Trump on Military Spending: An Encouraging Sign

The X-35 Joint Strike Fighter demonstrator performs flight tests at Edwards Air Force Base, California (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The X-35 Joint Strike Fighter demonstrator performs flight tests at Edwards Air Force Base, California (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Thomas L. Knapp…….

As on most issues, president-elect Donald Trump has been all over the map on military issues throughout his campaign and post-campaign pronouncements. One day he muses about disbanding NATO, the next day he promises to “rebuild” the US military, which is already by far not just the most well-funded war machine, but the most well-funded enterprise of any kind on Planet Earth (the 2017 US military budget exceeds Wal-Mart’s 2015 gross revenues by about $100 billion). He’s hard to pin down.

Still, Trump’s December 12 tweet on Lockheed’s F-35 contract is encouraging to those who’d like to see real US “defense” spending cuts. “The F-35 program and cost is out of control,” he wrote. “Billions of dollars can and will be saved on military (and other) purchases after January 20th.”

If the F-35 — called the Joint Strike Fighter because it’s supposed to be used by all US armed forces and several allies, replacing various other aircraft — ever actually rolls out ready for combat, its life cycle cost will come to more than a trillion dollars and the prices of various models will run in the range of $100 million per aircraft. For the sake of comparison, that’s more than three times the price of the McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet, the current US Navy and Marine Corps fighter/attack workhorse.

The F-35 is indeed one of the more insane wastes of taxpayer money in recent history. If Trump could find a way to kill the whole project, both taxpayers and the armed forces would be better off for its demise.

But even if Trump is serious, he’s in for a fight with 75 years of history. Since World War II, the primary function of the US government has been to transfer wealth from the pockets of American workers to the bank accounts of “defense” contractors like Lockheed Martin.

Even as long ago as 1960, when president Dwight Eisenhower warned America about the dangers of the “military-industrial complex” in his farewell speech, his warning was too little, too late. American politicians already were, and still are, addicted to military spending (and to the campaign contributions it calls forth and the make-work jobs it brings to their states and districts).

Breaking that bad habit is a daunting job. Like they say in Alcoholics Anonymous, the first step is admitting you have a problem. The only problem American politicians seem to see with spending half a trillion dollars a year on the pretense of “defending” the US is that they don’t get to spend more.

Instead of singling out particular boondoggles like the F-35, Trump might have more success imposing fiscal discipline across the board. That is, demand spending cuts to the US Department of Defense’s top budget line and let DoD figure out the details of how to make do with less.

A 75% cut, phased in over ten years, sounds about right. The US government would still be the single biggest military spender on the planet, but only by about 2 1/2 times, instead of 10 times, as much as its closest competitor (China).


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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6 thoughts on “Trump on Military Spending: An Encouraging Sign

  1. Mr. Knapp… you should know by now that all presidents are merely useful idiots used to front for the real power brokers and decision makers. nothing is going to derail the war economy we have had since the second world war. trump is just the latest frontman; but sadly, because he is such a buffoon, we may indeed see some radical stratagems implemented that would otherwise be handled more delicately with a more “establishment” figurehead. trump will be used as a scapegoat for whatever the powers-that-be have in store for us, because after all, it was trump and what-did-you-expect, and with their usual ignorance, the American people will accept that, and we will continue down the road toward absolute tyranny and impoverishment.

    so i wouldn’t be looking for “fiscal discipline” anytime soon.

    1. Who knows what is going to happen with the Trump Administration. However, due to President-elect Trump’s psyche, it seems obvious that he is a man driven to succeed and that includes being “hugely” successful as President. To do so he must tear down what has not been working well and then build it up correctly. Something to look for right away will be to see if Boeing comes down off of their $4.2 billion Air Force One price tag to around $3.5 billion or even down to $2.75 billion. Another thing to consider is that Trump now has the generals behind him now to watch his back as well as a bunch of tough, successful superstars of industry and business in his cabinet.

      These are exciting times but in unchartered waters in America today, yes, so buckle up your seatbelts my fellow Americans, and lead, follow or get out of the way.

    2. “we may indeed see some radical stratagems implemented that would otherwise be handled more delicately with a more “establishment” figurehead.”

      That approach hasn’t worked, so let’s use Trump’s hit-them-on-the-head philosophy and see what happens. Besides, it is the present ‘delicate figureheads’ who have brought us the F-35, etc. But don’t get me wrong, it’s still way too early to completely discount the F-35, as its bugs will be worked out and give our pilots an intense advantage if needed. As an example (maybe not the best example) but remember when Israel knocked out Syrian fighter jets at a ratio of something like 50 or 100 to 1?

      1. Mr. Volpian… you misinterpreted my comment. the true decision makers, the real power, have always conducted their pernicious agendas, or made the attempt, in secrecy. they do not advertise their standing at the apex of global control. they spend untold amounts of money to disguise themselves, and their nefarious activities behind facades of “legitimacy.” for example, in the polls of the richest people in the world, the usual suspects of gates, buffett, the queen of england, the waltons, are mentioned. but the name of the richest family, trillionaires though they are, are never mentioned. the aforementioned billionaires are panhandlers in comparison. and these billionaires and government leaders are their employees who do their bidding. they are put there to give you the illusion that a legitimate system is in place that consists of free markets, voting, individual liberty, etc. so trump is a useful idiot in that they installed a “wildcard” non-traditional “nut case” who can be expected to act with abandon. so if the rulers decide to do something radical, say slash social security, or start ww3, it will be more acceptable coming from the lunatic fringe that is trump, and thus more palatable to the nation than if it was done under an establishment hack like hillory. but make no mistake, no president calls the shots; they are controlled and told what to do.

        oh, and the family? that would be rothschild. remember j.p. morgan, super rich robber baron who “wielded” control over markets and the very economy? turns out upon his death that he only owned 17% of The House of Morgan. the other 87%? rothschild.

        the world is not as it seems Mr.Volpian. most people will never wake up to that fact; but the truth is out there if you go looking for it.

        1. Some of what you say could be true, but the decision makers (legislators, etc,) responsible for military spending are often mislead, intentionally or otherwise, into making bad decisions. Sometimes these legislators and committee people put their trust in certain lobbyists because they just don’t put in the hard work and long enough hours to be 100% thorough enough, or else they themselves don’t have the necessary logic to do a great job. Other factors such as employment in factories, etc. in their cities and states also have a bearing on choosing military equipment.

          What many are excited about, right or wrong, is Trump’s cabinet picks and other appointments including his choice of generals, etc. Obviously, success or not depends heavily on these chosen military men to be of “the right stuff.”

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