War Budget

When the Bush administration released its budget for fiscal year 2006 recently, the news media, as usual, had a tough time in making sense of the government's proposals for defense spending. To some extent, we can't blame them for their confusion, because even people who follow this subject closely have trouble sorting out the government's various ways of stating the defense budget. Figures that appear at one place in the budget documents are often difficult or impossible to reconcile with figures that appear at other places in the documents. Conspiracy theorists might easily conclude that the government deliberately tries to make a clear understanding impossible. More charitably, we might conclude that the government simply does not know how to keep a clean set of books.

The budget separates proposed spending into various categories, which outsiders have trouble keeping straight: "outlays" are amounts of money to be spent during the fiscal year in question; "budget authority" includes newly appropriated amounts of money to be spent during the fiscal year in question and perhaps during several later fiscal years as well. "Mandatory spending" comprises dollars that must be spent (barring a change in statutory requirements), whereas "discretionary spending" includes dollars that may be spent (and normally will be).

In a section of the budget called "Protecting America" appears the claim: "Under this Administration, the Department of Defense (DOD) has received the largest increases in funding since the Reagan Administration. . . . The 2006 request represents a 41-percent increase over 2001." In the document's historical tables, however, both Table 3.2 and Table 4.1 show that the military part of the Department of Defense's proposed outlays for fiscal year 2006 exceed the 2001 figure by nearly 47 percent. Is the Bush administration being unnecessarily modest about its accomplishment in pumping up military spending or it is simply unaware of what its own data show?

Perhaps the 41-percent claim pertains to budget authority rather than to outlays? Evidently not. When we check the data for budget authority in Tables 5.1 and 5.2 of the historical documents, we discover, first of all, that the figures in those two tables disagree by $9.5 billion with regard to the Department of Defense's military budget authority in fiscal year 2001. Depending on which table's figure we use for 2001, the increase by 2006 comes to either 32 percent or 36 percent-still not very close to the 41 percent claimed in the text and, of course, much father still from the 47-percent change in outlays.

In any event, the amount of money provided to the Department of Defense falls far short of constituting the total amount appropriated for military purposes. Indeed, in a study I reported more than a year ago (based on fiscal year 2002 data, the most recent ones available in complete form at the time I made my calculations), I concluded that in order to estimate the amount of all military-related outlays in the federal budget, a good rule of thumb is to double the amount of the Pentagon's outlays.

The Pentagon's own budget-for fiscal year 2006, the widely reported amount of $419 billion in discretionary budget authority-does not include the costs of nuclear warheads, which the Department of Energy produces; the defense-related activities of the Department of State, including "foreign military financing"; the past military services being compensated currently by benefits provided through the Department of Veterans Affairs; the defense-related activities of the Homeland Security Department, such as the Coast Guard's defense activities; various defense-related activities of several other federal departments; or the current interest costs of previous, debt-financed military activities. Applying my rule of thumb, I estimate that the government's total military-related outlays in fiscal year 2006 will be in the neighborhood of $840 billion-or, approximately a third of the total budget, as opposed to the 16 percent that one calculates by comparing the Pentagon's $419 billion request to the administration's total request, $2.57 trillion.

Among the prominent items left out of the regular Pentagon budget are the amounts to be expended in prosecuting the seemingly perpetual wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, which currently eat up approximately $5-6 billion per month. So far, the administration has insisted on financing these war expenditures for the most part out of "emergency" supplemental appropriations. On February 14, President Bush sent Congress a request for $82 billion in supplemental funding, of which some $75 billion would go to the Department of Defense. The Pentagon would use all but $5 billion of the additional money for conducting the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Other funds in the request-including $660 million for construction of the gigantic, heavily fortified new U.S. embassy in Baghdad, $400 million to reward small countries that participated in the so-called coalition that attacked and occupied Iraq, $200 million for Jordan, and $150 million for Pakistan-may be viewed as indirect war costs. Later on, the administration expects to seek another supplemental appropriation for war-fighting costs during fiscal year 2006.

According to Rep. Jim Kolbe, many members of Congress believe that "this war has become enough of a routine that [those in charge of preparing the Pentagon's budget requests] should be able to build it into their annual budgeting and not have to come back to us for supplemental funding of that size." By keeping this funding separate from the regular request, however, the Bush administration obscures the war's impact on the budget and, in the words of Rep. John Spratt, "falsely portrays the bottom line"-at least in the eyes of the average citizen, who does not pay close enough attention to appreciate what the government is doing.

The Bush administration has made a big show recently of seeking to cut back or eliminate funding for scores of federal programs, and a few weeks ago the Pentagon attempted to get in on this sham by leaking a memorandum that inspired headlines in the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal that might have caused naive investors in defense companies to lose sleep: "Pentagon Said to Offer Cuts in Billions" proclaimed the Times's headline of December 30, and "Defense Cuts Would Strike Lockheed, Northrop: Contractors Stand to Lose Billions of Dollars in Orders As Pentagon Tightens Belt" warned the Journal's headline on January 4. Insiders, however, must have slept soundly through this make-believe storm, because they had to know that it was all a political farce.

