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Get Your Hands Out of My Pie - Political Interference in the United States Military Budget

Active Military
Active Military
July 31, 2023
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The United States military budget is a critical component of national security, providing the necessary resources to safeguard the nation and its interests worldwide. The world’s most advanced fighting force can’t maintain its supremacy on a shoestring budget. However, in recent years, the military budget allocation process has been subjected more and more to political interference from those in the legislative branch more concerned with control than with doing what’s right. This interference has raised concerns about the effective utilization of resources and the long-term impact on the readiness and capabilities of the armed forces. Let us explore the various ways modern politics are causing the log jam.


The Budget Approval Process

The process of approving the military budget begins with the President's budget request, which outlines the administration's defense priorities and spending projections. The House and Senate then put together packages they want, and vote on their approval. Seems straight forward enough, but here is where the amendments kick in. The defense budget is called a Christmas Tree Bill, because everyone wants to attach amendments like ornaments. In some cases, the intent is to gain jobs, contracts, or other benefits for themselves of their constituents; other times it is for things that have no relevance to the Department of Defense at all, but they use it as a way to sneak their package through.



Currently, due to the rules of Congress, a single person is holding up the confirmation of over 250 O-7 and higher officers in the military from promotions and positions, to include the Commandant of the Marine Corps, a post which hasn’t been vacant for over a century. The idea that a single senator can stop the process entirely for whatever reason he wants is a disgusting abuse of power, full stop.  

While this is a very specific example, there are countless others these days. One senator even stated, “The same lawmakers you see having meltdowns when the cameras are on, are completely different once the audience is taken away.” If all the people crying about the preservation of the military were honestly attempting to do so, there are a few better places to focus our attention than to hobble the command structure over an issue 81% of Americans to some degree agree on.


Influence of Defense Contractors

There are many positive aspects to defense contractors, from having a highly qualified group hired for exactly the task that needs to be accomplished, a reduction in direct, indirect, and training costs, and as a solid career transition path for veterans exiting the military. Contracting, as we call it today, has existed for as long as professional militaries have, providing all of the ancillary services that the regular army couldn’t or wouldn’t.


The darker side of defense contracting is, as it so often turns out, the money. Massive pools of cash are funneled into these organizations in order to hide either the money itself, or the activities of the persons who receive that money. I am in support of clandestine operations, don’t misunderstand, but the ops so black there is no accountability anywhere push the line into ethically darker territory. Money spent for these groups gets shuffled around or hidden in nonsense, inflating the overall budget dramatically without the transparency needed to keep people honest.


Redirection of Funds for Political Purposes

In some instances, military funds have been redirected for completely non-defense purposes. In these cases, the majority of the redirections are less about the money than they are about the ability to stick it to a political rival or improve their platform with voters. The controversial border wall, as an example, received dramatic chunks of military funds, which as of this writing has essentially been deemed unrecoverable.


Impact on Military Readiness

Even if all of the politically motivated training and reshuffling of schedules weren’t a drain on time and resources, not having the funding to procure much needed equipment, parts, and supplies keeps those units at a reduced efficacy and combat readiness. Lack of training funds minimizes the number of personnel who can receive training, and the quality of that training for those who do receive it. The more units that fall behind, the less capable the overall force becomes.



There are a lot of nuanced areas that would need to be adjusted and loopholes closed to stop the grift that occurs around the annual defense budget, so one solution alone won’t plug the leak. Knowing that, there are a few obvious measures that could start the course correction in a positive direction. Term limits for members of congress, certainly (which is an answer for a great many other problems). Limit the number of and type of amendments that can be attached to the budget bills, and if the amendment provides financial benefit to the lawmaker who proposes it, the amendment is immediately rejected. Keep politics out of the military as often as possible; the military has standing orders about not engaging in politics while in uniform or representing the Department of Defense, so why can that policy work in both directions?


Right is right, and while we may disagree on where certain lines lay, we all do agree that the lines exist. Now all that’s left is synchrony.

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