Monday, July 21, 2003

Damn the deficits! Full steam ahead!
The strains on American ground forces as the Bush administration extends their global missions are prompting new debates on Capitol Hill and within the Pentagon over the question of whether the military needs more troops worldwide.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and senior military officers spent time over the weekend considering how to assign enough soldiers to fill the long-term mission of stabilizing Iraq while simultaneously fulfilling other overseas commitments and providing security against terrorism at home and abroad. . . .

On Capitol Hill, two members of the Senate Armed Services Committee � one a Republican, and one a Democrat � have been driving the debate, and both predicted in interviews last week that Congress would support a request to expand the military's personnel roster, even with the growing budget deficit.
Real national defense consumption expenditures and gross investment has risen every quarter but one under President Bush, from $359bn (1996 dollars) in 2001:I to a peak of $413bn in 2002:IV. As of 2003:I, real quarterly defense spending has risen 14.1% over 2001:I. Over the same comparison, real quarterly non-defense spending has risen 11.5%.

The gap is much more stark when considering defense spending in relation to discretionary non-defense spending, however (even Bush can't get out of all those Medicare and Social Security payments). According to OMB tables, defense spending in current dollars rose from 2000 to 2002 by 18.4%. Domestic non-defense discretionary spending (i.e. all non-defense federal outlays minus Social Security, SSI and Medicare) over the same period rose by just 4.5%!

Empires can be expensive, and after a short period of digestion, imperial powers have always sought to make them pay their own way. In light of US budget woes and the prospect of even more spending on even more active duty National Guard and Reserve troops (and in the medium term, even more troops?), Iraq is going to made to pay its own way sooner than is probably wise from a political standpoint. You really didn't think George W. would get the Japanese to subsidize the whole thing the way his old man did, did you?

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