In his Dec. 13 Thursday Opinion column, “The decline and fall of U.S. defense,” Max Boot wrung his hands over the declining ability of the U.S. military to prevail in potential confrontations with Russia and China because those two countries’ advances have outpaced our own. He suggested that $700 billion annual defense budgets are not enough, even though the United States outspends Russia and China hand over fist. Mr. Boot’s solution was to raise taxes and/or cut spending for entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare so that we can spend even more for defense capability.
Mr. Boot did not mention that taxes were cut by trillions of dollars during George W. Bush’s presidency, as in President Trump’s two years in office (without corresponding spending cuts), thus adding considerably to the national debt. Thus, a better solution might be to just reverse a large portion of the recent Trump tax cut for corporations, thereby adding significantly more national revenue for defense spending, if it’s really needed. Also, wouldn’t it be wise to reduce some Defense Department spending, such as on domestic bases and military equipment, that is politically motivated but militarily ineffective and inefficient?
Eric Murchison, Vienna
Max Boot argued that decreased military spending weakens the United States and renders us incapable of fighting two wars simultaneously. He argued that, in 2018 dollars, defense spending in 2010 was $794 billion vs. $586 billion in 2015.
This was highly misleading. The 2010 number included substantial funds for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. If you exclude those costly add-ons, the base Defense Department budget has been steadily growing and will be $716 billion in fiscal 2019, not counting an additional $200 billion for veterans — which means our total defense-related outlays are approaching $1 trillion, more than 20 percent of our total budget. Compare this with estimated defense spending of $66 billion in Russia, or $228 billion in China.
Especially at a time of super-high deficits, continued high defense spending crowds out alternatives and lower deficits. We need to be supersmart on how we spend scarce resources.
Gil Blankespoor, Reston