US Boosts Defense Spending - To What End?

Tyler Durden's picture

Authored by J.Hawk, Daniel Deiss, & Edwin Watson via,

One of Donald Trump’s campaign promises was the pledge to “rebuild the US military”, and it is one of the few of his initiatives that appears to enjoy broad bipartisan support.

The US Senate’s version of the defense appropriations bill provides for what amounts to a dramatic 10% increase in defense spending, or more than even the Trump Administration requested. The bill passed with a strong bipartisan majority and with hardly any debate. There is no reason to expect the House of Representatives will not follow suit.

This naturally raises the question: what is behind the sudden interest in boosting US defense spending, after a decade and a half of continuous war?

The official reason for the boost, and one that has some merit, is the sorry state of the US military. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, plus the various and sundry other operations against Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, not to mention the confrontations with Russia, China, and North Korea, have left the US military stretched thin and demoralized.

Much of the Army and Marine equipment pool has incurred significant wear and tear from operating in the hot and dusty Middle East conditions. The air force has been reduced to a collection of on-call bomb trucks supporting land operations. Even the navy, easily the least-engaged of the three services, has had to station carrier battle groups to contribute their airwings to the ground support mission, and thus justify the existence of the costly carrier fleet. The result is a force with significant morale and training problems which manifest themselves in crashing planes and colliding warships.

It is doubtful, however, that Congress is so eagerly “supporting the troops” for the reasons outlined above. As the recent US elections have demonstrated, the US economy’s softness is leading to unpredictable and uncontrollable election outcomes. Moreover, ideological opposition makes public spending extremely difficult to provide, with defense spending being the one solitary exception. The members of Congress are therefore supporting the defense appropriations bill with the expectation it will create jobs in their districts and states. Defense contractors themselves go out of their way to “educate” the legislators of the benefits associated with supporting this bill.

Donald Trump’s own motives likely aren’t all that different. While he campaigned on, for example, a “trillion-dollar investment in infrastructure,” the chances of such a program being passed by Congress are between slim and none. So offering a de-facto trillion-dollar increase in defense spending is the next best thing, as it may well translate into enough jobs in key states to ensure a margin of victory in the 2020 election.

But there is also a deeper sense to this effort, as the US establishment seems to try to re-enact the 1980s. And for a good reason. It was quite literally the last decade of America’s greatness, the last decade in which the country elected a president by a landslide–Ronald Reagan in 1984–and the last decade in which it scored a genuine, unalloyed geopolitical triumph in the form of the collapse of USSR and the emergence of the US as the sole hegemonic power. Therefore it is no surprise that US decisionmakers want to use it as a blueprint for repeating the earlier success.

Indeed, if one looks at the origins of America’s 1980s triumph, it is easy to see similarities between the current policies and US policies of 1970s and 1980s. The prescription for success looks something like this: first, end unpopular costly quagmire wars, retrench, carry out domestic reforms liberalizing the economy, run up national debt through massive deficit spending, pump hundreds of billions of dollars of new spending into a revitalized all-volunteer force benefiting from a technological leap forward, and watch the geopolitical benefits practically reap themselves!

But it’s unlikely this feat can be repeated.

There is no next generation of US weapons comparable to the Abrams and Bradley armored vehicles, F-15 and F-16 fighters, or AEGIS destroyers that would provide the US with the sort of qualitative advantage it enjoyed in the 1980s and 1990s. It seems highly unlikely the US will be able to extricate itself from the debilitating wars in the Middle East. Trump is no Nixon, he lacks the foreign policy credibility sufficient to persuade the US establishment to accept at least a temporary loss of influence in the Middle East. Most importantly, while Reagan benefited from a stagflationary economy that benefited from liberalization and deregulation, and a low level of national debt, Trump has neither. US economy is suffering from neoliberalism and globalization taken to their logical extremes, not over-regulation or over-taxation. The US national debt is reaching its historic maximums. And, last but not least, China today is an economic powerhouse while Russia’s economy is on a far more sound footing than the Soviet economy was in the 1970s and 1980s.

The danger here is that, aware that the time is not on their side, the US elites may engage in more international adventurism to a far greater extent than Reagan did in Grenada and Lebanon.

Unfortunately, there are few indications the US elites have accommodated themselves to the new, post-hegemonic, international balance of power, and the boost in military spending is a reflection of their efforts to recapture past glories. But it is unlikely they can reverse the process of US hegemonic decline. Indeed, this effort actually represents a still-heavier burden on the already weak US economy.

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Cabreado's picture

It would be best to focus on a thoroughly corrupt and defunct Congress.

A rather dull endeavor, apparently, for the modern day American.

Lack of Focus has its consequences, ya know...

hence, the trajectory continues...

algol_dog's picture

"To what end?"

To enrichen defence contractors and political donors. 

Manthong's picture


“To What End?”


Bes's picture

the same thing they do every night...

try to take over the world


Déjà view's picture

Protect U.S. flags made in Chicom...

American flags made in foreign lands will no longer fly over military bases, but the rule won't apply to other federal facilities because lawmakers decided star-spangled banners made in the U.S. are just too expensive.

