What the United States' 2019 Military Budget Really Means

Luis Lázaro Tijerina for usareally.com 

Photo: flickr.com

When one first glances at the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act For Fiscal Year 2019, detailing military expenditures for the coming fiscal year 2019, it would seem normal under the circumstances, regardless of whether there's a Democrat or Republican regime in the White House governing its citizens both in time of peace and war. I say “normal” despite its increase, because United States' military expenditures have increased annually since the end of the Second World War. The astute researcher and analyst Christopher Chantrill puts it this way: “In peace time, the US government used to spend very little on defense, about one percent of GDP. But that changed after World War II when the United States found itself in a global contest against Communism. Ever since, defense spending has never been less than 3.6 percent of GDP. In wartime, of course, the United States spends as much as it can command.”[i]

Now the serious question can be asked, which is, Do Americans actually care about the immense military spending by their government? To provide an  answer, we must view the American National Character from a historical perspective, even as that changes from one era to the next. Tocqueville understood exactly how the American populace under democracy reacted to the surrounding world, even when it came to their government’s actions, which is also characterized in their own behavior: “So, he does everything is a hurry, is content with approximations, and never stops for more than a moment to reflect upon each of this actions. His curiosity is both insatiable and cheaply satisfied, for he is anxious to know a great deal quickly rather than to know everything well.”[ii]

Admittedly, raising the American public's political and economic consciousness is a difficult task, especially when it comes to their government's’ military budget  finances for planning internal  defense and strategic operations overseas. However, I would like to explore some significant details of the John S. McCain military budget and what they entail.

Outlined in voluminous paperwork, the proposed $707 billion expenditures for U.S. FY 2019 military budget are not as impenetrable or daunting as they might initially seem. According to the fiscal watchdog website "Countable": “Of the $707 billion total, $639.2 billion would go to the base Dept. of Defense (DOD) budget while $68.5 billion would be set aside for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO).”[iii]

Naturally, large beneficiaries of this and similar legislation would be the weapons development and troop supply industries. As another financial research website comments on the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act For Fiscal Year 2019, “It would add $47 billion to the DOD budget, compared to the 2018 request, and increase the top-line Pentagon budget request by 7.4 percent over the 2018 budget proposal. Any way we shape it, this is a lot of money for U.S. military forces and their suppliers in industry-far-exceeding even the Reagan defense budgets of the early 1980s.”[iv] What this analysis also clearly indicates is how millions of dollars will be used for the testing of more modernized electronic military  equipment. This is only natural, since we are now in the era of asymmetrical warfare as well as symmetrical warfare, the best example being the modern hybrid warfare of the Syrian Civil War, wherein the Russian military, along with their allies, were able to use electronic and cyber warfare to their advantage.

The American military establishment is acutely aware of this Russian advantage — the pioneering military work  done by the Russian military in Syria — and therefore cognizant in their pursuit to elevate their electronic and cyber warfare techniques to parity with their perceived enemies in the field, regardless of wherever that zone of military conflict may be.

What was noticeable to me in this proposed newest U.S. military budget was its graduality — an increase or slow increase in other areas of the U.S. military as part of the McCain Military Budget Authorization Act. There was no high increase in military pay for Armed Service personnel, the increase being only 2.6 percent, surely a modest increase if one takes into account the always-rising cost of living. However, how seriously the personnel of the U.S. Army, Navy,  Air Force, and Marines are aware of the small increase in pay has yet to play a part of the national debate on American  military spending. One cannot be sure how much the U. S. Armed Forces are informed of these budgetary matters contained in the McCain Military Bill, or if it even has entered their consciousness “to know everything well”. It should be remembered that only during the Vietnam War did political agitation become part of the protests of American military personnel because of the grievous nature of the war itself and the racism and class differences arising among the battlefields in Vietnam. Nevertheless, there has been simmering discontent among some very serious veterans of the past Persian Gulf War and the Iraq War of Invasion which cost not only the lives of hundreds of American servicemen, but also the very lack of competent health and fair care in Veteran Administration hospitals and clinics, once these battle-injured men and women were sent back to the United States.

In terms of any U.S. actual military building up, "Countable" itemized the following:

"The Army’s end strength would increase by more than 2,000 soldiers to 485,741; The Navy’s end strength would increase by more than 4,000 sailors to 331,900; The Marine Corps end strength would increase by 100 marines to 186,100; The Air Force end strength would increase by 620 airmen to 325,700.[v]

What should be noted in terms of overseas threat or the continuation of the pursuit of internal military hegemony is that the U.S. Navy personnel increase is significant as well as that of U.S. Air Force personnel strength due to presumed instability in the Middle East and for the ever increasing build-up along the various Russian borders stretching from Poland to the Baltic nations. The U.S. Army personnel increase seems modest  compared with other years, when American soldiers were fighting in substantial numbers in both Iraq and Afghanistan, although there has been an increase in military personnel in the latter country due to perceived Chinese and Russian influence among Taliban insurgents. As for the light increase in funding Marine Corps personnel, I sense that's related to their myth being questioned among  the high American command, as to actual combat reliance.

