Tuesday, October 10, 2006

How Much Defense Spending

A small tidbit became available last week through the excellent insight provided by Winslow Wheeler at the Center for Defense Information. Congress had just passed a Defense Authorization budget that was listed in some reports as costing around $448 billion dollars. It sounds expensive for a single year, but most would presume that this affords the cost of some of the military occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and some upgrades to equipment lost in the fighting overseas.

But is that the true cost of all things Defense-related? Not by a long shot says Mr. Wheeler. In his article titled, "The 2007 Defense Budget May Not Be What You Think", he states that there are many programs that are Defense related, but are not included in the authorization bill that both houses passed and the President signed. He states at length the numerous items that could and most likely should have been included in the budget process for the Department of Defense (DoD) but get addressed in other legislation to presumably hide the costs and increases in spending.
"The explanation for why the “Department of Defense Appropriations Act for 2007” does not include all DOD programs for 2007 is not simple.

Two years ago, the House Appropriations Committee reorganized itself and gave additional defense budget responsibilities to what had previously been its subcommittee that handled only military construction. All those “quality of life” functions (for basic housing allowances, facilities maintenance, environmental restoration, and defense healthcare) were added to what had previously been the Military Construction subcommittee in the House; it became the subcommittee on Military Quality of Life and Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies.” Accordingly, the House-passed DOD appropriations bill contained none of this spending; it was in the separate bill from the new subcommittee."

Wheeler's article contains a lot of granular oddities packed into the many bills, but it is worth the read if only to go to the end of the article to see his calculations of the true cost to the American taxpayers for the DoD.

The President's request for FY 2007 was an estimated $552.3 - $572.3 billion, and the Congress appropriated an estimated $566.9 - $586.9 billion. As the old addage goes, a billion here and a billion there and you eventually are talking serious money.

Many people are dedicated to exploring and exposing these budget tactics that Congress and the Executive branch employ to hide relevant costs. Wheeler and others should be thanked for their diligent work in these arcane areas constantly.

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