One issue that has not really been addressed in any of the presidential debates nor the media coverage of the elections is the US military budget. William Hartung, director of the Arms Trade Resource Center, addresses this issue in an article he wrote for Foreign Policy in Focus. Hartung writes:
“One issue that will not be discussed in tonight’s presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama is our nation’s burgeoning military budget. Earlier this month, the Bush administration announced a proposed military budget of $614 billion, not counting the full cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. This represents the highest level of spending since World War II, even though our most dangerous adversary is a dispersed terrorist network measured in the tens of thousands, not a nuclear-armed Soviet Union whose armed forces were measured in the millions.
If Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Michael Mullen have their way, these massive levels of spending will continue even after the end of the war in Iraq, with a “floor” on military spending of 4% of our Gross Domestic Product.
Not only have the major presidential candidates been largely silent on these record expenditures, but they want to increase them. Barack Obama has said we will probably need to “bump up” the military budget in a new administration, and both he and Hillary Clinton have committed themselves to increasing the size of the armed forces by tens of thousands of troops. On the Republican side of the aisle, John McCain and Mike Huckabee are looking to spend even more than their Democratic counterparts.”
In looking on the websites of the four main candidates still in the race from both the Republican and Democratic Parties, only Mike Huckabee clearly states that he would increase US military spending:
“Having a sizeable standing army actually makes it less likely that we’ll have to use it. So I will increase the defense budget. We have to be ready to fight both conventional and unconventional wars against both state and non-state enemies. Right now we spend about 3.9% of our GDP on defense, while we spent about 6% in 1986 under President Reagan. I would return to that 6% level. I believe we can do this without raising taxes. I will limit increases in other discretionary spending and rely on the normal increase in federal tax revenue that is generated annually as Americans’ incomes rise.”
John McCain talks about the need to reform military spending, but doesn’t mention the budget specifically. Neither Hillary Clinton nor Barack Obama address the military budget on their campaign websites.
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, as of the last campaign finance reporting, Hillary Clinton leads all candidates in donations from the defense industry, followed by John McCain and Barack Obama.