What contributed to such unprecedented growth? In a word: fear. People were afraid after the 9/11 attacks, and that fear gave way to anger and paranoia, as it frequently does. The Pentagon, and the defense contractors dependent on it, seized the moment to revive a lagging war machine that had weakened under the Clinton administration in the mid-90’s. Using largely borrowed money (of which over a trillion of our present debt is just the interest accrued), George W. Bush and many of the Republican defense hawks embarked on a public campaign of retribution, fueled by the collective fear and anger of the American people. Every year the Defense Department saw an increase of between $20 and $40 billion, from $412.4 billion to $699.5 billion. And with incredible growth you find incredible waste. Corrupt contractors overseas, inflated prices for everything from bombers to zippers, airdrops in Iraq of over $1 billion in cash (much of which has gone missing), and massive infrastructure investments that now, at the end of the war, are being chalked up at a loss of hundreds of millions to the American taxpayer.
Despite the bloated Defense budget, despite the incredible waste, graft, and corruption of the last decade of large-scale strategic defense budget planning, and despite the current economic and political climate, conservative lawmakers continue to push for sustaining the Pentagon’s budget at it’s current inflated levels. Cutting $500 billion over ten years from the Defense Department’s budget, says many Republicans and conservative pundits who are hoping you’re as short sighted as they are, will “decimate our military”. Actually, over the course of the budget cut’s life, it will drop the Defense Department’s budget to the second year of the War in Afghanistan. A cut of $1 trillion, as some have proposed adding the so-called “trigger effect” cuts of the super committees budget failure, would reduce the Defense Department’s budget to what it was before we waged our “two-front” war. A leaner military perhaps, but only compared the obese and wasteful system we have now.