by Eric Zuesse for The Saker Blog
The National Priorities Project headlines “U.S. Military Spending vs. the World” and reports: “World military spending totaled more than $1.6 trillion in 2015. The U.S. accounted for 37 percent of the total.” But it can’t be believed, because, even if other nations aren’t under-reporting their military expenditures, the U.S. certainly is — under-reporting it by about 50%. The reality is approximately twice the official figure, so that America’s current annual military expenditures are around $1.5 trillion, which is to say, almost equal to that entire global estimate of “more than $1.6 trillion in 2015.”
America’s actual annual military budget and expenditures are unknown, because there has never been an audit of the ‘Defense’ Department, though an audit has routinely been promised but never delivered, and Congresses and Presidents haven’t, for example, even so much as just threatened to cut its budget every year by 10% until it is done — there has been no accounatability for the Department, at all. Corruption is welcomed, at the ‘Defense’ Department.
Furthermore, many of the military expenditures are hidden. One way that this is done is by funding an unknown large proportion of U.S. military functions at other federal Departments, so as for those operations not to be officially “‘Defense’ Department” budget and expenditures, at all. This, for example, is the reason why Robert Higgs, of The Independent Institute, was able to report, on 15 March 2007, “The Trillion-Dollar Defense Budget Is Already Here”. He found that America’s military expenditures, including the ones he could identify at other federal agencies, were actually already nearly a trillion dollars ($934.9 billion) a year:
“To estimate the size of the entire de facto defense budget, I gathered data for fiscal 2006, the most recently completed fiscal year, for which data on actual outlays are now available. In that year, the Department of Defense itself spent $499.4 billion. Defense-related parts of the Department of Energy budget added $16.6 billion. The Department of Homeland Security spent $69.1 billion. The Department of State and international assistance programs laid out $25.3 billion for activities arguably related to defense purposes either directly or indirectly. The Department of Veterans Affairs had outlays of $69.8 billion. The Department of the Treasury, which funds the lion’s share of military retirement costs through its support of the little-known Military Retirement Fund, added $38.5 billion. A large part of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s outlays ought to be regarded as defense-related, if only indirectly so. When all of these other parts of the budget are added to the budget for the Pentagon itself, they increase the fiscal 2006 total by nearly half again, to $728.2 billion.”
Furthermore, “Much, if not all, of the budget for the Department of State and for international assistance programs ought to be classified as defense-related, too. In this case, the money serves to buy off potential enemies and to reward friendly governments who assist U.S. efforts to abate perceived threats. … [As regards] Department of Homeland Security, many observers probably would agree that its budget ought to be included in any complete accounting of defense costs. … The Federal Bureau of Investigation … devotes substantial resources to an anti-terrorist program. The Department of the Treasury informs us that it has ‘worked closely with the Departments of State and Justice and the intelligence community to disrupt targets related to al Qaeda, Hizballah, Jemaah Islamiyah, as well as to disrupt state sponsorship of terror.’”
But, almost everything there relied upon mere estimates, because the Congress and the President always supply to the public numbers that are sadly uninterpretable by anyone who wants to know what percentage of the federal government is actually military.
For example, on April 3rd, the White House, as required by law, sent to Congress “the Seven-Day-After report for the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018 (Public Law 115-141). The President signed this Act into law on March 23, 2018.” That’s the current authorized spending for the entire U.S. federal Government. It was broken down there into twelve categories, some of which were for multiple federal Departments, in order to make the reported numbers as uninterpretable as possible — for example, nothing was shown for the Treasury Department, but something was shown for “Financial Services and General Government Appropriations” and it didn’t even mention the “Treasury” Department. And nothing was shown for the Justice Department, nor for the Commerce Department, but something was shown for “Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies” (whatever those are). However, as bad as this is, the military (or invasions) department is even less fathomable from the publicly available reports than those other ones are. The ‘Defense’ Department is the only one that’s still “unauditable” so that in one of the attempts to audit it:
“The audits of the FY 1999 DoD financial statements indicated that $7.6 trillion of accounting entries were made to compile them. This startling number is perhaps the most graphic available indicator of just how poor the existing systems are. The magnitude of the problem is further demonstrated by the fact that, of $5.8 trillion of those adjustments that we audited this year, $2.3 trillion were unsupported by reliable explanatory information and audit trails or were made to invalid general ledger accounts.”
