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Dec 03

Carried Away with National Defense

Carried Away with National Defense

By Linda Jefferson

A friend of mine believes that personal safety is very important. In order to make sure that no one in his family is ever harmed in any way, he has taken a number of steps to ensure their safety. He has motion activated cameras and lights, triple deadbolts on his doors, bulletproof windows, owns 10 Doberman Pinschers that roam his fenced in property at night, and a safe room with a one year’s supply of food and self-contained ventilation system. Within his house, there is a small armory that everyone, including their youngest daughter, has been trained to use. It is his opinion that they could ward off an attack of 30 heavily armed individuals. Even though he lives in one of the nicest and safest neighborhoods in town, my friend does not believe he has gone too far. When asked how much all of his precautions have cost him, he says “you cannot put a price on safety.”

Safety might be priceless, but his home security expenses are not. My friend is now about to file for bankruptcy. He owes more money than he can possibly repay in the next ten years. Every month, he spends more than he brings in, and one of his biggest expenses remains home security. In the past month alone, he has committed to purchasing the latest version of home defense machines and 3 additional Doberman Pinschers. No one in his neighborhood has even had a house broken into since the 1940s, but he still continues to build up his defenses against an imagined enemy that might attack at any moment. When it is pointed out to him that what he is doing is crazy, he says, “Well if I am crazy, so is the United States government.”

My friend does raise a good point. The United States Federal Government is $17 trillion dollars in debt, because they spend more money than they bring in. A big chunk of this overspending is the result of funding the military. Seventeen percent of the proposed 2014 Federal Budget is committed to defense spending. After Social Security (33%) and Medicare (25%), military (17%) spending is the third largest expenditure in the budget. Is it worth it to spend so much on the military?

Putting aside the fact that we have not been attacked by another country since 1941, are there any countries that pose such a military threat to the United States today to justify such spending? Terrorists have attacked the United States, but no military has attempted to invade over the past 70 years. Why has no one tried to invade? One of the main reasons is that no other country even comes close to what we spend on the military. If you look at all the money that is spent on militaries by all the world governments combined in 2012, the United States accounted for 39% of all military spending in the world. In comparison, China came in second with 9.5% and Russia accounted for 5.2% in third place.

One of the best ways to see the lopsidedness in military spending is to look at the number of aircraft carriers each country owns. In 2013, the United States Navy has 10 aircraft carriers in service, 2 in reserve, and 3 under construction. The next two countries with the greatest number of aircraft carriers are the United Kingdom and Italy with 2 active carriers for each country. The only other countries with one active aircraft carrier are Thailand, China, Brazil, India, Spain, Russia, and France. Do we really need 10 aircraft carriers and another 3 under construction to defend ourselves from an attack from France’s one aircraft carrier?

Some are probably arguing that we are a big country and can easily afford the purchase of 3 more aircraft carriers, but such supporters should keep in mind that these beauties do not come cheap. The Ford class carriers that are currently under construction have the dubious honor of being extremely expensive, over budget, and behind schedule. Originally, one Ford class aircraft carrier was supposed to cost $12.8 billion when construction began in 2008. It is still under construction in 2013 and is now 22% over budget. It should also be noted that the original $12.8 billion price tag “does not include $4.7 billion in research and development costs.”

Obviously, it is important to defend one’s home, but are 13 aircraft carriers or Doberman Pinschers really necessary to do this? The primary responsibility of any president or parent is to protect their family, but what is the point of defending from external enemies, only to fall victim to an internal one with debt. It is important to spend money on defense, but we should not waste it. Defense spending is a balancing act; we must ask if external threats justify such exorbitant spending. Every penny spent on national defense is one less penny that could be spent on addressing other important issues: such as, education, mental health, reducing the debt, and a multitude of other issues. Do we need 13 aircraft carriers? Is it worth going into debt for them?

 

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