The Changing Dynamics of U.S. Defense Spending

Defense Cuts Start to Pinch
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The Changing Dynamics of U.S. Defense Spen...

The West Has a Resentment Epidemic. We Lost the War in Afghanistan. Get Over It. Stephen M. Need an account? Sign up for free access to 1 article per month and weekly email updates from expert policy analysts Sign Up. Already have an account? Log in Sign Up Create a Foreign Policy account to access 1 article per month and free newsletters developed by policy experts Loading.

Want unlimited access? Subscribe today. Subscribe Now. Upgrade Now. The basic logic of their position would seem to legitimate deferral or a more leisurely pace of acquiring expensive weapons platforms like fighters and combat ships. Many would hedge their bets as much as possible, and also buy new systems like arsenal ships or more The U.

Defense Spending Context 21 B-2 bombers to compliment an increase in resources for munitions, communications devices, sensors, and computers. Often, such analyses simply define huge areas of defense activity as support, tally the number of employees associated with each area, and apply a single cost-savings factor based on private sector or previous DoD experience to estimate theoretically realizable savings. This approach is useful for calling attention to the potential of privatization, but should never be confused with a blueprint for how to implement it.

Its specific recommendations were less ambitious than that, however. Some savings from it have already been realized and internalized into existing budget plans. Appropriately, the QDR Report treats the matter of defense management reform and privatization much more carefully and rigorously than the Defense Science Board studies had done. It documents about a dozen specific changes that the Pentagon now intends to implement.

Again, two lessons emerge. First, large savings from privatization and other defense reforms can probably be realized, but they cannot be achieved without a careful game plan. Moreover, vague proposals for achieving them are likely to meet resistance or indifference from the DoD managers and officers charged with carrying them out, as RAND analysts Carl Dahlman and C. Robert Roll have recently argued in a lengthy study.

Considering this question is not intended to prejudge the desirability of such cuts; indeed, one of the reasons for laying out options is so policymakers and the country can weigh whether the likely strategic costs and military risks of such options are worth the fiscal relief they could provide. My own judgment is that some additional cuts in forces and weapons procurement plans are possible, but that real defense spending should hold roughly constant.

Jari Eloranta, Appalachian State University

Even with these added cuts in personnel and planned hardware, the resources will be needed to assure readiness and replace aging equipment stocks. Four conceptually distinct approaches might be considered to reduce the U. They might be thought of as the efficiency model, the retrenchment model, the coalition model, and the specialization model. The following set of ideas is intended simply to lay out these distinct approaches rather than develop any one at length.

Efficiency Model Arguing that the United States has overestimated the capabilities of the Iraqi and North Korean threats, underestimated the military capabilities of key allies like South Korea, and remained unnecessarily inflexible in certain military operations such as the way it conducts its overseas naval presence , one could argue for a more streamlined approach to maintaining all present U.

Three specific ways to implement this type of vision would be to cancel or severely scale back selected weapons modernization programs like the F fighter and V tilt-rotor aircraft, focusing instead on upgrades to current systems as well as new munitions, sensors, and communications systems; dispense with the notion that a two-war strategy requires a two—Desert Storm capability, and instead emphasize mobility and rapid responsiveness; and either homeport The U. Defense Spending Context 23 more Navy vessels in overseas countries or leave ships on routine deployment for extended periods while rotating crews by airlift.

This argument might be best applied to South Korea, a country with an economy now 20 times larger than that of its potential enemy across the DMZ, and with several decades of time to have prepared defensive positions favoring it in any future attempt to stave off a North Korean invasion. That posture and capability could, he felt, have deterred North Korea or defeated it had deterrence failed.

Arguably, U. Should a future crisis in the region develop, carriers could be sent in from the United States and access could probably be arranged in one of a number of allied countries in the area for U. Coalition Model Current U. The United States clearly cannot dictate to its allies how much they should spend on defense and what they should spend it on. Nor can it presuppose that they would actually agree to fight with American forces in any given future war in a faraway region.

But the current situation, in which allied forces are physically incapable of quickly getting to a fight outside Europe in significant numbers, or functioning there effectively, is highly undesirable. A major U. Defense Spending diplomatic initiative to reverse it might have some chance of success. Rather than provide general global engagement, specific deterrence against current threats, and a full panoply of capabilities for peacekeeping and humanitarian missions, it might choose to depend on its allies for the latter activities.

A number of defense analysts in the United States now favor such an approach to burden-sharing. Indeed, to some extent it is already employed, in that U. Yet that fact belies a broader truth: U. Should such troops prove necessary in a future regional war for purposes such as protecting rear areas, guarding prisoners of war, maintaining an occupation, or conducting some other relatively low-intensity operation, either allied forces or U. At the same time, further budget pressure may soon arise from purely domestic causes, either when the continued stream of good economic news is finally interrupted or when the public and policymakers increasingly feel the pain associated with cutting domestic programs.

Continued growth in entitlement spending, combined with likely demands to keep domestic discretionary The U. Absent a major geopolitical event, the Pentagon is unlikely to enjoy enough real spending increases to keep the QDR force in place through the next decade. Resources seem unlikely to plummet precipitously.

But some difficult choices and creative policies will almost certainly be required if American interests and values are to be protected effectively in the future. NOTES 1. See Stephen I.

