Deciphering the Defense Budget, and More
Flying in the face of skeptical Democrats and Republicans, Robert Gates' Defense Department today is expected to unveil the largest military budget proposal in United States history:
$553 billion $670.6 billion for what Gates calls "the minimum level of defense spending that is necessary, given the complex and unpredictable array of security challenges." That comes on the heels of a major overhaul, announced last Tuesday, in the military's bedrock guidance, the "National Military Strategy." Its gist: We face new challenges in the Middle East and Asia. (More money, please.)
Funny thing is, plenty of stuff will be missing from the Pentagon's "bottom line"...and plenty more questions will go unanswered. That's pretty much the norm: Pro-military politicians, defense contractors, and military brass alike tend to defend their federal dollars with patriotic rhetoric and confusing bureaucratese. The hope, it often seems, is to push journalists and laypeople into complacency on national-security spending. But Winslow Wheeler, director of the Straus Military Reform Project at the Center for Defense Information, has a democratizing antidote to this military-industrial fever: a new e-book titled The Pentagon Labyrinth: 10 Short Essays to Help You Through It. "How did the American political system maneuver itself into such a destructive straightjacket?" he writes in the preface. "This handbook is intended to provide readers—particularly students of defense, young military professionals, new Capitol Hill staff and concerned citizens—with the tools to understand the Pentagon's contribution to this mess and what might be needed to clean it up."