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Institute for Policy Studies

Report Info

  • Released September 22, 2008
Foreign Policy In Focus » Report

Executive Summary for 'A Unified Security Budget for the United States'

In this fifth annual edition of the "Unified Security Budget," as with the previous four editions, a non-partisan task force of military, homeland security, and foreign policy experts laid out the facts of the imbalance between military and non-military spending.

At a hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in July, Eric Edelman, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, said: “We all agree that a militarized foreign policy is not in our interests.”

He’s right. Since 2004, the annual Unified Security Budget report has outlined and promoted a rebalancing of resources funding offense (military forces), defense (homeland security), and prevention (non-military international engagement, including diplomacy, nonproliferation, foreign aid, peacekeeping, and contributions to international organizations.)

FINDING:

  • This year that goal has entered the realm of conventional wisdom. During the past year, the foreign policy establishments representing defense, diplomacy, and development have all converged to support a rebalancing of security spending.

Leading the pack has been the Secretary of Defense Robert Gates himself. In a November 2007 speech he said, “Funding for non-military foreign affairs programs…remains disproportionately small relative to what we spend on the military…Consider that this year’s budget for the Department of Defense—not counting operations in Iraq and Afghanistan—is nearly half a trillion dollars. The total foreign affairs budget request for the State Department is $36 billion… [T]here is a need for a dramatic increase in spending on the civilian instruments of national security.”

But saying this should be done is not the same as actually doing it.

FINDING:

  • In the last budget he will be officially responsible for, the increase Secretary Gates requested for his own department closely matched that $36 billion that he cited, and deplored, as the State Department’s total.

When supplemental war spending is included in the total, this budget widens the gap, in real terms, between current U.S. military spending and all previous levels since World War II. This budget would have U.S. levels exceeding total military spending by the next 45 countries combined.

FINDING:

  • Our analysis shows that 87% of our security resources are being spent on military forces (in the regular budget alone, excluding war spending), vs. 8% on homeland security and 5% on non-military international engagement.

In the final Congressional appropriations for FY 2008, the ratio of funding for military forces vs. non-military international engagement was 16:1. Despite Secretary Gates’ lament about this disparity, his defense budget for FY 2009 actually widens it to 18:1.

This report, written by a taskforce of experts in fields including military budgeting, forces and policy, nonproliferation, development, alternative energy, and homeland security, outlines a way to do the rebalancing between military and non-military security tools, rather than just talking about it.

It recommends $61 billion in cuts in military programs and explains why each can be made with no sacrifice to our security. The reductions include:

  • About $25 billion to be saved by reducing our nuclear arsenal, keeping National Missile Defense in a research mode and stopping the weaponization of space;
  • Another $24 billion in savings from scaling back or stopping R&D and production of weapons we don’t need;
  • About $5 billion in savings from unneeded conventional forces including two active Air Force wings and one carrier group; and,
  • About $7 billion from tackling procurement waste and pork-barrel earmarks.

The Unified Security Budget also shows where an additional $10 billion in savings can be achieved by rescinding funds that were appropriated in previous years but have not yet been spent.

And it identifies $65 billion in reallocated spending to address key neglected non-military security priorities. Three examples:

  • The Task Force’s recommended increases in funding for rail and transit security, allowing the United States to fully implement the 17 baseline security action items developed by the Federal Transit Administration, $3.2 billion, could be paid for by canceling the unneeded DDG-1000 Destroyer;
  • The FY 2009 budget request to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons materials around the world could be doubled, to $2.8 billion, by ending the offensive space-based weapons program; and,
  • The total shortfall owed to international organizations could be funded by foregoing the increase in spending over FY 2008 for the ill-advised Virginia Class Submarine.

We are pleased to report that the government’s budget agencies have made progress in providing the tools Congress will need to do the rebalancing. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) now includes a line in the budget totaling “Security Spending.” It follows our Unified Security Budget’s definition of the term, comprising spending on defense, homeland security, and international affairs. Unfortunately it lumps them all together, obscuring the disparity among them.

This year for the first time, the Congressional Budget Office has improved on what OMB has done by presenting these security spending categories so that the relative balance among them is clear.

But to reiterate: knowing about the imbalance and doing something about it are not the same. This report analyzes the obstacles that stand in the way of a rebalancing. Secretary Gates pointed to one when he noted recently that diplomacy “simply does not have the built-in, domestic constituency of defense programs.” Another is that the organizational structures, processes, and tools in both the executive and legislative branches are poorly constituted to get this done.
This report includes a section of recommendations for policy changes with both of these challenges in mind. One, addressing reform of the budget process governing military and non-military security spending, comes from Bush administration’s own Advisory Committee on Transformational Diplomacy. It recommended that the House and Senate Budget committees create a joint national security subcommittee whose purpose would be “to set spending targets across all major components of the U.S. national security establishment’s budget: defense, intelligence, homeland security, and foreign affairs/development/public diplomacy.”

The coming change in presidential administrations represents a major opportunity to build the less militarized foreign policy that Under Secretary Edelman correctly observed is in the nation’s best interest.

Both presidential nominees have cited increasing spending on non-military foreign engagement as a key security measure. In July John McCain said that “[Foreign aid] really needs to eliminate many of the breeding grounds for extremism, which is poverty, which is HIV/AIDS, which is all of these terrible conditions that make people totally dissatisfied and then look to extremism…” Barack Obama has said, “I know development assistance is not the most popular of programs, but as president, I will make the case to the American people that it can be our best investment is increasing the common security of the entire world and increasing our own security.” Both men have, in fairly non-specific terms, expressed an interest in reining in runaway military spending.

Increasing spending on non-military security tools and curbing unneeded military spending are crucial. This report tells McCain and Obama how they could do both.