The National Defense Budget in Public Hands

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This election cycle is largely going to be come down to economic issues and policy. A recent study found a majority of Americans are shocked by the size of the defense spending and favor cuts to the department’s budget.This comes just ahead of what is expected to be a week full of defense budget discussion in Congress.

With deficit spending and national debt becoming increasingly criticized and in accordance to debt ceiling deals made last fall and winter, cuts to the budget must be made. The National Defense budget has been decreasing for the past three years as our wars in the Middle East come to a close. What needs to be addressed is where and how much of the defense spending cuts need to be made. The Program for Public Consultation has published an extensive study to dig deep into public opinion and where the public stands on defense spending. The study was in collaboration with the Stimson Center and the Center for Public Integrity.

Neutral information and statistics along with opposing arguments were presented to those surveyed. While they found both sides of the arguments convincing, cutting defense spending in some way was widely favored by a majority of respondents. The amount that would be cut differed among those who were surveyed. In regards to military health costs, there wasn’t a majority to raise premiums but a majority decided to raise co-pay for drug prescriptions.

The study also separated the results along party lines. Their results showed that two-thirds of Republicans surveyed and nine of ten Democrats reduced the defense budget. The aggregate amount cut, using the 2012 budget as a reference, was 12% among Republicans and 22% among Democrats. The overall average was an 18% reduction.

There was a great majority in favor of reducing expenses in nuclear weapons. The latest nuclear arms treaty between Russia and the U.S., New START, further reduced deployed nuclear warheads to 1,550. The international norm of nuclear disarmament promises there will be no return to the nuclear weapons budgets of the past.

Robert Kagan, a foreign policy scholar, would find continued defense spending cuts as misguided. Kagan is well know for his realist perspective on international affairs.

“I just think if we want to address the fiscal crisis, the very tiny fraction of that deficit that is the defense budget, it’s not the place to be looking for the money,” he said on NPR’s The Diane Rehm Show.

The United States’ current Defense spending is nearly 1% of the Gross World Product (GWP). The country that ranks second in defense spending is China, spending $143 billion in 2011.

The specific number for how much is spent on defense depends on what’s included in the calculation. If the base budget is what is considered, then the number is at about $530 billion in 2012. This includes personnel costs, operations and maintenance, procurement, and research and development. When Overseas Contingency Operations are included, the number is $645 billion in total.

The 2013 Defense Budget Request shows slight reductions in military personnel, procurement and research and development, but a slight increase in operations and maintenance (O&M) for base budget. The overall effect is a $5 billion reduction in the base budget. OCO would get a slight increase in military personnel but a significant decrease in O&M. The total 2013 proposed defense budget gives a $32 billion reduction.

The entire study can be found here. While national defense spending is infinitely complex, it is still important to analyze where the public stands.

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  1. Meredith Tsunehara First I'd like to see us cut foreign aid to countries that are not our friends
  2. Paul Grajciar JesusChrist!!!! That is obscene!
  3. Jake Longson I agree we do need to cut the defense budget... however, we need to be smart about it. 1st. END the war! Its become beyond pointless, and we have lost our goal there. 2nd. We need to combine our military bases/forts into multi functional and place them strategically throughout the U.S. drastically cut back the ones we have overseas, keep the ones that are only important operating. 3rd. Cut the fat within the military, if you have done 20 yrs and or you are at the age 60, your done. Automatic retirement. If you failed the basic requirements at least three times... I.E weight, physical shape, rank requirements, or have been punished at least three times. Your out. Now with that, it should also be a requirements for everyone at the age of 18 should join the military for at least 2 yrs. 4th. CUT out all the unnecessary private contracts that has plagued the government. Thus is just a few that could help not only save money but reshape our military force.
  4. Maria C. Mitchell Military spending and defense spending are two different things.www.youtube.com/watch?v=GOKAdFzioZc
  5. Paul Trovato Cutting the defense budget is nessesary. Along with entitlements.
  6. Richard Boehme Cut the agencies where there Is duplication of regulation. 2 & 3 agencies regulating the same activity many regs in opposition of one another. Scale back others that are just to far reaching. We dont exist for the govt they're supposed to exist for us not control us.
  7. Al Chaney We need to make some cuts but there is still a threat out there and we should not forget it!
  8. Craig Jagow Let's face it, defense spending is mostly about fleecing taxpayers so contractors can get rich! It also helps some political parties score votes.
  9. Bryant Fraser bring all our boys back shut down the bases around the world and save the money and spend it here to defend our soil while building up our sad infrastructure. stop selling our technology and weapons and see who attacs us then!
  10. Sam Gomez this is an obscene level of spending which escalated throughout the cold war and never dropped back down. as a result, ever since 1990, the U.S. has flexed that military muscle in various global policing capacities. even though we're no longer facing an existential threat in the soviet union, we are still spending like it and needlessly maintaining troop presences around the world.
28 comments
Meredith Tsunehara
Meredith Tsunehara

