of 4% of the gross domestic product (GDP) under the base budget of the Pentagon. So, unlike with all other programs, defense spending goes up automatically if the economy improves and the Pentagon gets its 4%.

How about trying that with schools?

Depending on which analysts I listen to, this amounts to a $2.0 to $2.3 trillion of additional money spent. I might want to point out that the last time the defense budget was 4% of GDP was in 1992, just at the end of the Cold War. Even during George W. Bush, the defense budget went from 2.9% of GDP to 3.7% of GDP.

Romney is not telling us what the additional money is going to. He is also not telling us where it’s coming from.

Spoiler alert: It’s not coming from the wealthy!

How can any sane person believe that such intense and aggressive additional military spending can bring about any good at all?

It will create additional government bureaucracy and lots of industry sucking away that money. There’ll be $600 toilet seats again in the military. The only people I can think of that will want this are military contractors. It’s good for Halliburton, Boeing, Northrup Grumman, and thousands of thousands of others who make military equipment or serve those industries.

Maybe it’s time to go into a different line of business?