Largely as a consequence of this, Wikipedia’s “Military budget of the United States” is a chaotic mess, though useful for links to some sources (all of which are likewise plagued as being uninterpretable).
On 1 March 2011, Chris Hellman headlined “The Real U.S. National Security Budget: The Figure No One Wants You to See”, and he estimated (using basically the same approach that Higgs had done in 2007, except less accurate than Higgs, due to failing to base his numbers on “the most recently completed fiscal year, for which data on actual outlays are now available” but instead using only the President’s budget request) that at that time, the U.S. Government was spending annually on ‘Defense’, “$1,219.2 billion. (That’s more than $1.2 trillion.)” That amount was far less than the totals that the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Defense had been reporting, in some of its periodic investigations (such as the one just cited), to have been missed or undocumented or falsely ‘documented’ as having been spent, by that Department; but, for some mysterious reason, the American people tolerate and re-elect ‘representatives’ who ‘debate’ and rubber-stamp such corruption, which is of enormous benefit to corporations such as Lockheed Martin and Boeing, whose sales and profits depend upon the U.S. Government and its allied governments. Any such privatization of the ‘Defense’ industry, in America or any other country — treating its military operations so as to produce profits for investors (investors in mass-murder) — thus guarantees that the national-security function will be heavily loaded with lobbying and graft, because the military industry’s entire market is to one’s own government and to its allied governments: it’s not a consumer market, but a government one. Thus, privatized military suppliers grow virtually to own their government; democracy consequently becomes impossible in such nations. And, one outcome from that is the uninterpretable financial reports by America’s government, regarding ‘Defense’.
For example, probably fewer than 1% of Americans have even been informed by the press as to what the currently authorized annual federal spending for the ‘Defense’ Department is. When the Washington Post, on 23 March 2018, reported their main story about the FY 2018 federal spending authorizations (“In late-night drama, Senate passes $1.3 trillion spending bill, averting government shutdown”), the figure for the ‘Defense’ Department was buried inconspicuously in a 52-word passage within that 1,600-word ‘news’-report, which was otherwise loaded with distractive trivia. This buried passage was: “The legislation funds the federal government for the remainder of the 2018 budget year, through Sept. 30, directing $700 billion toward the military and $591 billion to domestic agencies. The military spending is a $66 billion increase over the 2017 level, and the nondefense spending is $52 billion more than last year.” That’s all. For readers interested in knowing more, it linked to their 2,200-word article, “Here’s what Congress is stuffing into its $1.3 trillion spending bill”, and all that it said about the military portion of the new budget was the 27-word passage, “defense spending generally favored by Republicans is set to jump $80 billion over previously authorized spending levels, while domestic spending favored by Democrats rises by $63 billion.” Though 23 categories of federal spending were sub-headed and summarized individually in that article, ‘Defense’ wasn’t one of them. Nothing about the budget for the U.S. Department of ‘Defense’ — which consumes more than half of the entire budget — was mentioned. However, the reality was that, as Defense News reported it, on 7 February 2018 — and these figures were unchanged in the bill that President Trump finally signed on March 23rd — “Senate leaders have reached a two-year deal that would set defense spending at $700 billion for 2018 and $716 billion for 2019.” This year’s $700 billion Pentagon budget thus is 54% of the entire $1.3 trillion FY 2018 U.S. federal budget. Another article in Defense News on that same day, February 7th, noted that, “‘I’d rather we didn’t have to do as much on non-defense, but this is an absolute necessity, that we’ve got these numbers,’ said the Senate Armed Services Committee’s No. 2 Republican, Sen. Jim Inhofe, of Oklahoma.” So: 54% of the federal budget wasn’t high enough a percentage to suit that Senator; he wanted yet more taken out of non-‘defense’. How can people (other than stockholders in corporations such as Raytheon) vote for such a person? Deceit has to be part of the answer.