First I'd like to see us cut foreign aid to countries that are not our friends

Jake Longson
Jake Longson

I agree we do need to cut the defense budget... however, we need to be smart about it. 1st. END the war! Its become beyond pointless, and we have lost our goal there. 2nd. We need to combine our military bases/forts into multi functional and place them strategically throughout the U.S. drastically cut back the ones we have overseas, keep the ones that are only important operating. 3rd. Cut the fat within the military, if you have done 20 yrs and or you are at the age 60, your done. Automatic retirement. If you failed the basic requirements at least three times... I.E weight, physical shape, rank requirements, or have been punished at least three times. Your out. Now with that, it should also be a requirements for everyone at the age of 18 should join the military for at least 2 yrs. 4th. CUT out all the unnecessary private contracts that has plagued the government. Thus is just a few that could help not only save money but reshape our military force.

Maria C. Mitchell
Maria C. Mitchell

Military spending and defense spending are two different things.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=GOKAdFzioZc

Richard Boehme
Richard Boehme

Cut the agencies where there Is duplication of regulation. 2 & 3 agencies regulating the same activity many regs in opposition of one another. Scale back others that are just to far reaching. We dont exist for the govt they're supposed to exist for us not control us.

Al Chaney
Al Chaney

We need to make some cuts but there is still a threat out there and we should not forget it!

Craig Jagow
Craig Jagow

Let's face it, defense spending is mostly about fleecing taxpayers so contractors can get rich! It also helps some political parties score votes.

Bryant Fraser
Bryant Fraser

bring all our boys back shut down the bases around the world and save the money and spend it here to defend our soil while building up our sad infrastructure. stop selling our technology and weapons and see who attacs us then!

Roger Handley
Roger Handley

Cuts may be needed, but you are comparing apples to oranges. The $143 billion expenditure in China will buy a lot more defense capability than it would in the United States.

Casey G. Little
Casey G. Little

Mr. Sena, there are some reports coming out that suggest the Russians are increasing their defense budget by 60% in the next couple years. Those increases would put their defense budget in the neighborhood of 70 billion.

Casey G. Little
Casey G. Little

some serious cuts are needed. And I think many lessons have been learned from the ramp up following 9-11. We have a much better understanding of what our "peace time" military needs to be capable of and also how the transition to deployment of forces can be handled effectively and quickly. I have faith that we will see responsible defense budget cuts within the framework of a robust and effective military that must exist to prevent attacks on our soil and respond in the event we are attacked again.

Cheryl Scroxton
Cheryl Scroxton

maybe we should go after the American Contractors which charge OUR D D, those ridiculous, outrageous, prices, just to line their pockets??? Corporate America...???

Clint Brown
Clint Brown

Cut it down to actual defensive needs only.

John Rogers
John Rogers

There is a reason the US has the strongest and most advanced military in the world.

Trenton Paul
Trenton Paul

I am sure a large chunk of that money is R&D, however we probably should really consider closing quite a few military installations. I am by no means foreign policy literate but having been in the military , I know there is vast waste....like everything it seems, our government runs.

Gary McCorvey
Gary McCorvey

Cutting the defense budget would likely worsen the economic slowdown. What I want most is to GET THE HELL OUT OF THE UN , NOW and BRING THE TROOPS HOME , NOW and quit killing Americans in political wars. Good God, folks, haven't you learned anything since the Vietnam debacle.

Bob Sena
Bob Sena

How much is Russia spending?

Brad R. Schlesinger
Brad R. Schlesinger

Robert Kagan, a realist? Not a chance. Stephen Walt, Justin Logan, now those are realist foreign policy thinkers.

Paul Trovato
Paul Trovato

Cutting the defense budget is nessesary. Along with entitlements.

Sam Gomez
Sam Gomez

this is an obscene level of spending which escalated throughout the cold war and never dropped back down. as a result, ever since 1990, the U.S. has flexed that military muscle in various global policing capacities. even though we're no longer facing an existential threat in the soviet union, we are still spending like it and needlessly maintaining troop presences around the world.

Michael Higham
Michael Higham

Yeah, I probably should have been more careful about that. I feel like his "The Return of History" was a realist view of international relations, but his latest book "The World America Made" certainly praises liberal institutionalism. Kagan is strong on American predominance and I've associated that with realism, I probably shouldn't though. I got the impression that neoconservativism = realism, too. But I understand that things aren't always clear cut as one may think!

Sorry for the botch in the article!