A friend who used to work in the Pentagon told me about the end of year budget meetings he had to attend. There, military personnel would frantically brainstorm ideas on how to spend the rest of their budgets. If they didn't spend every cent, next year's budget would be cut.
"Popcorn makers?" someone suggested. "Or perhaps some sort of group outings, to an event or a show."
"Why don't we return the extra money, since we clearly don't need it," my friend suggested.
The way he tells it, the tension in the room was palpable. Who was this asshole suggesting that they don't use their entire budget?
I can't remember what they decided to spend the money on. But they definitely used it. He said he would often come across unused equipment in the Pentagon that seemed out of place… and conclude that it must have been to eat up budget surpluses.
This anecdote shouldn't be surprising. The military only seems to pinch pennies when it comes to taking caring of veterans who have sacrificed their physical and mental health for the Pentagon.
The Air Force spent $300,000 over the last few years on coffee mugs. But these aren't just any coffee mugs. These attach to an airplane's control panel, and keep the coffee hot! Soup too–they will keep soup hot as well. Quite versatile.
And each mug only costs $1,200. Which is strange, since I remember my dad getting a similar device for Christmas one year that plugged into the cigarette lighter in the car. And I can't imagine my mom spending more than $29.95 on such a gift.
But sadly, these examples of waste are absolutely trivial compared to the overall waste in the Defense budget.
Defense spending hit $716 billion dollars last year. That's four times larger than China's and ten times Russia's military budget.
And despite that, a new report suggests that the USA could lose a war with China and Russia. The report was compiled by the National Defense Strategy Commission, which was formed by Congress and includes former high ranking military officials.
The picture of the national security landscape that the 12-person commission sketched is a bleak one, in which an American military that has enjoyed undisputed dominance for decades is failing to receive the resources, innovation and prioritization its leaders need to outmuscle China and Russia in a race for military might reminiscent of the Cold War…
"The U.S. military could suffer unacceptably high casualties and loss of major capital assets in its next conflict. It might struggle to win, or perhaps lose, a war against China or Russia," the report said. "The United States is particularly at risk of being overwhelmed should its military be forced to fight on two or more fronts simultaneously."