Bill Whitaker

Union County Progressives/Democrats

How can we as Eastern Oregonians, as Americans, see if our military budget reflects our values? Does it? Let’s take a look.

Donald Trump is commander in chief of the world’s largest military, one that has spent an average of $650 billion annually since 2010 (Stockholm International Peace Rvesearch Institute).

The $1.3 trillion spending bill signed by President Trump March 23 includes a $160 billion boost in military spending over two years (U.S. Department of Defense).

The U.S. military budget has four parts: 1) base budget, 2) overseas contingency operations fund (OCO) to fight wars, 3) combined budgets of domestic agencies that protect us (Department of Veterans Affairs, the State Department, Homeland Security, FBI, Cybersecurity and National Nuclear Security Administration), and 4) OCO funds for the State Department and Homeland Security to fight ISIS.

Congress appropriated $700 billion for the base budget and OCO for fiscal year 2018. Appropriations for our other protecting agencies totaled $181 billion in fiscal year 2017 (Kimberly Amadeo, The Balance, Feb. 15, 2018).

Let’s see if we can make some sense out of these huge expenditures.

First, according to fiscal year 2015 data, military spending (54 percent) consumes more than half of federal discretionary spending. We spend far more on military than education (6 percent), housing and community (6 percent), veterans’ benefits (6 percent), transportation (2 percent), Medicare and health (6 percent), energy and environment (3 percent), science (3 percent) and food and ag (1 percent) (www.nationalpriorties.org.)

Second, our military budget exceeds the combined military budgets of the next seven highest spending countries. In fiscal year 2015, U.S. military spending ($596 billion) exceeded by $30 billion the combined military spending of China ($215 billion), Saudi Arabia ($87 billion), Russia ($66 billion), U.K. ($55 billion), India ($51 billion), France ($51 billion) and Japan ($41 billion) (U.S. News & World Report).

Third, the military is spending money like there is no tomorrow. You may remember the scandal when the military spent $600 for a toilet seat. That scandal was small potatoes compared to the excesses of the F-35 fighter jet.

The F-35 program is projected to cost $1.45 trillion (yes, TRILLION). By the time it’s completed, we plan to buy 2,443 F-16s at a cost of $134 million each. That’s enough money to give $4,500 to every American, or to pay health insurance premiums for each of us for four years, or to wipe out all student loan debt, or to pay 40 percent of the costs needed to fix our crumbling infrastructure (www.time.com.)

And that’s not all. If you factor in the full cost of maintaining a fleet of F-35 aircraft for 56 years, the price of an individual fighter is more than $670 million. That’s literally worth more than its weight in gold.

Despite recently closing hundreds of bases in Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States still maintains nearly 800 formal military bases in more than 80 countries and territories abroad, not counting troops stationed at embassies and missions. Only 11 other countries have bases in foreign countries, some 70 altogether. Russia has an estimated 26 to 40 in nine countries. The United States has 138,000 active duty military troops stationed in nearly 150 countries (The Nation).

Budgets do reflect our values. They reflect the choices we make about how best to spend our money. I wonder if our military budget reflects the values we want as Americans, as Oregonians, as residents of Eastern Oregon?

President Dwight D. Eisenhower in his Chance for Peace address (April 16, 1953) answered this question for me:

“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.… This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.”

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