America’s Future in a Dynamic Asia

Schwartz, Director, U. See also Stephen I. Schwartz, ed. Here I employ the estimates of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, since they are generally more up-to-date than those of the U. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency. See Charles Wolf, Jr. This estimate is for the year , and is expressed in terms of constant dollars. See U. Secretary of Defense William S. Robert D. Cohen, Report of the Quadrennial Defense Review, p. Weapons systems often go up in cost by 50 percent relative to initial expectations.

Nye, Jr. Defense Spending Context 27 Cohen, Report of the Quadrennial Defense Review, pp. Carl J. Dahlman and C. Khalilzad and David A.

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Ochmanek, eds. Eugene Gholz, Daryl G. Press, and Harvey M. This fact is not stated quite so starkly in official planning documents. From a s cartoon depicting the B-1 bomber as invulnerable to attack because it was the only aircraft with components built in all U. In —10 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall and 13 years past the peak of the Reagan military buildup—it is time to reassess the enduring power of pork-barrel politics in promoting the purchase of costly weapons systems.

With Pentagon spending down by more than one-third from its mids peak and weapons procurement down by almost one-half over the same time period, are the economic benefits of military spending being spread too thin to serve as a reliable political underpinning for defense mega-projects? Defense Spending The best way to measure the potential weight of economic considerations in future battles over the size and shape of the Pentagon budget is to look at the changing distribution of Pentagon contracts and payrolls by region, state, and congressional district between the peak year of the Reagan military buildup and , the most recent year for which comparable data is available.

These contracts show that a majority of congressional districts are now out of or nearly out of the defense business. The remainder of the funds went primarily to payrolls for the roughly three million personnel employed by the Pentagon and the three military services for data on the changing distribution of military payrolls and military bases, see section III below.

This decrease is in line with the overall drop in military spending of about one-third over this same period of time. Since the economy has continued to grow as Pentagon spending has declined, military spending has dropped substantially as a share of GDP, from 6. Table 3. The disproportionate losses of Pentagon contracts in the Northeast, Midwest, and the West Coast would seem to undercut the possibilities for the kinds of regional coalitions that came together in the s to promote specific big-ticket systems—for instance, when members from Southern California, Long Island, Ohio, and Massachusetts joined together, irrespective of party or ideology, to support expensive projects like the B-1 bomber and MX missile.

The first point to emerge from Table 3. Defense Spending Table 3. Gains and losses have not been distributed on a neat North-South divide, however. And although states in the Deep South have avoided disproportionate losses in contract revenues, none of them have been among the select list of states that have been big gainers from Pentagon spending over the past 10 years. Appendix 3. The most revealing data about the diminishing political-economic clout of the The Shrinking Military Pork Barrel 33 weapons industry is found at the congressional district level. That meant that for all practical purposes those districts were out of the defense business.

In addition, congressional districts suffered massive losses in defense contracting between and , losing 60 percent or more of their Pentagon awards over that time span.

Military Expenditure Trends for 1960–2014 and What They Reveal

This represents a substantial majority of congressional districts— out of —in which members should feel no demonstrable economic pressure to vote for major military projects at the expense of other budget priorities. Before concluding that a majority of congressional districts are virtually out of the defense business, there are a few important qualifiers that need to be considered. One is the issue of subcontracts. All major defense contractors dole out a significant portion of the work on a major weapons system to subcontractors, and these subcontractor networks have always been an important political tool for big weapons manufacturers.

Theoretically, this process of subcontracting the work could result in a more even geographic spread of weapons production than one would expect by looking at prime-contract data alone. The only way to test this thesis in the current environment would be for Congress to mandate a systematic subcontracting study. Unfortunately, as Markusen notes, a similar study done at the request of Congress in the early s was based on too small a sample to provide reliable data on the subject.

Defense Spending Nonetheless, the advantages of this kind of transparency in subcontracting for congressional policymaking could be considerable, because absent the necessity to report this information publicly, the major military contractors are the only ones with the data at their disposal, and they are free to distribute it selectively in the way that best suits their purposes—emphasizing subcontracts into the districts of members they are trying to impress while ignoring the subcontracts that go out of those districts.

Similarly, in a defense-dependent urban area like Los Angeles, workers may commute across one or more congressionaldistrict borders to work at a facility like the Northrop Grumman B-2 plant in Hawthorne. That may go part of the way towards explaining why there was such a solid pro-B-2 vote in Southern California last September, as discussed below. This would still leave the country with a majority of districts that are either out of the defense business or on the way out of the defense business, but the margin would be smaller perhaps something like out of The other issue to consider in connection with subcontracting is that porkbarrel politics is now a global phenomenon.

This further dilutes the domestic economic impact of Pentagon contracting. The company has already committed to building an F plant in Poland if that country opts for the Lockheed Martin fighter, and Boeing has a similar deal in the Czech Republic if that nation chooses the F These The Shrinking Military Pork Barrel 35 offset deals often involve not only building or assembling components of the particular weapon system being purchased by the client company, but also a chance to bid on other Lockheed Martin work.

