Reviewed: Barbara Lee’s (draft) resolution on military spending
Speaking Security Newsletter | Congressional Candidate Advisory Note 24 | 9 July 2020
Barbara Lee is a co-sponsor to Bernie Sanders’ amendment that would convert 10 percent of the military budget to non-military (useful) purposes. Less covered but still important is Lee’s own resolution that lays out how a much more substantial conversion (~$350,000,000,000) could be achieved. Below, I highlight/expand upon the latter’s key features.
Lee’s (draft) resolution
The language below is an excerpt of Lee’s “sense of” resolution. “Sense of” resolutions don’t do anything more than what the name implies — they’re symbolic measures meant to express how Congress feels about a certain thing (more about them, here).
But I still want to highlight Lee’s draft because she demonstrates some serious range and specificity with her suggestions. Here’s what I’m talking about:
Lee’s resolution, footnoted
What follows is an expansion on each of Lee’s 10 points above, addressed in the same order.
(1) Overseas Contingency Operations
Refers to Global War on Terror operations. It wasn’t called “Overseas Contingency Operations” until Obama renamed it to make it sound like a backpacking trip through Europe. Surpassed $2 trillion in total expenditures last fall. (More, here.)
(2) Foreign bases
The US has over 800 military bases abroad. They’re far more costly to maintain than domestic bases; specifically, $10,000-$40,000 more per soldier, annually. (More, here.)
(3) Ending wars
The US is currently at war (to varying extents) in 80 countries. (More, here.)
(4) Unnecessary weapons
The savings produced by killing the F-35 program is probably factored into the figure above. The F-35 is expensive (~$85,000,000/plane). It’s also dogshit: one of about a million GAO reports stating that more delicately, here.
(5) Overhead costs
The main reason why US military overhead costs are so high is because DOD’s budget is so massive. The more stuff it has/does, the higher the overhead costs. This CBO report has a more thorough explanation.
(6) Private contracting
Would be simpler and more effective to just nationalize the defense industry and dismiss the whole notion of ‘privatized security provision’ altogether. (Your friends at SPRI are currently working on a report on this very thing.)
(7) Space Force
I once referred to it as the “Space Farce” amongst friends and none of them laughed. But I still think I’m right to find it amusing.
(8) Use-it-or-lose-it contracting
Basically DOD has so much money that it has trouble spending all of it before the end of each fiscal year. A recent example of this practice, here (featuring a lot of seafood and a $9 million chair).
(9) Operations and Maintenance budget
Also called the “Readiness Budget” because it's the primary DOD account that funds US military operations/activities. With this method you’re essentially exchanging imperialism for a peace dividend.
For the US foreign policy establishment, suggesting that we reduce the US presence in Afghanistan at all is heresy. So while a 50 percent reduction is nice, why not go all the way?
Don’t hesitate to give me a shout if you have any follow-up questions, I’m around.