Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A Thought on the Military Budget

There is no doubt in my mind that we can and must cut the Defense Budget. In fact, it is arguably the most poorly run budget in Federal Government. In 2010, the GAO declared the department’s finances “unauditable”. No surprise. But le'ts think about the DoD budget beyond the weapons systems and soliders.

One of the reasons the DoD budget is so big ($664 bil.) is that it is basically the 51st state of the union. To give you an idea, in 2010-2011, California will have spent $230 bil. (I am sure it, too is unaditable.) The DoD has all the facilities that your state government has, and then some. If you start looking at the budget in detail, you will be amazed at what that department does:
Take a look at The Sec. Of Defense’s Operations and Maintenance Overview from 2010 to get an idea. This isn't even its totality. Here's a short list:

1) Infrastructure maintenance: The DoD has to maintain all the military bases and offices across the globe. This includes base housing and transportation networks for military and dependents, medical facilities for active duty, roads, and even air ports. Computer networks must also be maintained and secured. Utilities have to be provided to base residents. Each base has its own police and fire department. The family housing budget, but the way, was cut by 20% between 2009 and 2010, but military construction was up by 19% in that same period. Non-combat Infrastructure has to be upgraded and maintained just like everything else.

2) Subsidized Shops: Because many military personnel are paid less than people in the private sector, they have to shop at the PX, which are grocery and household goods stores. There, products are sold at lowered prices that are more in line with military pay. Usually the “discount” is that federal and local taxes aren’t applied to purchases. Sometimes prices are lower because the military can cut a good deal with wholesalers. These are especially important overseas where US military personnel and their families are discouraged from shopping “on the economy”, meaning in local stores. So basically, the DoD runs a “Wall-Mart” style business for its personnel.

3) Environmental Protection: The DoD funds several programs to limit it’s environmental footprint and protect the health and safety of its military and dependents. They run restoration programs, clean ups, research programs, etc.

4) International Sporting events: Who do you think pays for all those jet fly overs at football games? In addition, the military has to maintain a budget in case they are called upon to provide security at international sporting events.

5) Humanitarian work: Schools for Afghans and water treatment for Iraqis. Assisting in natural disasters around the world. That sort of thing.

6) Dept. of Defense Education Activity: This is a civilian run organization that is part of the DoD . It runs 194 schools in 14 districts located in 12 foreign countries, seven states, Guam, and Puerto Rico serving 86,000 students (military dependents). I once heard that this is the largest school district in the world. In 2009, it cost about $3bil.)

These are just a few that I can come up with off the top of my head. But when people start talking about cutting Defense, they need to think about all the functions that the DoD actually has to manage. I liken it to a socialist country. They subsidize, control, and operate everything for their personnel and their dependents.


Raised By Republicans said...

Your analogy between the DOD world within a world and a "socialist country" is really interesting given how hostilely most military families would react to being called the beneficiaries of anything "socialist."

Anyway, it would be interesting to see how much money would be saved for example by abolishing the PX system at least here in the US and simply giving all military families a card that exempts them from sales taxes etc. Or shutting down on base DOD run schools (again here in the US) and simply having the on base students take a bus to the nearest public school - just like farm kids.

But some of these things seem really necessary:
providing education for children in military families living overseas.
providing groceries for deployed troops and their families in some high risk overseas areas.

USwest said...

I see your point about military run schools. Not all bases have military schools. We have more bases than those located in the 7 states with schools.In many parts of the country, the students go to regular public school. This is the case at the base I work on. However, that often presents challenges to parents.

The reason you have military run schools is that military personnel change locations about once every 2 years and often midway through the school year.So having military schools ensure continuity of education. Local public schools can't always accommodate the extra students. Military families are not require to use base schools either. My niece was placed in a Private parochial school in Missouri, but will return to her old school on post in Italy when they are relocated this spring. She was worried about going back to her old school in Italy because she was afraid she'd be far behind as even the private school wasn't as rigorous as her military school.

I also think that the military sees these schools like the may religious see their schools- as places to plant military values (which are very admirable, by the way) and possiblly encourage future recruits.

On a slightly different point: Military run schools are better run and turn out better results than many civilian public education schools. That is in part due to discipline and accountability. Your kid misbehaves in a military school, and the parent is made to report to his/her commander.

USWest said...

PX: soldiers are not given locality pay for posts within the US. So if they are based in California one term and sent to Missouri in the next, it's sort of hard to budget. So even within the US, there are disparities. PX also serve retirees. But you are correct that you could supply discount cards. But those cards would also have to make for price adjustments. Many soldiers actually qualify and use food stamps. They aren't paid THAT well. Overseas postings are good because they earn more. SO the discounts and subsidies make up for the lower pay.

I pointed out the Socialist thing to my brother who is an NCO and he laughed in agreement. Most of our soldiers are pretty self aware and very aware of the benefits of military life. That is why so many of them stay. They understand that they are part of a different world.

Raised By Republicans said...

RE: continuity of education, I can see why parents (and kids) would want to take steps to mitigate the inconvenience of frequent moves. But part of me wants to say "cry me a river." Between kindergarten and 6th grade I attended three different elementary schools in three different states with three different age cut off points for enrollment by the time I got to state #3, I repeated a grade because my age was so out of synch with the kids who had had the same number of years in school as me (I was nearly a full year younger than my prospective classmates). My family had nothing to do with the military and so was stuck dealing the consequences of my father's career imposed relocations on our own. So part of me wonders why my tax dollars should go to provide what I consider a less than urgently necessary benefit in times of relative scarcity and pressing priorities.

RE: low pay. I completely sympathize with the enlisted personnel with low pay. I just think some sort of discount card system would be a more efficient way to compensate them than running PX's on bases.

RE: using schools to "plant military values." Thats' actually rather concerning to me. We do not want the emergence of hereditary class of military people any more than we already see that. A democracy is best served by a military that mimics the population as a whole rather than see itself as a class apart.

To be honest, I'm not 100% comfortable with the DOD spending so much money on marketing/recruiting. I'm all for shrinking our military so maybe I'm less concerned about getting a steady supply of new recruits. It just strikes me as creepy when my girlfriend and I take her nieces to an animated kids movie and there are cardboard cut outs of military recruiting posters outside the theater. The (at the time) 4 year old was immediately drawn the colorful poster and asked lots of questions about it. IMHO military advertising should be regulated in ways similar to how we regulate advertising for alcohol and tobacco.

Anonymous said...

At least one item is wrong. The education numbers cited work out to over $30,000 per student.

At that rate, one out of work teacher could be tutoring each student.

As long as they have free housing and PX privileges, of course.

There was, also, a small blip in the blogoshere a while ago that said the American Department of Defense is the third largest consumer of fossil fuels. Behind China and the USA, but ahead of any other entity or government.

Maybe the cost of petroleum, oil and lubricants should be investigated as far as which corporations provides what and at what prices.

Might be fruitful to outsource the supplies of those.

USWest said...

Good call out on the Edu numbers, Anyon. I'll double check that.

USWest said...

Ok, I followed up:
Not all expenditures are counted in the per pupil costs. The standard for what is counted is set by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).
Include expenditures are salaries,
benefits, purchased services, and supplies for the following functions: instruction; support services; noninstructional services, such as food services; and direct program support, such as state contributions to employee retirement funds. Long-term expenditures such as capital
outlay, debt service, facilities acquisition and construction services, and property expenditures (for example, for equipment and vehicles) are excluded from current expenditures.

According to a 2001 GAO study ( the DoD spent $7,725 per pupil domestically and $10,000 overseas. The national average as $6,189.