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Why a Larger Military Budget Makes No Sense

Trump’s proposed increase in military spending for next year alone will be $54 billion (nearly a 10% increase over the current base budget), and that is part of a larger plan to expand the military budget that Benjamin Friedman describes here:

Congressional Republicans have a new plan for a military spending boost. John McCain, the Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, last week released a report calling for a $54 billion increase in 2018 Pentagon spending and a $430 billion increase above current Pentagon plans for the next five fiscal years. McCain’s House counterpart, Mac Thornberry, backed that plan today in a Fox News op-ed. Both chairmen also want an immediate “supplemental” increase of an indeterminate amount to the 2017 military budget.

Besides being wasteful and unnecessary, the proposed spending increase is coming at the expense of civilian agencies at a time when the military already has outsized influence over the making and execution of foreign policy. This takes an unbalanced, militarized foreign policy and promises to make it more so. It represents the diversion of limited resources away from agencies that don’t have much to start with to a military that already has more than enough funding, and it is being done for no discernible reason except that Republican hawks always think that there should be more military spending. Here we see how Trump’s military fetish and nationalistic bombast dovetail perfectly with the conventional agenda of the most hawkish members of Congress. On top of that, it makes a mockery of the administration’s desire for allies to boost their own military spending, since it actively discourages them from making more of a commitment to their own security when they know that the U.S. will always make up the difference. Why would allied governments court political risk and dissatisfaction from their own voters when they see that the U.S. under Trump is eager to spend even more on its military? The obvious answer is that they won’t, and that means that the U.S. will continue to be stuck with free- or cheap-riding allies while being saddled with more debt to pay for bloating the Pentagon budget further.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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