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The Military-industrial Complex’s War on Defense Cuts

• Michael Tennant
The military-industrial complex is pulling out all the stops to ensure that not one dime of its vast federal largess is taken away even as the nation faces nearly $15 trillion in debt. Defense contractors, Representatives and Senators, and current and former Defense Secretaries are working together to thwart actual and potential cuts in defense spending resulting from the August debt ceiling deal. The deal calls for $350 billion in defense cuts over 10 years — an average of $35 billion per year. In addition, it tasks the newly created congressional super-committee with finding an additional $1.2 trillion in savings over that same time period. Should the committee fail to come to an agreement on those savings, automatic cuts totaling the same amount, split evenly between defense and domestic spending, are slated to occur. If that took place, defense spending would then be reduced by $600 billion, an average of $60 billion per year.

That may sound like a huge dent in the Pentagon’s budget, but there are two things to keep in mind. First, those cuts are almost certainly reductions in the projected rate of budgetary growth, not actual reductions in spending. Second, total defense spending is around $1 trillion, according to economist Robert Higgs, of which $676 billion was budgeted to the Defense Department — up from $432 billion in 2001. 

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