Here Comes the Next “Defense” Shakedown

USS Ronald Reagan traveling through the Straits of Magellan, to San Diego, CA, in a transfer move. (Photo credit: Wikipedia, follow link)

by Thomas L. Knapp…….

“Today with the signing of this defense bill,” US president Donald Trump said as he affixed his signature to the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act on December 12, “we accelerate the process of fully restoring America’s military might.”

Is Trump truly under the mistaken impression that US military might is ailing? Or is he mindlessly aping Ronald Reagan and hoping it brings in the re-election votes? Or perhaps something else entirely?

The NDAA budgets nearly $700 billion for the US military next year. Despite its name, there’s precious little “defense” involved.

While it’s true that the United States is involved in several ongoing wars ($65.7 billion of the NDAA’s appropriations go to the “Overseas Contingency Fund” for continuing those wars), none of them serve any vital, let alone existential, US interest, and none of them are defensive in nature.

The US has no militarily significant adversaries in the western hemisphere. Further afield, it already floats by far the most powerful naval and expeditionary capability on Earth. Of the world’s 41 aircraft carriers, the US operates 20, including 11 flat-top “supercarriers.” The remaining 21 are scattered among the navies of 12 other countries, mostly US allies. America’s two most likely military adversaries, China and Russia, each operate one light STOBAR (“Short Take-Off But Arrested Recovery”) carrier.

Speaking of China and Russia: China’s military budget is less than 1/3 the size of this latest US monstrosity. Russia’s is even smaller, and set to shrink in 2018.

A true US “defense” budget might, if wasteful, run as high as 1/10th of the NDAA’s numbers.

So if the NDAA isn’t about defense, what’s it about? Mostly corporate welfare.

The bill includes money to buy more 30 more planes than the military asked for  (24 reliable old F/A-18s instead of 14, and 90 of the newer lemon, the F-35, instead of 70). The US Navy asked for one new Littoral Combat Ship. The NDAA budgets for three. Translation: Billions  for aerospace and ship-building companies.

The NDAA also adds more than 16,000 troops to the already bloated US armed forces. Not because more troops are needed for “defense,” but because each new soldier, sailor, airman and Marine must be fed, clothed, housed, and armed — which, in the age of fake privatization, means yet more money for “defense” contractors.

Prior to World War Two, when a war ended US military spending descended toward pre-war levels. Then what Dwight D. Eisenhower referred to as the Military Industrial Complex took over the federal government. Now that government’s primary activity is moving as much money as possible from your pockets to the bank accounts of “defense contractors” on a continuing basis.

This year, the tab comes to about $2,160 for every man, woman and child in the United States. Do you feel like you’re getting your money’s worth?


Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism ( He lives and works in north central Florida.

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9 thoughts on “Here Comes the Next “Defense” Shakedown

  1. You need to get over the Trump issue. If trying to help this country you need to put support behind who ever wins and .hope for the best.That you are unhappy with Trump does not need to surface on every article you write. You are a bright man so use your skills to help this country.The image of the USA needs to be positive.

    1. Let’s see:

      Of the last three columns I’ve written, one did not mention Trump, one defended Trump, and one was critical of Trump.

      Of the three before that, two did not mention Trump, while one did use a stupid public statement by him as the jumping off point.

      And of the three before that, none of them mentioned Trump.

      So, 2/3 of my recent columns don’t even mention the president of the United States and of the three that do, only one is negative.

      If you think that constitutes my unhappiness with Trump surfacing in every column I write, well, I think you need to work on your math skills.

      1. Doh — of the 33% of my recent columns that mention Trump, two, not one, were negative. I guess my math skills could use some work too.

        I’m not especially down on Trump as compare to past presidents. I’ve been easier on him than on Obama, Bush, the former president Clinton, or the former prospective president Clinton.

  2. When Bill Clinton was president, he was accused of letting the Chinese have 2 prized possessions of the United States’ military – Our submarine silent propeller technology and our ballistic missile guidance technology, whereas previously China supposedly couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn with their missiles. His alleged philosophy was that if all nations were mostly equal, then that would prevent wars. Don’t know if that was the fake news of the day, but he vehemently denied being part of a giveaway.

    However, as most everyone knows, the real goal at the end of the day is for a 100% reliable defense system of eliminating “all” incoming nuclear tipped ICBM’s into America. Perfected laser technology that can sweep the sky of dozens of incoming missiles or whatever will work is the end game on our defense, and the same goes for other countries. Obviously, this might not be attainable, but huge and far reaching R&D can also uncover many hidden gems just like the space race gave us many offshoots from satellites orbiting the earth as well as what we developed from our moon treks.

    1. “Perfected laser technology that can sweep the sky of dozens of incoming missiles or whatever will work is the end game on our defense, and the same goes for other countries.”

      And since such perfected technology would give its possessor the power of unanswerable first strike with its own nuclear weapons, anything approaching such perfected technology would give the enemies of that prospective possessor to strike while they still could.

      That’s not to express an opinion on whether or not missile defense is a desirable objective, just to point out that its pursuit is not an unalloyed positive.

      1. I see your point, but we are already in a position of guaranteed mutual destruction with any country who has a large enough nuclear arsenal to challenge us, and besides that I don’t believe there is anything that will stop the United States from continuing to pursue any and all types of missile defense.

          1. Yeah okay, but Jimmy Carter might say just print up a bunch of $20’s to make our payments. Most people don’t know that our yearly interest on the debt is around $250 billion – if I’m not mistaken.

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