Many of the so-called cuts were slated to take place several years in the future, in what budget planners call the "out" years. For fiscal year 2005 military spending, no cuts whatsoever were proposed. Needless to say, given the political context, not to speak of uncertainties about the course of events in the Middle East and elsewhere, all such long-range "planning" contains a large element of wishful thinking even when advanced seriously. The greater problem in this case, however, is that no such seriousness attached to this litany of cutbacks in the first place.

As Winslow T. Wheeler of the Center for Defense Information wrote recently, the proposed defense cutbacks will be, as insiders always knew they would be, "dead-on-arrival," owing to "pork barrel spenders in Congress [and] narrow-minded and disingenuous civilian and military bureaucrats in the Pentagon. . . .[M]agically, rationales will be found to restore the funding." Indeed, the Pentagon plays this sort of trick every year, normally after conspiring in detail with staffers in Congress and the Office of Management and Budget, who decide in advance who will pretend to seek what, and how much each interested party will actually get in the end. Only the general public takes this mendacious ebb and flow seriously. If, however, even a few voters give the Bush administration credit for at least "trying" to restrain the Pentagon's whopping increases in spending, then this time-honored game of set 'em up and knock 'em down makes political sense. In the end, however, as Wheeler concludes, "The feeble attempt [at cutbacks] will be killed in cold blood and, in Washington, no one will mourn. To the contrary, they will tout their heroism and celebrate their conquests. Only the taxpayer will feel the wound."

In sum, the administration's budget for fiscal year 2006, along with the shenanigans that strategically placed representatives of the military-industrial-congressional complex invariably play, insures that the gravy train of military spending will continue to speed along the track. The taxpayers have no right to complain, however. As the president has made clear, they've already had their opportunity to participate in an "accountability moment," and now, so far as George W. Bush and his lieutenants are concerned, that moment is gone forever.

Robert Higgs is Senior Fellow in Political Economy at The Independent Institute and editor of its scholarly quarterly journal, The Independent Review. He is also the author of Crisis and Leviathan: Critical Episodes in the Growth of American Government and the editor of Arms, Politics and the Economy: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives.

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Older Comments:
Mr. Warner,

As far as we Muslims are concerned (and yes, I am a Muslim), the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) picked up where Jesus (pbuh) left off and finished things (i.e. gave the final revelations of God) for humanity. We do not distinguish between the teachings of the Prophets and believe that the message is the same now as it was when revealed to Abraham all those centuries ago.
Mr. Warner, you need to understand that Islam is a religion of submission to the will of God; and since all that is good or that is love comes from God we (the Muslims) submit to that greater good, that greater love. Sir, I implore you to learn more about Islam and what it really is; you may like what you find. Salaam.

Bill, I continue here. Your criticism of Islamic countries as compared to the West is not fair. The Islamic countries are not trying to prove that they are better than the rest of the world. Did you ever hear in the Muslim media any country declaring that she was the best and the strongest and the most advanced in the whole known world? Not even Talibanic Afghanistan stated that! USA did and does, and as long as she gets away with it she will reiterate it over and over again, sort of self eulogy! The Islamic countries don't want to be better than the West, they want to be themselves and not a mere projection of the western society, savvy? They want to be free and not subjected to the western imperialism. You mentioned, extremism, do you even know what cutlery to use when dealing with it? So my friend, drop it, don't go there! Why would you attempt to give expertise in a domain in which you don't have a clue?
Your statement:"on the other hand there is ISLAM that teaches non-tolorance to all. and that is extremism." Now I remind you of the little intro of myself in the prev comment. So, you dare to say that as a non-Muslim you know what's Islam all about? Myself, a born Muslim from Muslim ancestry, trained as a Muslim, educated as a Muslim, don't know shoot about Islam! I progressed in the secular education to the degree of M.Sc., meaning that I'm not quite a retard, but your above statement is of such crass stupidity that I personally question your sanity. In order for me to partake in any discussion about religions in general, I went always to the source to be experiencing directly. I went to India and talked to gurus, I went to Palestine and talked to Jews, Christians, Bahai's and Muslims. I went to Iran and learnt about Shiism. After, only after, I opened my mouth. I advise you the same, otherwise the following applies: "The smaller the mind, the greater the conceit."(Aesop). Jesus,peace be upon him, said:"Take care as you judge for likewise you shall be judged.

