The proposed defense budget for fiscal year 2010, announced last Wednesday by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, has been praised by the mainstream media for cutting funding to weapons programs. Although this is true — for example, the high profile F-22 fighter jet, a project that has been in development since 1986, costs $300 million per plane, and has been openly talked about by Gates as useless to operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, has been cut. Yet, the overall budget is still increased by 3.4% — surpassing George Bush’s spending on defense by $20 billion, amounting to about $700 billion total.
Economic Stimulation Myth
Military spending is being portrayed as a sort of stimulus package by industry leaders and their publicists. The Aerospace Industries Association (AIA), which represents more than 100 defense and aerospace corporations, claims that these corporations contribute $97 billion in exports a year and maintain 2 million jobs. Yet according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Aerospace Product and Parts Manufacturing, which includes some non-defense related corporations, employed 472,000 wage and salary workers in 2006.
The claim that spending more money on defense will stimulate the economy begs the question of why, after spending increasingly ludicrous amounts on defense since 2002, the U.S. is not experiencing an economic boom now. The truth is that spending billions on defense only stimulates the pockets of corporate CEOs. In 2002, the top three defense contractors – Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Northrop Grumman – split $42 billion in Pentagon contracts. In 2007 (the latest year for which there is data), the Big Three split $69 billion. Yet, according to the University of Massachusetts Political Economy Research Institute, for every $1 billion invest in defense, 8,555 jobs are created. That same billion invested in health care creates 12, 883 jobs. Invested in education, it creates 17,687 jobs.
Implications for War
Part of Obama’s military budget includes an additional $130 billion on wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. By cutting spending on weapons programs, Obama is not seeking to reduce the U.S.’s commitment to war – rather, he is looking to shift the focus of U.S. military capabilities away from traditional wars against other armies, to the counterterrorism and counterinsurgency skills needed for the type of wars the U.S. has been fighting since 2001. Obama continues to increase troops in Afghanistan – a 4,000-troop increase was announced on top of the 17,000-troop increase previously planned — and maintain the number of troops stationed in Iraq.
It is easy to see that despite cutting funding to some weapons programs, the overall defense budget increase, new focus, and increase in troops are clear signs that Obama is as committed to senseless war as his predecessor.