Foreign companies often displace U. In a Commerce Department survey, a full 83 percent of the subcontractors surveyed reported losing work as a result of offset arrangements. If members from long-time defense-dependent states like California which routinely tops the list of Pentagon contract recipients and Connecticut which had the highest per-capita level of Pentagon contracts in the country through the early s have yet to reconsider the wisdom of relying on the military budget to prime the pump for their local economies, the data on military spending by district suggests that they should start doing so immediately.

The biggest defensedependent districts in Connecticut were among the biggest losers, with the Hartford-area First District home to the Pratt and Whitney engine division of United Technologies losing At a minimum, these developments suggest that the days of getting the bulk of the members from a defense-dependent state like California or Connecticut to vote as a bloc for a big-ticket weapons project may become a thing of the past.

Representatives in a state like New York, which was a mid-level player in defense-budget politics during the s, s, and s principally due to the presence of one major contractor—the Long Island—based Grumman Corporation—should be sued by their constituents for non-support if they have any inclination to continue to vote for projects like the B-2 bomber on pork-barrel grounds. Defense Spending more from to This tendency of states represented by key committee members to do relatively well in an era of Pentagon retrenchment is replicated for the Senate as a whole: of the 34 members serving on the Senate Armed Services Committee and Defense Appropriations Subcommittee in , 24 were from states that had defense contract reductions that were less than the national average from to , while nine represented states that had their Pentagon contracts increase even in the face of substantial losses nationally Table 3.

The relative good fortune enjoyed by the jurisdictions of members of key defense committees in the House of Representatives was even more pronounced than in the Senate. In all, nearly three-quarters 47 out of 65 of the members of the House National Security Committee and the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee represented districts that suffered defense contract losses at rates below the national average from to More than 40 percent of key-committee members 27 of 65 were from districts that went against the national trend to experience actual increases in defense contracting dollars between and Table 3.

Whether the relative good fortune of states and districts represented by members of key defense committees is a result of extraordinary efforts by these members to defend spending targeted to their home turf or a case of members from states with heavy defense spending making sure they get on these committees is a chicken-and-egg problem: probably both factors are at play. But in either case the result may be an increasingly parochial environment on the key committees where the economic interests of a handful of states and districts play a disproportionate role in defense decision making.

In line with this hypothesis, it should be noted that all nine of the states that had net gains in defense contracting from to —Idaho, West Virginia, South Carolina, Virginia, Table 3. Nevada, Missouri, Nebraska, Colorado, and Maine—had members on at least one of the two key Senate defense committees. In all, members from these states accounted for 11 of the 35 slots on the two defense-related committees; the big winners—West Virginia, South Carolina, and Virginia—had two key-committee members each in the case of West Virginia, the same member—Robert Byrd— sat on both key defense committees.

Whether the issue is keeping defense contract increases going or keeping cuts to a minimum, most key defense-committee members in the House and Senate have a measurable pork-barrel interest in defense-policy issues. Another way of putting it is that even as the membership of Congress as a whole is becoming less dependent on the economics of weapons spending, the membership of the key committees that shape the Pentagon budget has become more defense dependent, and potentially more parochial in its views on national security issues.

Pursuing additional rounds of base closures and cutting active duty and reserve personnel are likely to be contentious issues 40 The Changing Dynamics of U. Defense Spending over the next few years, and pork-barrel politics will be at the center of the debate. As a result, different bureaucratic and pork-barrel interests bases versus weapons, or operations and maintenance versus new weapons investments within the military-industrial establishment are at odds over the shape of future defense spending. Over this same time period, total Pentagon contracting dropped by For purposes of this chapter, Pentagon payrolls will serve as a proxy for military base activity, since the states with the largest military payrolls also have the most extensive military-base networks.

The differences are more pronounced if one looks at the winners and losers by state. The relative gainers in military payroll spending are by and large the states in the South and Southwest that had the biggest military base presence in the first place see Table 3. The biggest losers in militaryrelated payrolls by state are mostly in the Northeast and Midwest, with New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Illinois suffering among the largest losses.

For the most part, states that already had a large presence of military bases and personnel held on to most of what they had. Department of Defense. As with Pentagon contracting, there is also a correlation between states that have members on the armed services or defense appropriations panels and states that kept the bulk of their military-related payrolls. Of the twelve states that either gained payroll or suffered losses at only one-third of the national average, nine had members on one of these key defense panels. The ability of the Pentagon to impose substantial payroll and base reductions in the state that was home to the chairmen of both the Senate Armed Services Committee and the House National Security Committee is a testimony to the effectiveness of the Base Realignment and Closure BRAC process, which was instituted in in an attempt to short-circuit pork-barrel politics Table 3.

Department of Defense , with statistical analysis and adjustments for inflation by the author. Under BRAC, an independent panel comes up with a list of bases that should be closed based on military planning considerations, and Congress has to vote up or down on the whole list. This prevents the kind of horse trading that had stymied base closing efforts in the past.

The BRAC process is apparently working too well from the perspective of some congressional leaders. In the summer of , Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott R-MS blocked consideration of the next round of base closings under the BRAC process, which had successfully shepherded three rounds of base closings through Congress since Lott and his allies like Rep. Joel Hefley R-CO , the chairman of the Military Installations Subcommittee of the House National Security Committee, are threatening to derail the BRAC process altogether in the interest of keeping the majority of the remaining facilities in their states and districts up and running for the foreseeable future.