My, my, Mr Bill Warner, there are two things that might happen with age. One is getting wise, the other is getting senile. I'm no youngster, either, I'm half a century in age. I am a Canadian Muslim from Muslim ancestry, I grew up as a Muslim, I went to Islamic private school, I continued my education in the secular system up to M.Sc. Why am I telling you these? I don't want you to get the wrong picture of my comment to you that might surprise you a bit, so you need to know that Muslims are not all backwood and uneducated as the media tries to present them.
1)Your first paragraph is pathetic. The people have the power to do what in the Western world? Change? Are you out of your mind? Didn't you hear about Waco, TX, and the repercussions to it culminating with the Oklahoma bombing? Didn't you hear about movements of separation in TX, since, mind you, TX was an independent republic, before being "friendlily" ushered into the Union. I agree on one thing, yes you can change one nominated candidate for another nominated candidate. What if you like none? And you would like right on something entirely different, let's say a Lesbian black woman to be the candidate for the presidency of the USA, and the alternative, an Oriental Buddhist. Could this possibly take place? Unless this takes place, then start preaching about freedom, democracy and emancipation that exists in the USA. And even then, keep it for yourself, don't try to ram it down on people that don't want it. How would you like to be sold on a great price a product you don't need and you don't even like it! This is the US product of democracy that nobody in the free world wants it. The European Community, the Asian community, Canada, all have their own version of governace and value systems, they don't want any US influence in their internal affairs or "imported democracy"! You guys, Americans behave like you invented democracy! Since when democracy was an English originated word.

In response to Mr. Warner's comment: Followers of this tolerant Christian religion of yours were responsible for:
- decimating the native population of South America in the 15th and 16th century
- inquisition during which thousands of 'non-believers' were burnt on the stake
- the murder of an estimated 6 million Jews during WW II
- the invention of Apartheid in South Africa that led to the murder of thousands of blacks
- dropping of two nuclear bombs on Japan during WWII, hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians where killed or suffered long term damage
etc etc
Enough said

Bill Warner - You asked the question about the most beloved, the most truthful, the most praiseworthy human being that ever lived, the Messenger of Allah and the Seal of the Prophets, Habibi Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him at all times). The only way you can make yourself aware of the reality of Muhammad's (saaw) life, you will have to READ about his life. I suggest that rather than guessing that the Messenger of Allah (saaw) was warlike rather than peaceful and cooperative, maybe you should take away your preconceptions about him before you start to judge him.

I was further disturbed by your comment when you went on to say:

"on the other hand there is ISLAM that teaches non-tolorance to all. and that is extremism."

the problem lies right there. You have already equated Extremism as being the same thing as Islam. Without any prejudice Bill, do you know anything about Islam, or just what you hear from word of mouth? Do you remember the Nazi's, they killed Jews in the name of Christ; or how about the Crusaders when they captured Jerusalem and killed not only Jews and Muslims, but they killed Middle Eastern Christians in the city as well, and this is not some small number, tens of thousands of people were massacred, and for what? Let's talk about more recent history, when Isabella and Ferdinand of France destroyed Andalusia, and commanded that anyone who does not accept Christ as their lord, will be killed - and this applied not only to the Muslims of Andulusia (Spain), but this also applied to the Jews who lived in Spain as well.

But I am not incompetent and would never say something so silly as Christianity = Extremism, because that simply is not true. Human beings are individually responsible for their actions. 1 billion of the 1.3 billion Muslims in the world are not Arab. 400,000,000 Muslims are from the far East.

To learn about Muhammad (s): http://www.pbs.org/muhammad/timeline_html.shtml

isn't it great to live in a country where you can not only critisize a government without worrying about the consequenses but if enough of you agree that the gov't in power is doing the wrong thing together we are able to vote them out.
can the same be said in regards to the islamic countrys. please don,t get me wrong, i am an american living in australia and i'm ashamed of what the powers that be are trying to bring democracy to countries of the world that haven't asked for it,and doing that in the wrong way.so many men in those countries wouldn't appreciate democracy if they had it. maybe because in a democracy they would have to go along with the majority and not have their own way.
at 67 years of age i(partly at least} can finally see the problem.
the problem is ----- EXTREMISM
we in the christian countries do not really practice true chrisianity and therefore go to
extremes of evil {on t.v., radio,magazines,etc.} and too many contribute to a sick society or at best a mild protest that does no good at all to stem the tide of evil.
on the other hand there is ISLAM that teaches non-tolorance to all. and that is extremism.
i know most moslem people mean well but are following ONE mans teaching or at least we hope we hace it right of what mohammed taught.
CHRIST taught love, forgiveness, and mercy.
CHRIST also taught {those that live by the sword will die by the sword} so as long as both sides refuse to negotiate they will go on killing each other. not a very good conclusion is it ?
so what do we do now ??????????


People get the government they deserve. The .. average American Joe has no time to ponder over what its "democratically" elected government is up to. He has unpaid untold number of extra hours to work at the job. With the remainder of time, he has much more important tasks at hand eg. follow closely Jackson, Petersen trials, watch such educational TV shows as Jerry Springer and intellectually challenging "Reality" shows. Weekends are reserved for such American pursuits as NFL, NBA, Major and minor league baseball and "World" series.
With such a tight schedule, don't bother him with such trivial details of defense budgets and shenagans of "corporate" media.


the government's use of public resources on behalf of private gain is becoming a norm. cutting taxes by increasing debt through borrowing so that the military culture and the welfare for the rich are abundantly provided??!! either the voters are powerless as in some third world countries or plain stupid for letting them get away with the scam.