Jacob Sullum

"The Pentagon presently spends more in constant dollars than it did at any time during the Cold War," notes Andrew Bacevich, a professor of international relations at Boston University. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., whose proposal for reducing this year's federal spending by $500 billion includes $48 billion in defense cuts, notes that "military expenditure has increased by nearly 120 percent" since 2001.

In a 2010 Cato Institute paper, Benjamin Friedman and Christopher Preble calculate that a narrower understanding of national defense -- one that does not require the U.S. to police the world -- would allow savings of at least $1.2 trillion over 10 years. "We spend too much because we choose too little," they write. "The United States needs a defense budget worthy of its name, one that protects Americans rather than wasting vast sums embroiling us in controversies remote from our interests."

Although House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., do not go nearly that far, they do at least agree that military spending should not be immune from cuts. Even that is too much for House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard McKeon, R-Calif., who insists "we need the defense budget close to where it is" -- especially the part that pays defense contractors in his district.

Despite her avowed concern about "runaway spending," Hartzler is likewise keen to protect the defense dollars that benefit her constituents. "I will be a staunch defender of military installations in my district and across the country," she told the Times. Apparently defense spending is so holy that it makes pork kosher.

Jacob Sullum

Jacob Sullum is a senior editor at Reason magazine and a contributing columnist on Townhall.com.
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