Defense Spending items in the Pentagon budget, which largely involved funding for military construction projects. On the surface it would appear not. Even so, there are some counter-trends at work. For example, in , Congress finally resisted ongoing pressure from Northrop Grumman and capped the B-2 bomber program at 21 aircraft. The pattern of B-2 votes in the House did not fully reflect the new economic realities of military contracting.

For example, in June , when Rep. Ron Dellums DCA and House Budget Committee Chairman John Kasich R-OH to strip the money for additional B-2s from the Pentagon budget, members from a number of historically defense-dependent districts voted for the B-2 despite the fact that military contracting had long since become a marginal activity in their home area. In California, despite massive defense cutbacks that have put roughly 40 percent of the districts in the state out of the defense business or on their way out due to major contracting losses , the delegation still voted heavily for the B-2, by a margin of 34 to The pro-B-2 margin in California was nearly twice the margin by which the Dellums-Kasich anti-B-2 amendment was defeated in the House as a whole.

It is interesting to note that the level of defense contracting in California districts did not correlate directly with how members voted on the B A more important phenomenon regarding the California B-2 vote is the North-South distinction. In Northern The Shrinking Military Pork Barrel 45 California, the vote was split between conservatives and moderates in districts one through five basically from Sacramento up to the Oregon border , who voted for the B-2, and liberals in the San Francisco Bay area districts six through ten , who voted against.

By comparison, in the southern part of the state, from district 23 Ventura County down through Los Angeles and all the way to the Mexican border, members voted overwhelmingly for the B-2, by a margin of 23 to five. This can partly be explained by the fact that the vote was not about military spending generally; it was about a specific system that was being built by Northrop Grumman in the Los Angeles area municipality of Hawthorne. Despite the pro-B-2 vote in the House, House members did not have the political clout they needed to win approval for more B-2 bombers in the September House-Senate conference on the military budget.

In an era of growing budgets, the process of logrolling had a certain irresistible political and economic logic. In an era of flat or declining military budgets, however, when the Pentagon has more big-ticket systems in the pipeline than it can afford to pay for, logrolling may be replaced by a more balkanized brand of pork-barrel politics in which systems built in one region compete against systems built in another region. In the past, this sort of problem would have been solved by throwing enough money at each of the yards to keep both of them running.

Defense Spending Members of Congress from defense-dependent states have been more willing than before to take leadership roles in initiatives that could affect the bottom lines of home-state military contractors. For example, in August , Sen. Yet when President Clinton indicated in the spring of that his administration was about to lift the long-standing ban on sales of U.

Similarly, in the early s, California Senator Dianne Feinstein went to bat for a small California firm called Eidetics which had a pending contract to upgrade U. F-5s that were about to be transferred from Jordan to Indonesia. Yet by , when Sen. Feinstein was among its most articulate advocates, despite the fact that this proposal to control U. Similarly, on the House side, Southern California conservatives Dana Rohrabacher and Robert Dornan voted for the Code of Conduct bill when it came up in that body, contrary to the interests of the defense contractors in their districts.

What is the bottom line on the geographic distribution of military spending? Briefly, a handful of states and districts, mostly in the South and Southwest, have managed to carve out a larger slice of the defense pie at the expense of the rest of the country, with losses being felt particularly heavily in the Northeast, Midwest, and California. In general the winners in the defense shakeout have been states and districts with powerful senior members on the congressional armed services and defense appropriations committees, who are tending to the parochial interests of their areas at the expense of other parts of the country.

But the very same dynamics that are driving this concentration of the benefits of defense spending in fewer districts and states have opened up the possibility of building a congressional majority for holding the line on Pentagon spending or even imposing significant cuts based on the economic interests of the majority of congressional districts which are now out of or nearly out of the defense business.

Figures on total Pentagon contracts are from U. Ann Markusen, et al. For the data on offsets, see U. Department of Commerce, , p. Precise data on the number and costs of bases between and was not available, hence the approach of using payroll figures as a proxy for base activity. Also, since some of the contracting data that was discussed in section II includes supplies for military bases and military construction contracts, the focus on payrolls avoids doublecounting in the assessment of the economic distribution of Pentagon revenues.

While spending on personnel and bases is not a perfect match in the sense that significant military infrastructure could be maintained in areas where there are relatively few personnel stationed , the payroll data provides a good first approximation of which states are still heavily reliant on military bases and personnel. The debate and vote on the Dellums-Kasich amendment to cap the B-2 bomber program at 21 aircraft is in the Congressional Record, June 23, ; the roll-call vote is on page H For further discussion of the politics of the B-2 budget battle, see William D.

FY in thousands of dollars, with percent change Appendix 3. New weapons systems are especially difficult to analyze in the absence of any specific threats or a country with the resources—financial or technological—to challenge U. In this post—Cold War context, therefore, it should come as no surprise that members of Congress feel freer to challenge the decisions of the president and the military services, and to advocate defense spending that assists their districts or states through add-ons to the defense budget.

In fact, a survey of how Congress has addressed defense budgets over the past three administrations reveals that the biggest change since the end of the Cold War and its consensus on defense spending is the emphasis that congressional members with defense-related industries in or adjacent to their districts now place on preserving constituent jobs. Concerned with preserving defense spending, such members are attracted to the defense authorizing and appropriating committees and subcommittees, from which they are better able to have an impact on specific weapons choices within U.

