It’s a topic that immediately generates backlash if not addressed in an accretive manner. In today’s politically charged environment, military spending is sacrosanct. No one can dare talk about its sustainability or reform. Yet simple math dictates that we must address the dilemma, if only to ironically save our military.
While every nation must maintain an armed force for basic security purposes, it must do so rationally and responsibly. By its very nature, military spending represents a consumptive act. Unless a government directs its armed services to colonize other nations’ resources, shows of force deplete resources. Simply put, military endeavors are unprofitable.
But even more critical, excess military spending represents a liability. For example, consider an upstart tech firm. It invests heavily into research and development for potential (future) earnings. But currently, it shows negative earnings. As long as the product or service has promise, investors often overlook these negative metrics, as they anticipate future earnings.
In contrast, certain military expenditures have no hope for “earnings” potential. First, as I previously mentioned, military spending is consumptive. Moreover, most of the defense budget goes towards individual personnel costs.
According to information compiled by Captain Peter Brennan, U.S. Navy, 50% of Defense Department expenditures goes to servicemember salaries. In the Marine Corps, General James F. Amos testified that this metric is up to 62%. By the end of this year, it will reach a whopping 70%.
However, most servicemembers leave the military before hitting the 20-year minimum required for the pension to kick in. That means the investment the government puts forward walks away with the military member.
Military Spending is Not Sustainable
The common retort is that our servicemembers are heroes, and they deserve our highest praise and more importantly, financial compensation. Although an appeasing answer, especially in the post-9/11 era, it nonetheless makes little practical or financial sense.
For instance, if danger is the ultimate factor in deciding how much someone makes, then consider other occupations. Should taxpayers offer taxi drivers more compensation because they ply a hazardous trade? How about firefighters or police officers…is their service any less than that of an average servicemember?
Even if every servicemember served in combat – percentage-wise, very few do – we cannot let our emotions dictate fiscal policy. At a certain point, we must respect that people make their own choices in life. After the draft was essentially abolished in the early 1970s, our government has not forced anyone to take up arms.
Beyond that, military spending isn’t just about the broader economic stability. Rather, without rational reform, escalating costs and expenditures will first and foremost cripple the military.
That’s because when you’re spending more than half your military budget on salaries and benefits, you leave little room for training, equipment, and next-generation technologies. Even more problematic, the societal mantra that our “military members are heroes” is getting in the way of sound policy.
No doubt, heroes exist in abundance in our military. But again, if heroism is a determining factor to compensation, we have many people to consider. How about the single mom working two or three jobs to put food on the table? Or the public-school teacher receiving poverty-level wages just so she can teach the next generation of Americans?
But if we keep pouring money into military benefits, we sacrifice national security for the betterment of the individual member. Does that sound patriotic to you?