Under a new law signed as part of the 2014 omnibus appropriations bill, any flag purchased by the Defense Department is required to be 100 percent made in America. Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Calif., who wrote the legislation, said he did so for economic as well as symbolic reasons.


TBT or not TBT's picture

Actually, defending the USA is one of the limited functions of the federal government dating back to the, uh, well, Constitution.    Entitlements Are Not In There   They're far more onerous and destructive than defense spending.  

cheka's picture

to what end?  israel and dual citizens

giovanni_f's picture

to what end?  protect our fascists against their fascists


It's the same with war. All wars have to be made in  America.

peddling-fiction's picture


Add the NASA/JPL slush funds, and you have lots of cash for the "Burning Man", event.

Cabreado's picture

So then, you consider the People shoring up a defunct Congress to be an effort to enrichen defense contractors(?)

Does anybody know how to both read and think at the same time anymore?

The trajectory continues...

Jim in MN's picture

I believe that Trump decided early on to pick his battles.  In order to do so he quite deliberately let two sectors off the hook, for a time.  These being defense, and banking/finance.

On the other hand, letting the generals scurry about like they are in charge doesn't mean they ARE in charge.

Let's face it: world peace is breaking out.  The markets know it, the elites know it, it's only the masses fed by the MSM that don't know it.

Like Lil Wayne said: "I'm my own consultant."  You have to think fast, and absorb information to make it these days.

Defense spending is the Boogie Man of the new and improved 21st century.

Why spend on actual steel, electronics, warheads and 'wet ware' (your kids' brains and blood) when you can cyber it or symbolize it?

We, the USA, can be the smartest or the stupidest kids on the play lot.

Do we rein in the spending, close the bases, get real with our own domestic problems and become a proper example for others?

Or do we 'roll another wad', light up another trillion in debt, just to pretend we're still the A-Team and Mr. T is the bomb?

That shit is OLD.  Not only OLD......fatally old.


We have no vital national interests there now that Western Hemispheric energy independence is assured.

Think it over.  Or trust your gut.



Anteater's picture

The Pentagon was hacked of all military and civilian personnel

records in 2012, all of it. We were told "get an Equifax account".

In 2013, all military contractor data was hacked, all of it. We were

told "get an Equifax account". Pentagon Procurement has no idea

where $100s of Bs are disappearing to. This fiscal year, Pentagon

blew out their budget in only 7 months, by $54B over. Poof! Where

did $54B disappear to? Estimates are government leaks were taking

a $T a year out of the system since 1998. Rumsfeld admitted $2.3T 

was missing. Today 10x that is unaccounted for. They can't find it!

Next fiscal year Congress hopes the big blowout will only be $70B, 

but we're not talking budget shortfalls, we're talking a $B every day!

You can watch it live:  Over $B a day.

political_proxy's picture

Could stop "cost plus" military contracts and save enough money to give to israel every year to make them happy...for a few days.

HRClinton's picture

Tyler, why don't YOU tell us "to what end"?

E.g. to maintain VOM?  Cash for the PPP?

Silver Savior's picture

Yeah just what we need more pork barrel spending. Go ahead. Like spending matters at this point. The dollar is done.

Enceladus's picture

To juice the secret space program ?  or more beach houses for MIC contractors

richatstructure's picture

He's giving clowns a bad name.

lolmao500's picture

+10% more defense budget... meanwhile most of it is wasted by Lockheed martin, boeing and all those bastards wasting money.

China has like 150B$ budget... and they get MUCH MORE out of it than the US which has a budget 8 times higher. Corruption will be the downfall of the US. In China, when it concerns national security, you waste ressources, you hang, in the US, you get a congresionnal investigation and a 5$ fine.

The US might have a trillion dollar budget in nominal terms, but in REAL terms, its probably the same as China and Russia quality/quantity wise.

Blue Steel 309's picture

Russia moved to superior missile tech, because it is all you really need these days to keep the USA from attacking you and it is a lot cheaper.

Posa's picture

Correct ...that... and taking down the communications systems with anti-satellite systems and cyberwar... brilliant. the USSR would be around today if they had played it this smart.

Blue Steel 309's picture

The Soviet Union collapsed under the weight of its own lies, not its BS economic system.

Sorta like the USA empire is doing right now.

Posa's picture

"Unfortunately, there are few indications the US elites have accommodated themselves to the new, post-hegemonic, international balance of power, and the boost in military spending is a reflection of their efforts to recapture past glories. But it is unlikely they can reverse the process of US hegemonic decline. Indeed, this effort actually represents a still-heavier burden on the already weak US economy."

Correct. Succinct and to the point. So here's what's going to happen over the next decade (assuming th US doesn't try something stupid):

- US diplomatic isolation (especially over abrogation of the Iran Accord)

- deterioration of EU allies trying to absorb refugees from US war and devastating neoliberal plunder

- stalemate and humiliation at the hands of the Sino-Russo bloc in Syria, Iran, Ukraine and NKOR

- severe economic repercussions from the pending "market correction" on an economy that's barely operating at 2007 output levels

- social turmoil at home and no effective governmental response from a completely corrupt, sclerotic political system

- a turn to increasingly Orwellian Police State repression, complete with violent false- flag Terror Spectacles

Ultimately the US will isuccumb the British Disease...  the Pox Americana Empire enters free fall and uncontrolled collapse, too senile to change course no matter how obvious  ...