In an era of balanced budgets, this parochial factor is heavily influencing the positions of key congressional members and their willingness to substitute their own judgment for that of the administration and the Joint Chiefs, regardless of party. Changes in the rules and procedures of Congress, specifically those resulting from the passage of the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Act of , facilitated this development. Whereas debate over the size and scope of the 86 The Changing Dynamics of U.

Defense Spending defense budget had taken place in defense-related committees prior to , the act shifted responsibility for evaluating and determining the national defense on the macro level to the budget committees, which set annual spending targets in conjunction with the president and congressional leadership.

As a result, members of the authorizing and appropriating committees are now limited to allocating fixed defense resources—when possible, to the benefit of their districts— rather than determining an appropriate overall national defense. The effects of this procedural change were less obvious during the Cold War, when defense spending was high and growing, permitting the Pentagon to purchase almost any system for which a case could be made.

In the face of such a serious perceived challenge as the Soviet Union, Congress felt obliged on the whole to comply with the requests of the executive branch. Thus, during much of the Reagan administration, members with major defense production installations in their districts or states were not under great pressure to challenge the priorities of the administration, since spending was high enough to satisfy their constituent needs.

The rules of the game in Congress began to change as the Cold War dissipated, starting in the later years of the Reagan administration. Drastically reduced threats and budgetary realities translated into smaller defense budgets, and Congress shifted funding from expensive strategic weapons systems to conventional arms programs in order to save constituent defense-related jobs. Today, while the overseas threat and defense spending have both declined since the Cold War, industrial plants remain in place and seek defense contracts. The consequence is that membership on defense-related committees and subcommittees is increasingly seen as a platform from which to play the add-on game, making these slots very desirable.

Of course, the ability to add funding in this manner which crosses party lines has been affected by the agreement to balance the budget, which has forced Congress to agree to further cuts in defense spending. However, it remains true that the failure of the Quadrennial Defense Review QDR to develop a consensus on defense policy will provide more room for members of Congress to develop their own defense policies in order to justify the weapons systems they want to purchase.

Although the cut was the biggest since the early s, the bulk of the reduction came from routine congressional efforts to reduce federal spending for example, through a reduction in the annual pay hike for all federal employees and did not have a substantial effect on defense programs. How- 88 The Changing Dynamics of U. Defense Spending ever, the original authorization bills produced by the House and Senate Armed Services committees had increased the defense budget in real terms; real growth had to be cut to zero according to the terms of the subsequent budget resolution.

As a result, in the context of increasing budgetary constraints, Congress began to shift funds from expensive strategic weapons to conventional arms programs in order to save constituent defense-related jobs. The Gulf War and its use of conventional weapons reinforced this pattern. In the context of budgetary restraint, Congress enacted a fiscal authorization bill that reduced Pentagon spending in real terms for the third consecutive year. Faced with growing defense-industry unemployment because of other Pentagon contract cancellations, Thomas Downey and George J.

Hochbreuckner both D-NY and other members representing the region mounted a successful campaign to secure continued funding for F production. In sharp departures from administration requests, the House, led by Republicans, halved the authorization for the MX missile and reduced funding for SDI and the B-2 while authorizing funding for the Osprey and FD.

The figure approved in the final authorization bill was consistent with that agreed to by the White House and the bipartisan congressional leadership in a budget summit, but it made the first absolute reduction in funding for SDI. In addition, of the ten production lines Cheney wanted to close, conferees agreed to terminate six, delay closure of two for a year, and defer final judgment for a year on two more.

In the two most hotly debated cases, conferees approved one last purchase of FD planes and put off until a decision on whether to terminate production of the Osprey. The final appropriations bill, reducing Pentagon spending in real terms for the fifth straight year, approved the amount agreed to in the budget summit. The legislation also sharply cut funding for SDI and approved funding for some weapons systems that Cheney wanted to cancel; like the defense authorization bill, for example, the appropriations bill continued 90 The Changing Dynamics of U.

Defense Spending production of the FD fighter plane through fiscal The federal deficit dominated the debate; at the same time, the warming of U. However, before a final authorization bill could be negotiated, Iraq invaded Kuwait, and Bush approved a massive mobilization of U. He and his staff have been all over working on my [Republican] guys. Pending development of new weapons, the committee argued, going for several years with no active production lines for certain types of arms would be unwise; moreover, the Gulf War had demonstrated that thousands of weapons needed extensive upgrading.

Each such add-on served to save jobs in the district of one or more House members, broadening the bipartisan coalition behind the bill, and committee members also attempted to force the V Osprey troop carrier on the Pentagon. The House passed the authorization bill despite a threatened veto over its cuts in funding for the B-2 and SDI and its failure to reduce funding for the National Guard and reserves as deeply as the administration wanted.

The committee also increased the funding requested for several other production lines. However, significant changes were made in major defense programs: the bill 92 The Changing Dynamics of U. Defense Spending erected a substantial barrier to further production of the B-2 bomber and eliminated funds for the MX, and members went on record in favor of a limited version of the SDI. In the context of general spending cuts, the committee also stressed the necessity of upgrading some weapons systems and purchasing others at a slow rate in order to keep key contractors in business.