Using similar percentages to those that were employed by Higgs and by Hellman, the current U.S. annual military expenditure is in the neighborhood of $1.5 trillion. But that’s more than the total authorized federal spending for all departments. Where can the extra funds be coming from? On 5 February 2018, CNBC bannered “The Treasury is set to borrow nearly $1 trillion this year”. Then, charts were presented on 10 May 2018 by Dr. Edward Yardeni, headlined “U.S. Government Finance: Debt”, in which is shown that the U.S. federal debt is soaring at around a trillion dollars annually; so, that extra money comes from additions to the federal debt. Future generations of U.S. taxpayers will be paying the price for the profligacy of today’s U.S. aristocracy, who receive all the benefits from this scam off the public, and especially off those future generations. But the far bigger losses are felt abroad, in countries such as Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen, and Ukraine, where the targets will be suffering the consequences of America’s invasions and coups.
Notwithstanding its pervasive corruption and enormous uncounted waste, the U.S. military is, by far, the U.S. institution that is respected above all others by the American people. A great deal of domestic propaganda is necessary in order to keep it that way. With so many trillions of dollars that are unaccounted for, it’s do-able. All that’s needed is a tiny percentage of the huge graft to be devoted to funding the operation’s enormous PR for ‘patriotism’. And this treasonous operation has been sustainable, and very successful (for its ultimate beneficiaries), that way, in the U.S., at least for decades.
I have previously explained why specifically military corruption has come to take over the U.S. Government, but not certain other governments. And the result of its having done so has by now become obvious to people all around the world, except in the United States itself. Furthermore, ever since the first poll was taken on that matter, in 2013, which showed that globally the U.S. was viewed as the biggest national threat to peace in the world, a subsequent poll, in 2017, which unfortunately was taken in fewer countries, showed that this negative impression of the U.S. Government, by the peoples in those fewer countries, had actually increased there during the four intervening years. So: not only is the situation in the U.S. terrible, but the trend in the U.S. appears to be in the direction of even worse. America’s military-industrial complex can buy a glittering ‘patriotic’ image amongst its own public, but America’s image abroad will only become uglier, because the world-at-large dislikes a country that’s addicted to the perpetration of invasions and coups. Just as bullies are feared and disliked, so too are bully-nations. Even if the given bully-aristocracy becomes constantly enriched by their operation, economies throughout the world suffer such an aristocracy, as being an enormous burden; and, unfortunately, the American public will get the blame, not America’s aristocracy — which is the real beneficiary of the entire operation. This deflection of blame, onto the suckered public, precludes any effective response from the publics abroad, such as boycotts of U.S.-branded products and services might be. Instead, American tourists abroad become increasingly perceived as ‘the ugly American’. The restored ‘Cold War’ — this time with no ideological excuse (such as communism) whatsoever — could produce a much stronger global tarnishing of America’s global reputation. The beneficiaries, apparently, just don’t care.
Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.
I would feel better about this (it would still be a stupid amount of money, but at least not completely counterproductive to our own interests) if the USA was doing something necessary for national defense, like protecting our own borders. But No! It’s become crystal clear that we will deliberately look the other way as scoff-laws jump the wall (technically, not even necessary, as there is, effectively, no wall). Meanwhile, our military is busy fighting wars for greater Israel in the ME.
The military is held in high regard by the public partly due to propaganda-true. But it is also true that Americans in general are a militaristic people, and after all, what is there left to be proud of? When your jobs have been stolen, your birthright given away, your rights violated, your children reduced to wards and zombies under state control, and your privacy reduced to a joke…what’s left? Well, the thinking goes, at least we can be proud that the military is “fighting to keep me free”, even as the noose tightens around our collective necks. The irony is completely lost on the average Joe, who has all he can handle between trying to find a job that might provide health care for his family and a house that is in a school district that hasn’t been taken over by the progeny of crackhead Moms and deadbeat dads.
But the reality is, it doesn’t matter one whit what the average guy or gal thinks, because the fix is in-whoever wins the Presidential election, he or she will toe the party line-and the party is the always Likudnik.
