Something interesting happens when you flush your unfathomably large resources on things that don’t concern or threaten us around the world. You are suddenly lacking even a modicum of resources to confront your greatest existential threats to the homeland. Welcome to the state of play in the U.S. military.
In 2021, the U.S. spent $801 billion on national defense, almost triple China’s spending and more than the next nine competitors combined. That was before the 10% raise in the fiscal year 2023 omnibus, which increased defense spending levels to $858 billion. This figure doesn’t include the $19 billion for military construction projects, $60.7 billion for the Department of Homeland Security, or $21 billion for the Department of Energy’s nuclear weapons programs – all funding throughout other non-Pentagon departments that should be protecting our homeland from national security threats. Then, of course, there is the $135 billion we spend on the Veterans Administration every year, which is a forgotten cost of not just having a large standing military, but the grinding deployments that have disabled so many service members.
Thus, with all this money spent year after year since WWII, we should be invincible to any offensive threat posed by China. Yet despite all of the debt incurred by our nation on account of the military, we have now learned that we couldn’t even stop espionage from China in our own airspace, much less project strength throughout the world. How does that happen?
We spent 20 years playing cops and robbers refereeing every Sunni-Shia civil war imaginable, engaging in rebuilding Kabul and Baghdad, and paying for the appalling costs of disabled soldiers and veterans from poorly planned international adventures. Then, when we finally had enough with the Middle East, we adopted Ukraine as the new pet project and have now given over $100 billion in weapons to Ukraine.
Meanwhile, the Pentagon can’t account for $220 billion in gear given out to defense contractors. In January, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report accusing the Pentagon of stonewalling an accounting of "government-furnished property" passed off to contractors with little oversight for over two decades. The GAO estimates the cost of the missing “furnished property,” which can include "ammunition, missiles, torpedoes," at $220 billion but notes that this estimate is "likely significantly understated." This comes after the Pentagon failed its fifth consecutive audit last November, in which only 39% of the components that compose its $7 trillion in assets were given a clean bill of financial health.
Oh, and that is just a question of dollars and cents. What about the policies, priorities, and culture of the military? What about its strategic vision? We have such a woke military that the generals defied Trump on something as disruptive, dangerous, and illogical as bringing transsexuals into the service. They defied him on pulling out of Afghanistan. Then, in 2021, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley basically admitted that he’d warn China if Trump ordered an attack on Beijing. His statement was made after members of Congress questioned him about suspicious calls he had with Gen. Li Zuocheng of the People’s Liberation Army.
Now, the entire defense and intel establishment is claiming there were three spy balloons launched during Trump’s presidency, an assertion denied by every one of Trump’s national security officials. So that means either these people are willing to lie publicly, or if it’s true, they purposely never informed the previous president.
To this day, the Pentagon is still thumbing its nose at a law recently passed by Congress and signed by Biden prohibiting punishment against soldiers who don’t get the COVID shots. West Point continues to impose mandates and travel restrictions on cadets for not getting the shots. Other soldiers still face repercussions, including being denied benefits, ineligibility for promotion, and being non-deployable. That’s how rotten and rogue our military leadership has become.
So it’s hard to tell whether we threw the money away on nothing and now we can’t deter China, or we physically have the capability to defend against China, but our generals are bought out by China. It’s probably a mix of both, but either way, there is no purpose to throwing even more sums down the same money pit before we fix the entire leadership of the military.
Now some of the same Republicans who spent decades throwing more money at a broken military without first fixing the policy problems are complaining about a weapons shortage and a lack of deterrent against China. “It could take years to replenish certain types of weapons the U.S. has sent to Kyiv, with no easy way to ramp up production quickly,” wrote Roll Call in an article previewing the subject of a House Armed Services Committee hearing this week. “That has policymakers deeply concerned about whether the U.S. would be able to field enough weapons if conflict broke out in the Taiwan Strait. “
According to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the U.S. could run out of critical weapons systems like long-range, precision-guided munitions less than a week into a hypothetical war with China. “The war in Ukraine has shown us that our industrial base is not prepared,” warned the report’s author, Seth Jones. “It's not producing the kinds of munitions and materiel we need for a conventional war and for conventional deterrence. So, you know, it's a wake-up call.” Specifically, it warns that it could take eight years to replace Javelin anti-tank missile systems and 18 years to replace Stinger surface-to-air missiles, all systems that have been liberally shipped to Ukraine.
John Cornyn issued a clarion call over the shortage.
“This ought to be a flashing red light for us, and it's shocking to me,” Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said during an event at the American Enterprise Institute in late January. “This is a huge, glaring problem. And right now I don't see the sort of all-hands-on-deck commitment to try to address that.”
Lindsey Graham, of course, is asking for more funding. “I think we all believe that our military-industrial complex has been under stress,” said Graham during a press conference last month. “We're running out of weapons, so now's not the time to go cheap on our military.”
But these are the same people who supported the Ukraine boondoggle and to this very day want to keep it afloat indefinitely. In fact, Lindsey Graham just sent a letter to the secretaries of state and defense urging them to send Ukraine F-16s and long-range missile systems.
These are also the same people who supported the money (and lives) pit of the Middle East adventures the past two decades without any circumspection. In fact, for all their cries about China, these very people would still have us bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan. While we all agree that Biden pulled out of Afghanistan in the most irresponsible way imaginable, let’s face it, if not for Democrat presidents, we’d still be in Iraq and Afghanistan. It was this depletion of military hardware, soldiers, and national resolve that distracted us from the real threat of China for years.
Now Republicans are crying foul, but it’s their endless support for the Pentagon money pit without any accountability, along with their support for endless foreign engagements, that has left our own homeland vulnerable to China. These Republicans need to look in the mirror. The depletion and distraction of our national security apparatus has been a bipartisan problem.
Republicans need a vision to fix the policies, purview, culture, and planning of the military before throwing endless sums of money at it. As one defense analyst told my friend Pedro Gonzalez: “We spent 20 years developing systems and doctrine to fight illiterate goat herders to ensure the gay pride flag can fly in the Baghdad and Kabul embassies and the daughters of the corrupt elite of both countries can learn to hate white men instead of investing in real homeland defense.”In other words, money can’t fix stupid; it can only perpetuate it while creating the illusion of a juggernaut fighting force.