Anteater's picture

Mmmmm, ...sclerotics, ...arghllll...

HRClinton's picture

That must be one bitch of a Doomsday City they're building 1 mile under ice in Antarctica. 

Florida halls? Golf course?

pizdowitz's picture

No matter. Russkies already have The Arctica  - on the Arctic Ocean continental shelf.

land_of_the_few's picture

They did this by cunningly placing a huge chunk of their coastline up north :D

Davidduke2000's picture

It does not matter the us boost defense spending , it goes into a black hole of bad hardware. F35 going to the scrap yard, zoomwalt is a garbage scow. over $2 trillion in the garbage.

xrxs's picture

Trump campaigned on increasing the size of the military, and he seems very intent on keeping his campaign promises. 

Davidduke2000's picture

No he campaigned on building new hospitals for the veterans and make it easy for them too have health care, nothing so far is happening, the soldiers are still killing themselves, of course it was only a campaign promise.  

Blue Steel 309's picture

He campaigned on strengthening the military. It wasn't until the very end that the message morphed into more spending, but it did.

One of the few things he was saying that I did not like.

Abaco's picture

And reducing our entanglements in foreign affairs. Backed away from that one in the first month.

Lost in translation's picture

Military spending is a wealth destroyer.

PaulMalley's picture

At my age, 75yo in a couple of months the only emotion I would be bothered to waste on the West's Political Establishment is amused contempt.

skipr's picture

Forest Trump's bankruptcies:
1)  Trump Taj Mahal (1991)
2)  Trump Castle (1992)
3)  Trump Plaza and Casino (1992)
4)  Plaza Hotel (1992)
5)  Trump Hotels and Casinos Resorts (2004)
6)  Trump Entertainment Resorts (2009)
7)  Neocons, DOD, Banksters, CIA, etc...Not!!! (2018?)

political_proxy's picture

Could have added the US, but he is way late to that party.

Hugh Mann's picture

Looks like his bankruptcy experience will become handy when the corporate government goes tits-up.

bunkers's picture

The end is war but, this time, it will be on American soil and Americans will know the hell we put the entire world through, for the better part of a century.

For our apathy, we deserve what we will get.

JailBanksters's picture

Less Tax and Spend more money on killing Countries

What could possibly go wrong ?


Wile-E-Coyote's picture

When the world is a smoldering mess a dollar won't buy you anything, print away boys to that end.

pizdowitz's picture


US economy is not weak, and MIC spending is not a burden, but a boost to the economy - typ. 4 civilian jobs are added for each gov job created. Other govs  are also expanding their MICs, and that will legitimize further MIC spending in US.

I'm saying that nothing, short of a global nook exchange, will stop that train.

Singelguy's picture

Really? The US economy is not weak? Please explain the following.
1. 95 million working age adults are unemployed.
2. 49 million Americans are on food stamps
3. Interest rates remain near zero for more than 9 years.
4. The national debt has doubled in the past 8 years.
5. The government continues to run $1 Trillion deficits.

MIC spending may boost jobs but when the spending is paid for with printed or borrowed, all it does is push the country deeper into debt which is negative for the economy in the medium to long term. More importantly, it is the boys at the top of the MIC that are getting obscenely rich selling their overpriced junk to the government. In comparison, Russia gets a much bigger bang for their military buck.

A collapse in the value of the dollar will do far more damage than a nook exchange. That day is coming.

woody3405's picture

To What End?  The Same End As Always.  WAR. 

Nothing can create wealth for the money changers and control the peasants like WAR. 

Doubt me?  Pick up a history book.

peekster's picture

Why isn't it called offense spending?

JailBanksters's picture

It used to be called the Department of War and known as the War Department.

But people took "Offense" to that so they changed to the opposite,

the Department of Defense. See, it's got a nice warm fuzzy feeling about it.

And I always say, the opposite of what Government or Banks is usually more true than what it is they are selling you.


cherry picker's picture

It should be renamed to what it actually is, offence, not defense

Or the genocide department

I Write Code's picture

There is no next generation of US weapons comparable to the Abrams and Bradley armored vehicles, F-15 and F-16 fighters, or AEGIS destroyers that would provide the US with the sort of qualitative advantage it enjoyed in the 1980s and 1990s.

You said it yourself, President Zero used up everything, from boots to bombers.  We need tons of stuff, just to keep moving.  There's the F-35, and I know already.  There's munitions stocks of PGM.  There are new up-armored humvees.  The Navy needs new generation ships, the last few attempts have been disasters.  Even the stupid Predator drones have always been patchwork, just redoing them right is a project.

And in all the best will in the world, simply maintaining defense capabilities requires keeping the MIC supplied and employed.