Wednesday, November 10, 2010

What Was Missing?

America just completed a highly contentious mid-term election that brought about debate on a broad range of issues facing the nation. Many of those issues were technical and specific while others were philosophical and ideological. These elections also showed an unusually large number of examples of person attacks and venom among the candidates. But there were several things not discussed, a “Hound of the Baskervilles” aspect, that concerned me. Principal among these were two aspects of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The first aspect is that these wars are being fought by less than one percent of the U.S. citizens with devastating effects on American service members and their families. In addition to the more than 5,000 casualties and 40,000 serious injuries to our service members we have a military dealing with post traumatic stress disorder, a record divorce rate, rampant use of prescription drugs, lowered enlistment standards, and a suicide crisis. As Americans go about their everyday business and participate in this election the patriotic saying “all gave some, some gave all” morphs into myth or perhaps a lie and gives way to a new reality that “some gave all, most gave nothing, not a bloody thing.”

The second issue absent from the political dialogue is the cost of these wars, especially in light of the fact that deficits, the national debt, and government spending were issues central to most races. It seems as though the national defense cabal has convinced the American people that defense spending is “off the table” in budget debates while social security, Medicare/Medicaid , education, health care, energy independence and infrastructure are fair game. We spend more on defense in the United States than the next ten countries in the world combined and borrow most of it (a significant portion from China) and all of it will have to be repaid with interest. So while we secure and rebuild Baghdad and Kabul, Cleveland and Kalamazoo crumble. Specifically, as an example, we spend $6 billion a month on these wars while the total funding for three years for the Race to the Top, the centerpiece of education reform in the United States, is $4.3 billion; a 50 to 1 ratio. It may be time to put some other things “on the table”, while we still have a table.


  1. A third topic never mentioned is fixing the VA and taking care of the Veterans that previously served.

  2. The military (as all large bureaucracies) has their areas of waste and abuse. Aircraft that no one wants that is purchased because of earmarks; missing inventory; etc. There really is nothing untouchable. As long as it does not tear the military effectiveness to pieces. We do have to control our spending.

    The General does touch on the cost of those who come back less than whole. They have to be taken care of in the future. This is a cost that will not be amortized as is the equipment/buildings/bases.

    The final cut is the recommendations of the President's Select Committee on the Budget which is recommending freezing military pay-raises; COLA's.

    Some people believe that the military is being overpaid.

    These are a few of the problems that has to be considered. Many people don't look at the costs because when they talk about the military they only think of the cost in the Department of Defense. They don't think of the cost of the Department of Veterans' Affairs. Those funds are astronomical and the inefficiency in the VA is absurd.