With all the news channeled dominated by coverage of Sarah Palin’s fancy clothes and the revelation that Barack Obama was indeed born to a human — and not via immaculate conception, as previously thought — and has a grandmother who he apparently loves (shocking!), one could be forgiven for missing this revealing story from earlier this month on how the U.S. “defense” budget manages to increase every year, even when politicians from both major parties campaign on promises of cutting wasteful federal spending:
Pentagon officials have prepared a new estimate for defense spending that is $450 billion more over the next five years than previously announced figures.
The new estimate, which the Pentagon plans to release shortly before President Bush leaves office, would serve as a marker for the new president and is meant to place pressure on him to either drastically increase the size of the defense budget or defend any reluctance to do so, according to several former senior budget officials who are close to the discussions.
“This is a political document,” said one former senior budget official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “It sets up the new administration immediately to have to make a decision of how to deal with the perception that they are either cutting defense or adding to it.”
Dov Zakheim, the Pentagon’s top budget official from 2001 to 2004, who is not involved in the current discussions, agreed.
“The thinking behind it is pretty straightforward,” Zakheim said. “They are setting a baseline for a new administration that then will have to defend cutting it.”
As Tennessee Congressman Jimmy Duncan — one of the few genuinely anti-war Republicans left in Congress, even if he does inexplicably rationalize supporting John McCain for president (here’s an interview I did with Duncan that was published by Antiwar.com last year) — once remarked to me, the U.S. Defense Department is the biggest bureaucracy in the history of the world. And like any other bureaucracy (or politician for that matter), its primary institutional priority is not to, say, present a rational and realistic view of the threats to the United States, but to increase its own power and influence.