|Since the election there have been new calls for changes in U.S. security policy. The departure of Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, the acknowledgement by President Bush of the need for a re-examination of our Iraq strategy, and the call by British Prime Minister Tony Blair to include Iran and Syria in discussions on a solution to the crisis in Iraq at least hint at the possibility of a shift in thinking on security issues. This shift results directly from the dramatic Democratic take-over of Congress for which the situation in Iraq played a major role.|
Yet the Democrats return to power will not erode Congressional support for rising Pentagon spending, let alone result in reductions in the military’s $463 billion annual budget (not including the costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which, if included, could top $600 billion).
In fact, defense spending has been rising dramatically in recent years, with broad bi-partisan support. For example, as part of the fiscal year 2007 budget cycle, the House of Representatives passed the annual defense authorization bill 396 to 31, with only 30 Democrats (15 percent) voting against it. The same bill passed 96 to 0 in the Senate. The annual defense appropriations bill received even stronger support, passing the House 407 to 19, with 17 Democrats (9 percent) voting “nay.” The Senate adopted the measure 98 to 0. Since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, annual defense spending, not including funding for Iraq and Afghanistan, has grown by $120 billion in real terms, an increase of 35 percent.
In many cases, Congress has been the problem rather than the solution in efforts to control spiraling defense budgets. In December 2004, for instance, the Pentagon released "Program Budget Directive No. 753," (PBD 753), which suggested reductions in a number of high profile weapons programs, and proposed $30 billion savings from projected spending over the next six fiscal years. Yet these meager efforts were “dead on arrival” on Capitol Hill. The bulk of PDB 753’s proposed reductions were dropped, including plans to terminate the C-130J aircraft program, and end procurement of the F-22 fighter in 2008.
In February 2005 the Navy announced plans to use a "winner-take-all" strategy to procure the DD(X), its next generation destroyer, a move that would force Northrop Grumman's Ingalls Shipyard in Mississippi to compete against General Dynamics' Bath Iron Works in Maine for the lucrative contract. Congress blocked the plan, which the Navy estimated would have saved $300 million per ship.
As part of its work on the FY’07 defense budget, Congress reversed a number of Pentagon decisions. Some examples include:
In 2007, rather than curbing the growth in military spending, Democrats plan to accelerate it. Even before the elections Democrats were proposing plans to increase Pentagon spending if they regained control of Congress [“House Democrats Propose More Spending for Military and Education,” Washington Post, November 1, 2006]. This view was amplified by the newly selected Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), who said one of the first acts of the new Congress would be to increase defense spending by $75 billion ["Reid Pledges To Press Bush On Iraq Policy," Washington Post, November 15, 2006].
In its August 2006 economic analysis, the Congressional Budget Office projected annual deficits of between $275 billion and $325 billion between now and 2010. The new Democratic congress risks adding to the upward spiral in military spending and increasing the deficit, rather than an assessing what our true security needs actually are.
Christopher Hellman is a military policy analyst at the Washington, DC-based Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation.