Voters--Republicans and Democrats alike--are telling pollsters they want, not a modest course correction, not a turned page, but a whole new book. The security budget President Bush proposed today is anything but.
Every year since 2004, according to analysis by the Task Force on a Unified Security Budget for the United States, published by the Institute for Policy Studies, nearly 90% of security spending, excluding the supplemental appropriations for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, has been devoted to achieving security by military force. Spending on prevention tools, including diplomacy, nonproliferation, foreign aid, contributions to international organizations and homeland security put together accounts for only 10% of the security budget. This year is no exception.
This year military spending even excluding expenditures on the wars we are actually fighting will be higher than at any time since World War II. It will exceed the military spending of all other nations combined. If President George W. Bush gets the budget he has requested, we will spend in the 2009 fiscal year 18 times the money engaging the rest of the world through the military as by any other means.
This analysis reworks the budget categories for defense, non-military international affairs, and homeland security to better differentiate military from non-military security spending. It shows that the budget request increases spending to engage the world through the military, while shrinking spending on non-military international engagement.
These security priorities are heading us in exactly in the wrong direction.
Most of the cuts in non-military international affairs are coming from programs to stop the spread of nuclear and chemical weapons materials.
Our Secretary of Defense himself is saying this has to change. In a speech on November 26, Secretary Robert Gates pointed out that "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..."
Gates' call for a dramatic increase in non-military security tools is laudable. Unfortunately, the budget does nothing of the kind. And the disproportion he mentions will not change unless he's willing to cut wasteful spending in the Pentagon's budget. He hasn't made these cuts.
The budget does add money to fund more than 1,000 new diplomatic positions, which are much needed. But if Congress is listening to the voters' call for change, it will need to do better than that. It will need to shift to bring military and non-military security tools into better proportion.
Miriam Pemberton is Research Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies and Peace and Security Editor for Foreign Policy In Focus, a project of IPS. Anita Dancs is research director for the National Priorities Project a member of the Security Policy Working Group, the Task Force for a Unified Security Budget, and a Foreign Policy In Focus analyst. Published by Foreign Policy In Focus (FPIF), a project of the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS, online at www.ips-dc.org). Copyright © 2008, Institute for Policy Studies.