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“Trillions to Burn?” asks new Project on Defense Alternatives report February 19, 2010

Posted by Alexander Brozdowski in Analysis.
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Carl Conetta at the Commonwealth Institute’s Project on Defense Alternatives has released an insightful summary of some recent reports and data on our growing defense budget. The report illustrates how the expansion of defense spending over the past decade and projected into the near future is not a simple product of America’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Rather, PDA’s analysis suggests that war spending accounts for only 50% of the increase since 1998, when Defense spending began its current upswing.

Conetta identifies some suspected culprits for this sustained growth, including a lack of coordination in military modernization efforts and the lackluster financial outcome of Pentagon reforms. New items keep getting tacked onto the budget, old ones stay put, and very few members of Congress are interested in proposing serious restraint during wartime. Attitudes in the executive branch are similar, as shown by President Obama’s decision to exempt defense spending from the fiscal restraints imposed by his FY 2011 budget on discretionary domestic spending.

The continued growth in defense spending and domestic entitlements puts the national debt on a similar upward trajectory. PDA concludes, therefore, that America’s near-to-midterm debt likely will reach a “Tibetan Plateau”: not quite as high as the peak during World War II, but pretty close and set to endure much longer.

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