Women. Power. Peace.

WAND and the Military Budget—What We Are Up Against

Military budget cuts are coming and WAND members feel that we will finally see our hard work pay off. But our mammoth defense budget is not going to be easy to turn around. Even President Obama says the budget will continue to rise in future years after the projected cuts for this year take effect.

On January 30, both the NY Times and the Wall Street Journal devoted their lead editorials to the impending cuts. Their approach gives an interesting picture of what WAND faces in demanding the cuts we believe to be absolutely necessary for a healthy economy.

New Strategy, Old Pentagon Budget” is how the Times framed its message. The Times credited Obama for “putting on the brakes,” but said more cuts must be found. They listed specific additional savings: shrinking the number of F-35 fighters ($150 billion), cutting nuclear weapons funding ($79 billion), eliminating one of the 11 aircraft carriers ($4-8 billion). WAND supports all of these measures, and would go much further. These savings are spread over ten years—surely we must do more, and sooner, if the military cuts are to balance the painful ones projected for social programs. The National Priorities Project points out that military spending rose 48% from 2001 to 2011, while discretionary spending rose much less. This imbalance will continue to grow if we don’t fight it.

The Journal provocatively titles its editorial “Admiral Obama,” with a subtitle of “A diminished Navy can’t meet its multiple missions.” They warn against the “steep” cuts Obama will be making and use the Navy to help “reveal the damage.” The navy is much smaller than it was during the Cold War, “but the planet isn’t smaller.” So the editorial asks - how are we to keep patrolling it? “The. U.S. needs 11 aircraft carriers, even when no other country has more than one, because no other country does what it does, American military power has ensured global peace and prosperity since World War II.”

Defending the 11 aircraft carriers is already absurd, but going on to warn against ending what the Journal refers to as this “Pax American” compounds the absurdity. Even if we believed in the reality of such a peace, continuing to patrol the world is surely impossible. We must exercise other ways of keeping the peace. Diplomatic, cooperative, and economic measures must begin to supplant military actions that have proved to be mostly unworkable and disastrously expensive in our recent wars.

Two of the most influential papers in the country tackle this topic. One doesn’t go far enough, while the other resists any cuts at all. There is only one way to get the changes WAND believes are necessary: an informed citizenry. U.S. citizens are deeply disturbed about our economic problems, rising inequalities, and the perception that our country is falling behind, yet haven’t made the link between that and the devastating costs of our military. So it’s up to groups like ours to make that connection and understand what we are up against.

When a military leader says almost the same thing, it gives us some encouragement. In a recent speech, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Dempsey said, “it makes no sense for us as a nation to have an extraordinarily capable military instrument of power if we are economically disadvantaged in the world.”  He could have easily added, “and at home.”

-Sayre Sheldon, WAND Education Treasurer

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