Predictably, last weeks announcement by US President W. George Bush to raise the 2003 military budget by $48 billion has won praise from his conservative supporters and condemnation from the Democratic opposition.
But significant criticism has also come from defense experts who believe the proposed military spending is not just wasteful, but unwisely sustains acquisition of Cold War-era weapons systems like nuclear-powered attack submarines, main battle tanks and long-range bombers, while neglecting defense programs that could make America less vulnerable to acts of terrorism like last Septembers attacks on New York and Washington.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, Bushs most visible proponent of the new defense budget, says the increased funding enables the Pentagon to respond to Americas new global threats, and to pay for an unprecedented restructuring of the US armed forces.
Speaking last week in Washington to a receptive audience at the National Defense University, Rumsfeld said the new budget would also enhance the Pentagons weapons purchase programs.
"As we change investment priorities, we have to begin shifting the balance in our arsenal between manned and unmanned capabilities, between short- and long-range systems, stealthy and non-stealthy systems, between shooters and sensors, and between vulnerable and hardened systems," said Rumsfeld, who added that the armed forces must become more flexible to address new threats, most notably the possibility that terrorists could gain access to nuclear, biological and chemical weapons.
The massive increase in Americas defense spending bucks an international trend of declining budgets, making the Pentagons 2003 spending requirement far bigger than the annual funding for any other world military. "The US increase of $48 billion is larger than that the annual military budget of any other country in the world," says John Isaacs, president of the Council for a Livable World, a Washington-based public policy think tank.
"At a time when the US should be most concerned with homeland defense and a highly mobile force to combat terrorism abroad," adds Isaacs, "the budget is going to continue to fund billions of dollars in aircraft, submarines, ships and other weapons designed to fight the Soviet Union," Isaacs continues.
"Adding $48 billion to the Pentagon budget is like providing an overweight person with dozens of fat-filled deserts," says Isaacs. "Rather than forcing the Pentagon to diet to be more trim and focus on transformation, the military will try to buy more of everything."
Meanwhile, the Congressional Budget Office, the financial analysis arm of the US Congress, is now projecting deficits of $106 billion for 2002 and $80 billion for fiscal year 2003 if President Bush convinces Congress to tax cuts and increases in military spending.
"Just the increase from last year is greater than the military budget of any other nation in the world," adds Isaacs, "We now spend more on our military than the rest of the world combined."
"With such a huge budget there is no need for the Pentagon to make tough choices and transform its forces," continues Isaacs, "The new watchword at the Pentagon is more." The table below compares the total future US budget authority with budget figures for other countries.
$379 billion (2003) US
$34.8 billion (2001) UK
$29 billion (2000) Russia
$27 billion (2000) France
$23.1 billion (2001) Germany
$18.7 billion (2000) Saudi Arabia
$15.9 billion (2000) India
$14.5 billion (2000) China
$12.8 billion (2000) South Korea
$12.8 billion (2000) Taiwan
$7.5 billion (2000) Iran
$3.3 billion (2000) Pakistan
$1.8 billion (2000) Syria
$1.4 billion (1999) Iraq
$1.3 billion (2000) North Korea
$1.3 billion (2000) Yugoslavia
$1.2 billion (2000) Libya
$425 million (2000) Sudan
$31 million (2000) Cuba
Source: The International Institute for Strategic Studies, The Military Balance 2000-2001. Send questions and comments to: email@example.com