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McKeon: It’s ‘Clumsy’ To Say The U.S. ‘Spends More On Defense Than The Next Several Nations Combined’

By Ben Armbruster  

"McKeon: It’s ‘Clumsy’ To Say The U.S. ‘Spends More On Defense Than The Next Several Nations Combined’"

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Carrying on his kitchen sink strategy to prevent any more military spending cuts, Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-CA) took to the op-ed page in the Wall Street Journal today, trying to scare Americans into believing that scaling back America’s defense budget would amount to “shooting ourselves in the head,” as McKeon quoted Defense Secretary Leon Panetta saying.

Aside from the typical baseless fear mongering, McKeon tried to take on the compelling argument that — despite all the other obvious reasons the United States needs to cut military spending — DOD can afford to cut back because it spends more than other big military spending nations:

Armchair budgeteers often point out that the U.S. spends more on defense than the next several nations combined. This clumsy argument lacks critical nuance. It costs exponentially more money to sustain a U.S. service member than to keep a Chinese, Iranian or North Korean soldier under arms. And it costs money to sustain an all-volunteer force, which must compete with the private sector to attract quality recruits.

McKeon is right. U.S. military spending represents 43 percent of the world’s total and is more than the next 14 nations combined (of which include NATO allies Turkey, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Canada and Germany). But McKeon says pointing this out as a reason to cut military spending is “clumsy” because it doesn’t take into account that the U.S. spends more per troop than, as he said, China, North Korea, and Iran.

But McKeon’s argument is the one lacking nuance. The United States spends roughly $500 billion more on its military than those three countries combined. And according to McKeon, all that money is needed to for personnel costs. But according to the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Analysis, DOD set aside $139 billion in military personnel discretionary spending for FY2011.

Moreover, if McKeon is really worried about the cost of sustaining U.S. troops, he’d consider pushing to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. According to the same CSBA report, it cost just over $1 million per year to deploy one American soldier to either of those two wars.

So perhaps McKeon may want to reconsider which arguments he’s saying are “clumsy” and who he’s calling an “armchair budgeteer.”

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