by Charles Lemos, Tue Dec 23, 2008 at 09:44:59 PM EST
The New York Times in a series of editorials has been offering an assessment on how to pay for a "21st Century Military." The New York Times specifically calls for more ground forces, less reliance on the Reserves, new equipment and training to replace cold-war weapons systems and doctrines. All this costs a fair bit of money, which we don't have, so the sensible editors at the nation's paper of record have also offered a modest proposal as to which weapons systems to cut or defer so as to pay for the more troops and the new equipment which the Times feels we must have.
Money will have to be found to pay for all of this, and the Pentagon can no longer be handed a blank check, as happened throughout the Bush years.
Since 2001, basic defense spending has risen by 40 percent in real post-inflation dollars. That is not counting the huge supplemental budgets passed -- with little serious review or debate -- each year to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Such unquestioned largess has shielded the Pentagon from any real pressure to cut unneeded weapons systems and other wasteful expenses.
As a result, there is plenty of fat in the defense budget. Here is what we think can be cut back or canceled in order to pay for new equipment and other reforms that are truly essential to keep this country safe:
-- End production of the Air Force's F-22.
-- Cancel the DDG-1000 Zumwalt class destroyer.
-- Halt production of the Virginia class sub.
-- Pull the plug on the Marine Corps's V-22 Osprey.
-- Halt premature deployment of missile defense.
-- Negotiate deep cuts in nuclear weapons.
-- Trim the active-duty Navy and Air Force.
One thing the New York Times didn't mention is our overseas empire. Few, apart perhaps from Chalmers Johnson and Noam Chomsky, ever do which is strange since we have troops in over thirty countries and installations in 40 countries and overseas territories. It is difficult to tell because the Defense Department (DoD) doesn't make it easy to decipher but according to the DoD Base Structure Report for Fiscal 2008 the United States seems to boast 761 military installations overseas down from 823 military installations in 2007. It is important to note that these are installations as opposed to bases. Though many are full-fledged military bases, some of these installations are simply radar tracking sites or weather gathering information sites.
Often US military presence is at an established military base in the host country. Such is the case in Manta, Ecuador where the US runs counter-narcotics operations in South America. Still in return for use of the facilities, the US commits to pay a lease and making improvements. In the case of Manta, the US expanded the runways at the cost of $62.5 million. The Ecuadorian government has opted not to renew the American lease and thus the US will be leaving Ecuador in 2009. Of course, the US military wants a new base in the region but it's having a hard time finding new accommodations. So far both Colombia and Peru have said thank you but no.
With the new administration, isn't perhaps time that we at very least have a national conversation about our empire and our role as the global policeman? How many of these installations are essential for national security and global policing? Just how much longer is a 50,000 plus troop presence in Germany required? Isn't it time we rethink this not so accidental empire?
|Country||Installations||Military Personnel||Civilian Personnel|
|BIOT (Diego Garcia)||1||654||0|
|United Arab Emirates||2||0||3|
|Source: DoD BSR 2008|
Note that the above doesn't even include Iraq, Afghanistan or the Philippines. Nor does it include support operations in Central Asia. It is time that we hear arguments justifying these expenditures. The links in the table are to profiles of one of the installations based in that country.
If you want a full list of all US military bases, at home and abroad as of February 2008, please visit Globe Master.