When I think of what could have been bought with so much money, borrowed as it has been from our great grandchildren, who have no chance of repaying it, it makes me weep. More though-I weep for what my country once was, and what it is becoming.
Back when I used to watch TV, I remember seeing on the History Chanel a show called something like “WW2 in Color.” I watched it largely because it was interesting to see color films of an era largely seen in black and white.
However, I also remember that they did one entire episode on what was needed to create a large US Army after Pearl Harbor. During peacetime, the US Army was at around 100,000 soldiers (image that!). And it needed to be massively expanded to fight a two-front world war.
The show talked about how a major effort had to be put in to taking very independent minded and non-militarized Ameicans of that age and forming them into a military machine. Americans were not nearly as used to simply following orders as today, so a great deal of effort had to be put into training these draftees and volunteers into literally “regimentation” and getting them to follow orders instead of thinking for themselves.
If you compare that to today, now most American schools and businesses are run by ex-Military officers. They are often hired on the strength of their background of “leadership” in the military, so they of course immediately structure their new job based on how things were done in the military. Thus, Americans are now “militarized” from the time they enter school and this continues into the work-force. And of course a part of this is constantly being told and taught and having it enforced that the military way is the best way of doing things.
There were two mini-series about the military done by the same people. One was called “Band of Brothers” and was about a unit in World War 2. The other was called “Generation Kill” and was about a unit in the invasion of Iraq. One noticeable difference between the eras is that the World War 2 soldiers are still civlians thinking about the lives they had before the war and to which they will hopefully return, while the Iraq War soldiers are largely thinking about their careers in the military. The difference between a civlian military formed to fight a war, and a mercenary military. One sees this often in WW2 movies, in that the characters are defined by their careers and lives in the civillian world before they had to go fight. This is very different from today, where America is a fully militarized society with a huge military where people spend a large portion of their lives.
This is a very important point.
Also note that back then, most men had a farm, trade, family store, whatever, to go back to.
In the wasteland USA that is the 21st Century, the sort of men in the non-professional classes that used to be agriculture-industrial workers are now stuck. The military is to them what the Ivy League is to their rich, well-heeled and well-connected superiors. It’s that or living dead in get-by jobs, gigs, and nothing.
The old Party Man was right in 1967: When the old labor unions were infiltrated by the CIA, the rest of it all fell into place. Make people permanently insecure and cowed, there’s nothing they won’t do to break the tension. Invade Persia even.
(Old party man: George Morris. Book title: CIA and American Labor, International Publishers, New York, 1967… not online that I know of, alas.)
That’s a good point. The military people today are in it for the money, the benefits, and the chance to advance their careers, while draftees (whether from WWII or Vietnam) were just hoping to get out alive.
Of course, that modern military mindset is reinforced by the fact that for the average US soldier, there is very little in the way of actual combat hazard. Not to trivialize anyone’s death, but the casualties from all of our ME adventures have been incredibly low. So the idea that you might not breath long enough to enjoy the job benefits never really enters into the thinking of most soldiers today.
The problem with that is that it eliminates another reason for domestic opposition to the war. Vietnam brought out mass protests because the war had gone on too long and there were too many body bags coming back. In contrast, we’ve now got two wars that have dragged on for over 15 years, but because there is a media blackout on showing the body bags coming back, and because there aren’t that many of them, and because there is no draft, there are no mass protests. People figure, with some justification, that the soldiers know when they volunteer what they’re getting in to, and they’re not going to get off their asses to protest unless there’s something in it for them-like getting out of the draft.
So we have multiple immoral wars entering their second decade now with no end in sight, and no real debate about what the hell we’re doing over there. It’s a disgusting state of affairs, and it’s all going to end very badly.
is becoming?HAS BECOME.
“The beneficiaries, apparently, just don’t care.”
They are called zionazis, israelis. Why should they care, the usa is their policeman, their mafia protection racket, their free ticket to just about anything they want.
Key to the whole puzzle right in the ” buried passage” on the budget deal:
“…$700 billion toward the military and $591 billion to domestic agencies…”
That is, $700 billion: Wars for Israel.
And then $591 billion to keep the citizen/slaves in line.
