What company gets the most money from the U.S. government? The answer: the weapons maker Lockheed Martin. As the Washington Post recently reported, of its $51 billion in sales in 2017, Lockheed took in $35.2 billion from the government, or close to what the Trump administration is proposing for the 2019 State Department budget. And which company is in second place when it comes to raking in the taxpayer dollars? The answer: Boeing with a mere $26.5 billion. And mind you, that’s before the good times even truly begin to roll, as TomDispatch regular and weapons industry expert William Hartung makes clear today in a deep dive into the (ir)realities of the Pentagon budget. When it comes to the Department of Defense, though, perhaps we should retire the term “budget” altogether, given its connotation of restraint. Can’t we find another word entirely? Like the Pentagon cornucopia?
Sometimes, it’s hard to believe that perfectly sober reportage about Pentagon funding issues isn’t satire in the style of the New Yorker’s Andy Borowitz. Take, for instance, a recent report in the Washington Examiner that Army Secretary Mark Esper and other Pentagon officials are now urging Congress to release them from a September 30th deadline for fully dispersing their operation and maintenance funds (about 40% of the department’s budget). In translation, they’re telling Congress that they have more money than even they can spend in the time allotted.
It’s hard to be forced to spend vast sums in a rush when, for instance, you’re launching a nuclear arms “race” of one by “modernizing” what’s already the most advanced arsenal on the planet over the next 30 years for a mere trillion-plus dollars (a sum that, given the history of Pentagon budgeting, is sure to rise precipitously). In that context, let Hartung usher you into the wondrous world of what, in the age of The Donald, might be thought of (with alliteration in mind) as the Plutocratic Pentagon. Tom
How the Pentagon Devours the Budget
Normalizing Budgetary Bloat
By William D. Hartung
Imagine for a moment a scheme in which American taxpayers were taken to the cleaners to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars and there was barely a hint of criticism or outrage. Imagine as well that the White House and a majority of the politicians in Washington, no matter the party, acquiesced in the arrangement. In fact, the annual quest to boost Pentagon spending into the stratosphere regularly follows that very scenario, assisted by predictions of imminent doom from industry-funded hawks with a vested interest in increased military outlays.
Most Americans are probably aware that the Pentagon spends a lot of money, but it’s unlikely they grasp just how huge those sums really are. All too often, astonishingly lavish military budgets are treated as if they were part of the natural order, like death or taxes.
The figures contained in the recent budget deal that kept Congress open, as well as in President Trump’s budget proposal for 2019, are a case in point: $700 billion for the Pentagon and related programs in 2018 and $716 billion the following year. Remarkably, such numbers far exceeded even the Pentagon’s own expansive expectations. According to Donald Trump, admittedly not the most reliable source in all cases, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis reportedly said, “Wow, I can’t believe we got everything we wanted” — a rare admission from the head of an organization whose only response to virtually any budget proposal is to ask for more.