Traditionally dovish Democrats joined more hawkish Republicans in pressing for defense spending levels higher than those proposed by the president. The committee also added funds to continue building Apache helicopters in order to keep that assembly line operating. Despite the cut there was still room for add-ons, including the purchase of six additional Apache helicopters in order to prevent the temporary shutdown of that production line.

In the end, a bipartisan coalition saved the fiscal appropriations bill from further cuts on the floor. The panel omitted from the bill several provisions that the administration found particularly objectionable in the House version, including cuts in programs Clinton favored; however, it did include several add-ons. In fact, after several panel members thanked committee chair Ted Stevens for including their pet projects in his draft version, he commented that he hoped their gratitude would induce them to support passage and an override in case of a presidential veto.

However, the defense authorization bill excluded such a provision because of the widespread impression that Clinton manipulated the round of closures for political gain. That year, Clinton announced that private contractors would take over two large Air Force maintenance depots, located in California and Texas, that were slated for closure, saving thousands of jobs. Members from Utah, Oklahoma, and Georgia, whose three remaining Air Force depots would have picked up the work from the California and Texas sites, bitterly opposed the decision.

They were supported by others, who stated that they would approve no further base closures until Clinton agreed to close the two depots. Thus the phenomenon of congressional add-ons to defense authorization and appropriations bills has continued to make membership on defense-related committees attractive, despite the fact that decisions about the overall size and scope of the defense budget are now determined in the budget committees in conjunction with congressional leadership and the president.

Recognizing this attractiveness, for example, Strom Thurmond—the most senior member of the Senate—asserted his seniority in and assumed the ranking Republican position on the Senate Armed Services Committee, replacing John Warner and giving up his ranking minority spot on the Judiciary Committee.

At the time, Thurmond now the chair said his motivations were partly Playing the Add-on Game in Congress 97 parochial: noting the likelihood that South Carolina Rep. Announcing that he would use his line item veto an option later 98 The Changing Dynamics of U. During this period, for example, Hartung found that defense spending actually increased and substantially in states represented by senior members of the Senate Armed Services Committee and Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. In fact, of the 34 members of the Armed Services Committee and Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee in , 24 represented states whose reductions in defense spending fell below the fiscal — national average, while nine came from states whose Pentagon contracts actually increased despite substantial cutbacks.

Likewise, in the House, of the 65 members of the National Security Committee and Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, 47 nearly 75 percent represented districts whose defense contract losses fell below the fiscal — national average, while 27 over 40 percent experienced actual increases in defense spending.

Hartung found this correlation to be true for military payroll as well: of the 12 states that either gained Playing the Add-on Game in Congress 99 payroll or suffered losses at only one-third of the national average, nine were represented on one of the defense authorizing or appropriating panels. The real motive is national security. Some members want the entire Defense Department in their districts. The fighter was built by the St. According to the bipartisan balanced-budget plan negotiated in , the defense budget is supposed to decline by 3.

Therefore, in the absence of an overseas threat that parallels the Soviet Union during the Cold War, a defense buildup of the kind that President Reagan initiated is not likely to again emerge. And in the absence of such an overarching consensus on a national defense strategy, the diversion of funds to parochial defense industries is likely to continue. Congress will continue to resist efforts by the administration to argue that its spending plans flow from the congressionally-mandated QDR. It is also true, however, that continuing U. The greatest obstacle to modernizing our military forces may be the Congress of the United States.

Prior to that time, presidents routinely declined to spend money appropriated by the Congress for defense; it was only because President Nixon was viewed as abusing this authority that Congress greatly restricted presidential power not to spend funds. More likely, the most effective barrier to congressional add-ons will be the priority given to maintaining the balanced budget agreement, a fact recognized even by the secretary of defense. It would be difficult, if not impossible, to get the kind of additional funding that otherwise might have been available in past years.

First, the lack of a post—Cold War consensus on defense spending, compounded by the advent of a new emphasis on balancing the budget, has resulted in a defense budget that is declining in real terms. Second, the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Act of created budget committees responsible for debating and setting the parameters of an overall budget, in conjunction with the president and the congressional leadership; these processes removed authority for setting overall defense spending levels from the defense-related committees.

Playing the Add-on Game in Congress As a result, congressional members particularly members of defense-related committees now focus on allocating these funds—preferably to the benefit of their constituents—rather than debate the merits of an overall national defense. It is this interplay of budgetary constraints and constituent interests that motivates members to make add-ons or otherwise shift defense-related spending for parochial gain; and it is this interplay, among other factors, that is today influencing the weapons systems funded by Congress, and thus, from the bottom up, determining U.

Defense Spending Playing the Add-on Game in Congress Congressional Record, December 15, , p. Louis PostDispatch, November 19, Congressional Record, September 15, , p. When it comes to covering the military, the news media appears to be mainly interested in sex scandals and crises like Bosnia. Meanwhile, the three newspapers ran news stories that same year on the sexual harassment case against Army Sgt.