The domestic forces are only 109 billion dollars less than the foreign legions… but folks, they’re catching up fast. Higher every year.
There you go.
There is also the interest payments, banksters need their cut, as well.
There’s no point in spending all that money on munitions if you can’t have a few wars to justify it, is there?
I hope Kim Jong-un reads this article and realises US fork tongues are guaranteed.
US will promise N. Korea’s Kim Jong-un it will not seek regime change – Pompeo
“We will have to provide security assurances to be sure. This has been the trade-off that has been pending for 25 years,” Pompeo told ‘Fox News Sunday.’
The Fuhrer offers guarantees……
And US ‘economic hit men’ are saddling up as we speak.
The massive irony of all this is that none of the money is spent on ‘defense’.
It is all spent on offense.
I wonder if the USraeli EMpire murders half of the deceased in war, plague and famine.
I am sure that the USraeli People would at least like to know that they are sowing their money’s worth in corpses.
Thanks Eric, good article. Here the link to a well-done video that goes even deeper and shows all of the ins and outs of the US shadow government, the deep state, their expenditures and secret budgets:
Thanks. That presentation by Shipp is, indeed, terrific. I shall henceforth link to it where appropriate.
Private analysts estimate that the US military budget is approximately 1,2 trillion dollars, and it’s debatable if even this is accurate. Having the largest military budget in the world has created the impression that the US has the best high tech in the world, which is not the case. The US Military Industrial Complex is in private hands, while the Russian is Government owned. This means the US military gets less for more money spent, while the Russian military gets more for less money spent. By now it’s an acceptable fact the the corruption in the Military Industrial Complex is immense, the same producing questionable weapons systems at enormous profit. For example, the famous “Patriot” AA missile system has been valued by the Israeli military of having an efficiency rate of only 2 %. The Israeli’s had the experience of seeing two of their “Patriot” missiles make U turns after being fired and returning back to the people who fired them. About two years ago the Israelis fired three “Patriots” at one drone, and all three missed. The US military also has to finance 700 combat bases and 300 supply bases outside the US, while total number in the US is unknown. Then of course we have pay for the troops, pension insurance, etc. One can safely say that the US defense budget is certainly larger than 1,2 trillion dollars annually.
The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have cost the US some 6-7 trillion dollars. The US student debt stands at 1,5 trillion dollars. This means the US has money for wars but not money to educate it’s young people. And the infrastructure ? In what shape is it in ?
The point is that the US elite, which controls the US, is only interested in it’s personal gratification. It does not care about the people in the US. For years the Internet has been providing articles and photographs of the hideaways the US elite has procured for itself both in the US and in foreign countries, should things go bad. What we have here is a repetition of history. When the Vandals took Rome in 476, the first to flee was the Roman elite, which fled to Venice. The US is going to experience something very similar.
A good portion of that is the cost of keeping global shipping lanes open. The US never gets any credit for this. Somali piracy alone costs the global economy billions of dollars a year. Imaging that kind of piracy worldwide. China and Europe would be absolutely dead in the water without the global trade facilitated by the US Navy.
The welfare/university/public school complex is VASTLY larger than the military industrial complex.
Having said that, if the US focused on defending itself, it could spend a lot less money on defense. The last war America participated in that benefited the average American was the Mexican War. The US is the first country in history that uses its armed forces for everything BUT protecting its own borders.
”A good portion of that is the cost of keeping global shipping lanes open. The US never gets any credit for this. Somali piracy alone costs the global economy billions of dollars a year.”
Don’t be silly. The US gets its due ”credit” in the form of Third World loot. Somalian piracy is the by-product of imperialist lawlessnes in general and Europe’s fishing industry in particular.
Great news indeed that these pirates contribute significantly in bankrupting the Exceptionals and Indispensables. Serves them right.
You’re justifying piracy.
…keeping global shipping lanes open
Really? Last time I checked the US Navy was involved in assisting the Saudi sea embargo on Yemen and harassing ships going to and from North Korea. Not to mention its signal failure to prevent a pirate attack on a convoy of ships departing from a port in a Nato country which resulted in the death of US citizen. Not a word said or a finger lifted by from the mighty US Navy present in the vicinity when citizens of Nato countries were kidnapped and tortured by the pirates who attacked MV Mavi Marmara and its sister ships.
