TEN MYTHS: Heard These Arguments in Support of Increased Defense Spending?
The Facts Behind the Rhetoric
Lawrence Korb is Director of Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. Dr. Korb served as Assistant Secretary of Defense in the Reagan Administration.
The main reason that the political leaders from both parties and both branches of government continue to approve ever larger expenditures on defense than is necessary is that they have bought in to ten misleading assumptions or half truths about the current state of our military. Here they are, along with my response to each.
MYTH #1 -- Defense spending should be increased because defense consumes the smallest portion of the GDP and the smallest percentage of the overall federal budget since before Pearl Harbor.
This is an argument advanced by Governor Bush that has also been put forward by Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) and former Army Chief of Staff Dennis Reimer. While this statement is true as far as it goes, it tells us more about the tremendous growth of our economy since World War II than it tells us about our national security situation.
In 1940, the American GDP was .5 billion, or about .2 trillion in today's dollars. That compares with a GDP of more than .7 trillion in 1999. If such a ridiculous comparison was applied to the average American's daily life, it would mean that people would upgrade their home security system every time they get a pay raise.
Moreover, the implication of this myth is that the U.S. military of 2000 is in as bad a shape as it was in 1940. Today we have the biggest and best military in the world. Sixty years ago the U.S. military was ranked sixteenth in the world, between Portugal and Romania, was one-tenth the size of Germany's and half the size of Japan's, and accounted for only 1.6 percent of the world's military personnel.
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