The lack of media attention in on defense spending, which stands at about 85 percent of the — Cold War average, is not an anomaly. Defense reporters and analysts say military budget stories are a hard sell for a number of reasons: the lack of high-profile debate on Capitol Hill, a president who will not challenge the Pentagon, a booming economy, a complacent public, the disappearance of the disarmament movement of the s, and shrinking news holes for military stories in general.

You have to write what will get published. Defense Spending The limited quantity of coverage makes even more troubling the way that the news media generally frame the question of defense spending: as a partisan issue pitting a Democratic administration, which is trying to hold the line on defense spending, against a Republican-controlled Congress that wants to spend more.

The news media largely ignore the dissenting voices in Congress who favor cutting the defense budget: deficit hawks in the GOP who oppose party leaders and liberal Democrats who take issue with President Clinton. Their voices are muted in news media coverage because they do not fit the frame of defense as a partisan issue. Critics outside the government who have been calling for a reassessment of Pentagon strategy or cuts in the budget get even less notice. Polls indicate the public supports cutting the defense budget if the money were used to cut the federal deficit, fight crime, and improve education.

According to an October study by the Center for International and Security Studies at the University of Maryland, Most Americans support a strong defense and polls that simply ask for feelings about the current level of defense spending show majority comfort. However, polls that probe more deeply show support for substantial cuts.

If the president and Congress were to agree to cut defense spending 10 percent to 20 percent, strong majorities say they would be supportive. If these funds were to be explicitly redirected into popular domestic programs, overwhelming majorities say they would approve.

Military spending was not a significant issue during the political campaigns. By offering little space to the topic, the nine elite news organizations largely failed to present the defense budget in a broad, historical, and geopolitical context. In , only the New York Times provided a partial exception. This represents about 50 percent of federal discretionary spending. Of the top 10 spenders, seven are U. Moreover, these so-called rogue states have weak economies and restive populations.

Because of the way the news media framed the defense spending debate, the main point of contention was whether the defense budget was big enough to News Media Coverage of the Defense Budget allow the armed forces to fight two regional conflicts at nearly the same time, with help only from local allies. Those who argued that the two-war scenario is unlikely, that the threat of the rogue states is overstated, and that Congress can significantly reduce the defense budget and still maintain U. Some publications occasionally did run op-ed pieces that offered a critical analysis of defense spending levels, but only the New York Times ran toughminded stories and editorials, and only in In the 58 news stories surveyed for , defense-spending hawks and military officials were cited three and one half times more than administration sources and more than six and one-half times more than those calling for cuts.

In , defense hawks and military officials were cited more than four times as often as administration sources and nearly three times more than the defense-cutter critics. For example, reporters showed little skepticism about statements made by military officials who are, after all, interested parties looking to protect their budgets. Ultimately, readers received a superficial and stilted picture of a very critical public policy issue.

The review determined that the U. It further mandated that U. Conversely, the Persian Gulf War, which the United States fought with a broad coalition of allies, took days. In other words, the Pentagon decided that the United States must be capable of winning two wars of the magnitude of the Persian Gulf War in virtually half the time one such conflict actually took, and without help from allies.

No news story in the study fully explored these assumptions. He pulled back from cutting any deeper in early Defense Spending A database search found news stories, opinion columns, and editorials in in the nine publications that at least indirectly dealt with the defense budget. Many of these items, however, covered ancillary topics, such as the debates over funding for missile defense and the B-2 bomber, military base closings, defense industry layoffs and mergers, Pentagon cutbacks, and the appointment of William Perry as defense secretary. A review of the stories pared down the pertinent items to 58 news stories, 19 editorials and 21 opinion pieces.

A close reading of them indicates that the elite print press largely ignored arguments for cutting defense. Only five of the 58 news stories questioned the assumptions of the Clinton administration or of those who called for increasing the budget. What is even more telling is whom reporters quoted in their stories. In those 58 articles, reporters cited five administration officials 30 times, 34 big-spending critics 72 times, 29 military officials 37 times, and only 11 critics who favored cuts just 16 times.

Two other military officials who maintained that there was not a readiness problem were cited four times see Table 5. The database search found that in only three newspapers provided space on their opinion pages for critics who wanted to cut military spending: the Washington Post 3 , the New York Times 2 , and the Los Angeles Times 1. Meanwhile, five papers ran 14 op-eds calling for increased spending. Seven of the 19 editorials called for cutting defense spending; these all appeared in the New York Times, which did not run any editorials supporting the administration or its pro-spending critics.

The main prob- Table 5. Defense Spending Table 5. The administration, for its part, was assuming that a low inflation rate and new Pentagon cost-cutting reforms would free up billions of dollars in savings to pay for new weapons in fiscal year In the meantime, the armed services would have to make do with the equipment left over from the massive Reagan-era buildup. The day after Clinton announced his budget in February, the Wall Street Journal devoted the most space to providing details, including plans for procurement, base closings, and missile defense.

In his 1,word story, reporter Thomas E. Ricks said the budget generally insulates the administration from political attacks. Conservative criticism thus far has concentrated on military readiness. The budget addresses that worry by actually boosting spending on operations and maintenance. The Weiner story was one of only three news stories of the 54 surveyed that quoted anyone who questioned the premise of the Bottom-Up Review see also the Washington Post, August 8, and the Los Angeles Times, August In the past two years, U.

