Among the flurry of bills that Congress passed to fund the government and clear the decks for impeachment were a Defense Department authorization bill and some spending bills that included funding for the military for the rest of the fiscal year. The bills were passed by a wide, bipartisan vote.
However, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont is not happy with the amount of money that the United States is spending on its military. He has taken to Twitter to say why he is unhappy.
“Congress just passed a $738 billion defense package. We spend more on defense than China Saudi Arabia Russia India UK France Japan Germany South Korea Brazil …combined. We need to fundamentally change our priorities as a nation.”
Bernie added a video in which he explained what his priorities are, which was a list of Bernie’s oldies but goodies, including Medicare for All, free college, eliminating homelessness, and the Green New Deal. He hastened to add that he was all for national defense, but not at the cost of enriching the military-industrial complex. However, he said that he was very proud of having voted against every defense spending bill that passed during the Trump presidency.
In another tweet, Sanders noted that “this is not what resistance to Donald Trump looks like,” directing his ire to congressional Democrats who voted for the defense funding bill.
Indeed, the defense bill has authorized a great many administration priorities, including the establishment of a United States Space Force, something else than Sanders specifically disdains. The president is reacting to several threats that need to be addressed, such as the rise of China, the persistence of terrorism, cyberwar, and so on. He is following the pattern of Republican presidents who follow Democrats in the Oval Office who neglect military spending while the world continues to be dangerous. Trump is also trying to disengage from counter-insurgency wars in the Middle East to save more money and lives.
Bernie Sanders, as president, would neglect the military with a vengeance. However, as an interview in Vox suggests, he is a little less than specific on how he would do it, besides ending wars in the Middle East and Afghanistan, something that President Trump is undertaking anyway. He does suggest that there is a lot of waste, fraud, and abuse in the military.
“I think a lot of the budget is pushed by the military-industrial complex. You have a handful of military contractors where CEOs make outrageous levels of compensation. John McCain, the late John McCain, talked about massive cost overruns. You have the only agency in government that has not completed an independent audit. So there is a lot to be looked at.
“My Republican colleagues talk a lot about fraud and waste when it comes to programs for working people, lower-income people. They don’t look so much at the Pentagon, and I think that’s a place to look.”
Presidents of both parties have tried to find ways to reduce cost overruns that have been a feature of a lot of military procurement. The F-35 fighter is a conspicuous example. Popular Mechanics noted that the fighter’s cost ballooned over the 20-year development cycle.
However, the same article noted, “The F-35 may be one of the most derided and controversial warplanes, but it’s here, nearly ready to go into service in force. That’s a good thing. Frankly, we need the F-35. The average age of current USAF airframes stands 27 years, and it’s nearly as bad in the Navy. Decades-old Marine airplanes are being brought back from the boneyard. As a fifth-generation aircraft, the F-35 offers new combat capabilities and information exploitation. It will work with the F-22 and our 4th generation fighters such as the F-18 and F-16 to “kick down the door” in defended environments.”
In other words, the F-35, like a lot of other weapons systems, was just too big and too important to fail. A truism in modern military strategy has been that the side with the best technology also tends to be the side that wins wars. As long as potential enemies such as Russia and China continue to upgrade their weapon systems, we must do the same with ours.
Sanders has made it clear that he regards his wide and expense agenda of domestic priorities of more importance than maintaining an adequate national defense. Indeed, the defense budget, as far as he is concerned, is a cash cow for his desire to bring socialism to the United States.