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Republicans Shouldn’t Treat Pentagon Spending as Sacred

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
The U.S. National Debt has surpassed $16 trillion. Out of control spending habits of both Republicans and Democrats got us into this fiscal mess. The only way out is through dramatically slashing spending across the board—no exceptions.

Both parties must be willing to cut their “sacred cows” from the bloated federal budget. Democrats need to put social welfare spending on the table and Republicans need to stop protecting Pentagon spending at all costs. Or else we will pass on a mountain of debt to the next generation.

At a time when our nation is in a dire fiscal crisis, we cannot afford to neglect examining Pentagon spending. There’s no good reason that spending by the largest and most expensive department in the federal government has been isolated from serious scrutiny.

The Pentagon still has a “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy when it comes to its spending. Taxpayers deserve to know how their money is being spent. Despite a 1990 federal law requiring all federal departments to complete an annual audit, the Department of Defense has never been formally audited.

Why not? Because the Pentagon spends money so fast that it cannot keep track of its own expenditures. Seriously.

The Pentagon has made a decades-long promise to get their financial books in order by 2017, but that’s not looking likely. Approximately one third of the accounting entries in the Pentagon’s budget are untraceable, according to the Government Accountability Office.

Too many Republicans are afraid to cut the Pentagon budget for fear of being perceived as “weak on defense.” But a large chunk of the Pentagon budget has absolutely nothing to do with defending the United States. Like all other federal government department budgets, the Pentagon budget is filled with wasteful programs and corporate welfare.

Big spending politicians don’t turn into angels when negotiating the military budget. It is absurd to believe that a budget passed by Congress is not susceptible to unnecessary spending and pet projects.

To believe otherwise is to deny that many politicians are easily swayed by lobbyists. Defense lobbyists spend a lot of time on Capitol Hill at cocktail parties rubbing shoulders with politicians and urging them to put their special project in the Department of Defense budget. Defense contractors Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics and Raytheon spent a combined $33.4 million on lobbying in Washington last year, according to the Washington Post.

Only the few principled statesmen resist the pressure.

Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and a bipartisan group of 7 senators thankfully have introduced the “Audit the Pentagon Act.” This would add pressure on the Pentagon to get its books in order by stalling the production of new weapons systems until the Pentagon can perform an audit.

President Dwight Eisenhower famously spoke out about the growing fusion between defense contractors and legislators in his 1961 farewell speech. He warned us that the weight of this combination could endanger our liberties and democratic processes. He We didn’t heed his warnings and we are now facing the consequences.

The U.S. unquestionably spends more on military than any other country in the world at $739.3 billion in 2011. That’s nearly half of all military spending on Earth. U.S. military spending has doubled over the past decade when adjusted for inflation. Believe it or not, the U.S. spends at least six times more than the next largest spender and more than the next ten nations combined.

How much is too much military spending? Many politicians refuse to accept that throwing more taxpayer dollars at the Pentagon won’t necessarily make us safer.

Some Republicans are outraged that President Obama is “cutting” the military budget. But don’t be fooled into thinking that Obama is fiscally responsible.

The reality is Obama isn’t cutting a dime out of the military budget. He is only cutting projected spending, not actual spending. Under Obama’s plan, military spending will still substantially increase over the next decade, just at a slightly slower rate than previously anticipated.

Only in Washington is a spending increase considered a “cut.”

Interestingly enough, President Obama beats President George W. Bush when it comes to military spending. Military spending, which averaged 3.9 percent of Gross Domestic Product under Bush, has increased to 4.9 percent under Obama. Candidate Obama criticizing Bush’s spending on overseas wars on the 2008 campaign trail now seems like a distant memory.

The biggest national security threat facing the United States is the escalating national debt. Republicans do not deserve to be taken seriously when they talk about tackling the debt crisis unless they are willing to cut “sacred cows.”

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