American air power has played a role in the war in Bosnia. All these missions cost money, and lately the dollars have not been enough to keep up with the commitments. News stories tended to lean the same way. When the newspapers published brief accounts of legislative deliberations on the defense budget bill, they either emphasized the fact that it was the tenth consecutive year the budget had been The Changing Dynamics of U.

Defense Spending trimmed or devoted space to complaints by big spenders. Daniel Inouye D-Hawaii , chairman of the defense appropriations subcommittee, said the bill takes care of short-term military needs while risking the future with a lean procurement budget. Critics calling for a lower defense budget were not quoted. Nor did any of the stories point out that the budget still hovered around 85 percent of — peacetime Cold War levels.

If Mr. The result, eventually, would be a military that spends more and more money maintaining older and older weapons while gradually losing its technological edge. The March 22 Post editorial was the only time one of the publications examined the tradeoffs inherent in funding competing needs within the military.

This depends on the quality of logistic services, such as medical services, construction, and transportation, as well as spare parts and munitions stocks. The overall size of a military and the size of its equipment holdings are the most obvious indicators of power, but they reflect only potential capability. Readiness refers to the difference between this potential and the actual power available for use at a particular time. Given that any defense budget is finite, there are tradeoffs among the four elements of military power. Thus, spending on one category constrains spending on the others.

Likewise, choices in one area often affect requirements in others. For example, choosing a high pace of modernization can increase sustainability demands, while opting for a large force structure increases readiness requirements. Besides the Washington Post March editorial, the critical issue of tradeoffs and how they affect defense budget allocations did not come up in stories and editorials.

Reporters and editorial writers tended to examine the problems of The Changing Dynamics of U. Defense Spending modernization and readiness, for example, in isolation. This defect in the coverage was compounded by contradictory reports and official statements that confused the issue of what constitutes adequate funding. In mid-March, a Congressional Budget Office report said the Clinton plan would indeed cover the cost of fighting two wars at nearly the same time Washington Times, March In response, Deputy Defense Secretary John Deutch told the Washington Times October 14 that weapons modernization and training improvements made since ensured that U.

That same day Gen. The article went on to quote Deutch and some former State Department officials who disputed Shalikashvili and Deutch. How could journalists best approach this knotty question? Shalikashvili says there is no problem; Sen. Dole says there is. Bradley Graham of the Washington Post filed at least three stories on the topic. Eugene Carroll, Jr. Most of the other sources quoted in the Post story, however, were complaining that there was not enough money to accommodate the two-war strategy.

Carroll were quoted in the piece. A third story by Graham on the two-war doctrine ran on November 6. One of the more informative stories on the topic came out earlier in the year in the New York Times. But he did include The Changing Dynamics of U. Defense Spending one key fact that no other reporter mentioned. Given the ongoing battle over whether the Clinton budget covered a two-war contingency, the underlying premises of the Bottom-Up Review were critically important—and not above criticism. In Korb wrote one op-ed piece for the New York Times and was cited in one news story.

In , after his Foreign Affairs essay appeared, he again wrote an op-ed piece for the Times. He was a source in four news stories and a couple of editorials, more than any other critic. As mentioned previously, big spenders were quoted six-and-one-half times more often than the budgetcutters, and the lack of balance was striking in these stories. John McCain R-AZ , the most outspoken critic on this issue, was cited at least once in 13 news stories, more than any other source.

The branches of the military maintain units at different levels of readiness, and levels of readiness fluctuate over time. Choosing to keep all units highly ready all the time would be remarkably wasteful and ultimately self-defeating. The real question is whether the military is sufficiently ready to meet its deployment goals. And if it is not, it might be worthwhile to double-check the necessity of those goals before investing billions more in readiness. On occasion Times reporters filed stories exclusively quoting only one or two conservative sources, such as McCain, Sen.

Yet the Times and other news organizations also got some encouragement from Secretary of Defense Perry, who agreed there was a problem. Perry recently acknowledged that three of 12 Army divisions that would be deployed in a crisis overseas were operating at a low level of readiness. They said that U. Although there were a number of stories in pointing out that the four military services were vying with one another to boost their funding levels, reporters did not seem to connect that issue to what military officials told them about their readiness problems.

The Los Angeles Times ran at least four stories on interservice rivalries; the New York Times ran two, the Washington Times ran four and one op-ed, and the Chicago Tribune ran one op-ed. Yet Pianin never explored the readiness question. He merely reported that one side claimed there was a problem and the other side insisted there was not. In the last paragraph one sentence indirectly quoted a Pentagon spokesman who maintained that there was no funding shortfall.

The story was little more than a McCain-Warner press release. It should be noted that the Post ran more opinion columns calling for significant cuts in the military than the other papers. The third piece, which ran on the op-ed page February 20 , was written by Robert Borosage, then director of the Campaign for New Priorities and a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies.

Borosage also wrote an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times on the topic June 26 , but neither the Post nor the Times, nor any of the other publications surveyed, ever quoted him in a news story. Only Eric Schmitt of the New York Times took the time to go beyond the claims and counter-claims about deteriorating readiness. He interviewed more than two dozen officers and soldiers at Fort Riley in Kansas as well as their superiors.

Initially, they said it was the first time in 12 years that three divisions had been given such low scores.