This is what the UN Sec Gen had to say about Somali piracy:
23. The root causes of piracy include a fragile economy, a lack of alternative livelihoods, insecurity and weak governance structures. Efforts to address such challenges are continuing within the framework of the Somali compact for peacebuilding and state-building.
The analysts at RAND agree:
The scale of the problem has prompted unprecedented action on the part of the international community, the vast bulk of which has been explicitly militaristic in nature. While the ensuing responses have provided a
certain deterrent effect, they will never be able to comprehensively confront the problem, given the expanse of the area to be covered (over 2 million square miles) and because they only address piracy at its end point (on the sea), rather than at its root (on land).
The root cause of piracy in Somalia is economic. The country is broken; Somalis are fearful, poor, miserable and hungry. Piracy begins on land. The FAO is doing a bigger job at preventing piracy in Somalia than the US Navy who, at any rate, have subcontracted the job to their European vassals. No US naval vessel is involved in Somalia — so much for US effort in countering Somali pirates.
If the U.S. Government represents the U.S. aristocracy and its vassal aristocracies, then of course it will protect their international corporations’ shipping! But it’s not doing this for the benefit of the public anywhere.
And, along the way, the CIA has become almost a second military for the US, launching drone and assasination teams around the world. This was a part of Obama’s contribution to the empire, as he emphasize these sorts of drone and assasination efforts and de-emphasized Dubya/Cheney’s direct wars.
This of course is largely in addition to its various color revolution and election meddling projects that are also always on-going, although there is likely some overlap.
The CIA budget is completely black and the American voters are told nothing as to even broad categories of what is being purchased. Since the citizens are not told what is being spent, it of course is also un-auditable. And we know after the Iran-Contra scandal during Reagan that the CIA keeps all sorts of slush-funds and money-making/transfering operations at all times. Since nothing has ever been reformed in that area, it is highlly likely that these still continue and have greatly expanded.
One way of defeating a democracy is to fail to tell the voters what the government is doing, which of course makes the voters powerless to change it. A government which is not transparent to the voters can not be called a democracy in any real sense.
Trillion$ spent on a military that’s lost every single war they started. I think every beneficiary in the U.S. military should get a job (or 3) and pay us every penny back.
Really great we have such thorough expetienced independant journalists like Eric.
$21 trillion lost: Largest theft in history buried under guise of US national security – Lee Camp
“Skidmore and Catherine Austin Fitts did more digging and conducted a search of government websites. They found similar reports dating back to 1998. These documents indicate $21 trillion in unsupported adjustments that had been reported for the DoD and Housing and Urban Development for the years 1998 -2015.
As Forbes magazine pointed out, after Mark Skidmore began inquiring about the report, the Office of the Inspector General’s webpage was mysteriously taken down.
Given that the entire army budget in fiscal year 2015 was $122 billion, unsupported adjustments were 54 times the level of spending authorized by Congress, the magazine said. The Inspector General report indicated that unsupported adjustments were the result of the Defense Department’s “failure to correct system deficiencies”.
Lee Camp noted that mainstream media didn’t pay due attention to the story which he describes as “the largest theft in history covered up under the guise of national security.”
This just makes the fact that if they turned to permanent armed neutrality, cut spending to $100bn/year overall, that much more promising with respect to their economic recovery. Over $1tn a year to either infrastructure or debt pay offs could save them. Sadly the American people will get (removed language,MOD) by this cancer.
There is a reason why the USA has such a bloated military budget, and it ain’t for defense.
It is for American offense (i.e. aggression) against any nation or group of nations that does not assimilate into America’s unipolar world order.
Indeed, America’s definition of “national security” is nothing more than an Orwellian euphemism for American’s global dictatorship … sorry… rules-based international order (sic).
The American Empire must maintain Full Spectrum Dominance, as the Pentagon would say, over the entire planet, and spilling blood–or the threat of spilling blood–is the only way to do it.