In terms of 2019 budget specifics, "$7.4 billion  is allocated for Virginia-class submarines, with just $1.53 billion allocated through the DOD to procure 135 Abrams tanks [vi]  which can be understood that sea warfare will become part of a major military strategy with perceived adversaries like Russia, China and North Korea, not excluding even a war with the nation-state of Iran. I would also  suggest U.S. Army leadership feels comfortable with the amount of tanks at its disposal and would count on its NATO allies to buttress any tank deficiencies along the tension-filled borders of Western Europe and Russia. The budgetary item of the DOD allocating $205 million for Bradley Fighting Vehicles for the European Defense Initiative[vii] could explain in part that the military specialist consider the Bradley Fighting Vehicles more vital should there be a crossing over the Russian boarders, than an actual  increase in tank strength. What is equally important is the build-up of fighter aircraft totaling $7.6 billion would be authorized to obtain 75 F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft, which would include the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps as well.[viii]  In a word, much of the military hardware allocated by DOD is for offensive war, not for defensive purposes. This is a signal by the Trump regime of continuous war, and even the possibility for not only regional wars, but perhaps even a preparation for global world war.

Within the DOD bill is a section  dealing with perceived Russian military threat. The most important military mission as I see it would be that the National Command Authority, facilitating communications with the commanding officers of the Unified Combatant Commands who would put U.S. forces into action. and thus authorized to direct U.S. Cyber Command to take appropriate and proportional action through cyberspace to disrupt, defeat, and deter systematic and ongoing attacks by Russia in cyberspace.[ix]  Since the charges of Russian military espionage being involved in the United States Presidential election of 2016, as documented by  Special Counsel investigation (2017–present) under the auspices of Robert Mueller, one should not be surprised American intelligence services and U.S. military operation commands have worked together in creating a program with the DOD that will vigorously counter not only the presumed Russian cyber threat, but other nations also engaged in attempts to break-down American military hardware, command centers, etc. which are part of a cyberspace network.

What is interesting is how Russia Today (RT, Russian international television network) seemed more concerned how the DOD has also made stricter provisions regarding the so-called China threat and did not go into any serious detail about how Russia would be affected by the new American military expenditures. It merely mentioned “The Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), adopted last July, mandates penalties against countries that buy weapons from Russia — including a ban on selling them US weapons.”[x] RT went on to state how Section 1294 of the newly passed NDAA contains a ‘loophole’ where if the US intelligence community confirms the buyers of Russian military equipment are not engaged in “significant transactions” with Russian intelligence and security agencies, and that such a government in question would take steps to reduce the share of Russian military equipment in its inventory, as well as cooperating with the US government on “other security matters critical to United States strategic interests”, meaning of course working with the U.S. vis-à-vis on intelligence gathering on Russian military intentions.[xi] 

What should be understood from an objective analysis is that both the United States and Russia are imperialist powers that will continue to propagate how they, as individual countries and political and military rivals, are proponents of peace and diplomatic goodwill, while at the same time they both continue their war of political words and threats that border on belligerence from each of them.

And yet, being the kind of democracy American military leadership sees itself to be, even as that democracy decays and implodes from within, the French historian Tocqueville warned about the citizenry in such a democracy as the United States, when he said “In democratic countries the moral power of the majority is immense and the physical forces at its disposal are out of all proportion to those which can at first be united against it. Therefore, the party which occupies the seats of the majority speaks in its name…”[xii]

More than two hundred years later the “moral power” is within the hands of elite forces that do not have the voice of the American people, but who create their military expenditures with the advice of the Military-Industrial Complex. Senator John S. McCain stated in reference to the bill named after him:  “I believe the NDAA will continue to serve as an example of how the Senate can and should work: every year, a bill reported out of committee with contributions from both sides, brought to the floor for amendment and debate, passed in the Senate, conferenced with the House, passed again by both chambers, and signed into law by the President—imperfect, full of compromises, unsatisfactory for partisans on either side, but always striving to make incremental progress on solving problems and defending America from her adversaries.”[xiii]

Ultimately, Sen. McCain's inherent “habit of inattention” as Tocqueville termed the American National Character when it came to serious matters. is one of a lack of moral power to have spent billions of dollars more wisely on the social and physical infrastructures in deep and sometimes dangerous disrepair in the United States of America.

In this critique of the National Defense Budget, I would suggest an ordinary citizen will never know how the funds are actually spent — which can be due to Defense Department secret funding of military allocations to parties that cannot be mention in the budget. Such governmental secrecy can also mask the actual usage of funds through various military departments or agencies that can funnel funds to the actual designated parties for which they were originally intended. Finally, there is also the serious problems of graft, internal corruption among the various military organizations themselves. Therefore, my analysis is simply a subjective view of how the funds might be used in containing any perceived threat to the Unites States and its allies in a time of peace or war.

[i] https://www.usgovernmentspending.com/defense_spending

[ii] Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America (London: Penguin Books, 2003), 709.

[iii] https://www.countable.us/bills/s2987-115-john-s-mccain-national-defense-authorization-act-for-fiscal-year-2019

[iv] https://www.militaryaerospace.com/articles/print/volume-29/issue-3/news/trends/2019-dod-budget-increases-military-spending-to-levels-rarely-seen.html

[v] https://www.countable.us/bills/s2987-115-john-s-mccain-national-defense-authorization-act-for-fiscal-year-2019

[vi] Ibid.

[vii] Ibid.

[viii] Ibd.

[ix] https://docs.house.gov/billsthisweek/20180723/CRPT-115hrpt863.pdf

[x] https://www.rt.com/usa/434382-ndaa-2019-pentagon-funding/

[xi] Ibid.

[xii]  Tocqueville, 772.

[xiii] https://www.countable.us/bills/s2987-115-john-s-mccain-national-defense-authorization-act-for-fiscal-year-201   

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