Who’s Afraid of the Military-Industrial Complex?
Is the military-industrial complex losing clout? Absolutely, according to Sara Sorcher of the National Journal. In a piece
entitled “How the Defense Lobby Became Irrelevant” that ran on New
Year’s day on the magazine’s website, Sorcher points to the arms
industry’s inability to fully overturn automatic cuts to the Pentagon
budget as evidence of the lobby’s reduced clout on Capitol Hill. Among
the reasons cited for this surprising turn of events are a loss of
credibility stemming from the arms industry’s vast overstatement of the
negative economic effects of Pentagon spending cuts and a growing
willingness by Republican deficit hawks to stop treating the Department
of Defense’s budget as sacrosanct.
A good test of whether the military-industrial complex can regain its
momentum will come in the next few years. As Russell Rumbaugh of the
Stimson Center’s Budgeting for Foreign Affairs and Defense (BFAD)
project has noted,
after bottoming out at a still very generous $500 billion per year in
2016, current law calls for Pentagon and related spending to be flat
(adjusting for inflation) through 2021. What “flat” means will remain
to be seen. The Pentagon has been known to manipulate inflation figures
to its benefit, and for a while at least it will be able to dip into
funds described as being for support of U.S. troops in Afghanistan to
subsidize non-war-related expenditures. But one thing is clear — the
seemingly endless upward trend in Pentagon spending that ran from 1998 through 2010 is over, and significant growth in the Pentagon’s budget is not on the horizon.
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