Let’s Make Sure Our Military Can ‘Kill People and Break Stuff’ before Writing It a Blank Check | National Review

Let’s Make Sure Our Military Can ‘Kill People and Break Stuff’ before Writing It a Blank Check | National Review

A U.S. Air Force F-35 Lightning II assigned to the 48th Fighter Wing, Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, flies over Siauliai Air Base, Lithuania, March 2, 2022. (Senior Airman John R. Wright/USAF)

In response to We Can’t Afford a $1 Trillion Defense Budget

In response to Rich’s call for a drastically increased defense budget ($1 trillion, up from around $770 billion), Phil points out a simple fiscal reality:

Rich makes a sobering case that the world is a dangerous place and getting more dangerous for the U.S., of course. But this is the position we find ourselves in after decades of fiscal mismanagement by both parties. I see no signs that the current Republican Party has any interest in fiscal responsibility. So we need to see a dramatic course correction on that front and actual improvement in our fiscal picture before proposing trillions of dollars in new spending, regardless of the cause.

The tidal wave of red ink facing the United States is indeed something to consider. Something I also think we should consider is, even if we decide it is worth increasing defense spending anyway, whether we should do so without changing the underlying Pentagon status quo. It is quite possible to respect, admire, and be proud of the U.S. military while also wondering if it is spending its money wisely. A recent Washington Free Beacon report on gender-identity-sensitivity training that soldiers are put through is a more outrageous example of a reason to ask this question, even if it may not exactly be representative.

More representative are abiding concerns about waste and bloat in the Pentagon bureaucracy. Focusing on that notorious money pit, the F-35 fighter jet, David Williams, president of the Taxpayers’ Protection Alliance, wrote for us last year that

the F-35 is far from the only defense program suffering from cost overruns and lack of a clear purpose. Bloated, ineffective programs are a symptom of the misplaced priorities, poor decision-making, and lack of vision plaguing the American defense establishment. The burden on taxpayers and servicemembers alone should be enough to warrant serious scrutiny of the practices that have enabled such bad management for so long. But wasteful defense programs and poor military strategy don’t just cost taxpayer dollars. They can cost American servicemembers’ lives.

I would be much more comfortable shoveling money into the gaping maw of the military-industrial complex if I were confident that said money, upon being digested, were transformed properly into things that improve our abilities to “kill people and break things,” as Rush Limbaugh liked to put it. Right now, I lack the confidence that that money would not be in large part pointlessly siphoned away by self-interested, ineffective, or politically motivated actors in both the public and private sectors of the defense world.

Before we write a blank check to the Pentagon, then, I would want serious reforms of procurement, budgeting, and other aspects of our military’s operations, to make sure we are actually getting a bang for our buck. (For policy nerds out there: Perhaps there is some way to tie meaningful reform to increased dollars.) Without that, we can spend as much money as we want, but all we’d end up with is a pretty-looking yet ineffective war machine.

Jack Butler is submissions editor at National Review Online.

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About the Author

Tony Beasley
Tony Beasley writes for the Local News, US and the World Section of ANH.