Seth Estrada Miller
Did you know that in 2020 the United States is estimated to spend $989 billion on the U.S. military alone? According to The Balance, this period covers October 1, 2019, through September 30, 2020. Because the U.S. military uses a large portion of funding inefficiently, America should fix defense spending and use the resources saved to fund other departments which would see clearer benefits. The amount of money that is currently being invested in the military is far beyond any other country, the amount saved from lowering funding and fixing the inefficient use of money can be allocated towards other departments which do not receive proper funding. While it is important to have a powerful military, the vast amount of resources directed towards this branch can be more beneficial for the U.S. elsewhere due to the irresponsible use of funds. In this paper, I will go over how the U.S. military uses funds inefficiently along with ways to fix it and other areas that would see benefits from an increase in funds. Some of these areas include healthcare and education.
In 2013 the Pentagon employed an estimate of 800,000 civilian workers. Cutting the amount of overhead would save around $80 billion in one year. The number of civilians that are employed by the Pentagon equals around the population of four states. It is also twice the amount of the Veterans Affair agency and around four times for the Department of Homeland Security. Even if you combine all of the federal agencies besides the two listed, the amount employed by the Pentagon would still be more than those. With such high unneeded employment, the Pentagon could lower the amount by even just a little and would benefit from high savings.
This amount doesnt include the pay from back office employees which includes 2 million people who never face the enemy. 560,000 of these individuals are active-duty military members who never deploy and 700,000 civilian servants, who are contractors doing government jobs. Coburn estimated we could cut 5 billion dollars annually if we were to employ cheaper, civilian employees. Four leading think tanks conducted an analysis to find possible cuts in the budget. Every think tank suggested cutting the Pentagons civilian workforce. These cuts ranged anywhere from 10 to 27 percent.
When President Obama was still in office he asked for a round of base-closing. Base-closing is an event that takes place periodically when there are many facilities that are no longer needed. This base-closing round was predicted to save 2 billion dollars a year. Congress members hate seeing bases closed in their own state or district so Congress refused to start the round of closing the useless, costly facilities. Republican Thad Cochran, Senator of Mississippi, directed the Coast Guard to build a $640 million dollar ship called the National Security Cutter despite the Coast Guard stating that they didnt need one.
Guantanamo is a naval base and a detention camp for prisoners. We spend $454 million every single year to keep this base open and running. The prisoners of this camp are detained indefinitely without trial and are tortured on a daily basis. This camp is often considered to be a breach of human rights. The camp was established in 2002 by George W. Bush. Barack Obama had attempted to have the base closed but faced huge opposition from Congress and was never able to close the base.
If we were to cut overhead spending in the Pentagon we would save 80 billion dollars and if we were to employee cheaper, civilian individuals we could cut 5 billion dollars. Closing facilities that are no longer useful can save us about 2 billion dollars every year and closing Guantanamo would save us 454 million dollars every year. This means we could save $87,454,000,000 every year. This would decrease the budget of $989 billion to $901,546,000,000 every year. Even though this number is still ridiculously high, this would save us nearly 88 billion dollars a year. Americans were forced to borrow 88 billion dollars last year in order to cover their medical bills. If we put the money we would save from cutting these very simple things from military spending, we would be able to prevent this from happening. Two-thirds of personal bankruptcies that are filed are due to inability to pay medical bills. With this money, this issue could be prevented.
We could also improve our education systems by leaps and bounds with this large amount of money. We could afford to expand high-quality early childhood education programs. America invests less in children under 5 than almost any other developed country in the world. We also have an extremely low level of enrollment in early education programs. A dollar invested in a child before kindergarten can have a huge impact especially for children in low-income households. We could also focus on recruiting, properly training, and supporting the teachers of our country. High-quality education begins with high-quality teachers. These high-quality teachers help students succeed. We need to change the process of recruiting, training and supporting teachers. Teacher residencies like the Urban Teacher Center need to be better funded. This preparation program allows teachers with real-world training experiences to increase. There are other National Service programs that also need better funding. Citizen Schools is an example of this. This program works in high-need schools and shares practices that allow the schools to recruit people with strong leadership skills, connections to the community, and are sources of a diverse talent pool.
With this money, we could also improve and expand Early Warning Systems and tie them to evidence-based intervention for at-risk students. Over years of research, we have developed clear indicators and benchmarks that can notify us when a student is at risk of dropping out. These students would be immediately given the help they need to get back on track. The student would be assigned a mentor who would have created an educational plan. These Early Warning Systems could allow us to have a 90 percent high school graduation rate by 2020. We can also increase high-quality, college-preparation level instruction combined with support services. A large number of companies such as YouthBuild USA, The Corps Network, Year Up, Urban Alliance, and Jobs for the Future had begun programs to reconnect young individuals who have been disconnected from their community. The also help first-generation students move on to post-secondary education and training. Their plans involve involving youth members in a career and college-going atmosphere that also supports and work experiences, case management, and counseling/mentoring.
The last big thing we could do by using this money towards education is fixing the Pell Grant system by modernizing it to todays college students needs. The goal is to reinstate a year-round Pell grant. Right now, if a student is enrolled as a full-time student for two consecutive semesters, they use their entire Pell grant for the academic year. This means students who want to take winter or summer classes are incapable of being granted a Pell Grant. Modernizing the Pell Grant system would allow students to be granted financial aid during those summer and winter classes as well as the academic year. These educational goals are extremely achievable for America. These changes are proven to work if we took action as a country. When our youth prospers, our communities prosper, and our economy follows.
We could also make huge strides in improving our healthcare system if we were to use that money towards certain aspects. Out of all the people struggling to pay their medical bills, 73 percent of them skipped buying groceries, clothing, or even their rent. 60 percent of them emptied their savings accounts and over 40 percent took on extra jobs to afford their medical bills. One in four individuals cut back on prescription medicines because they could not afford their bills. 78 percent of the individuals who filed bankruptcy due to medical bills did indeed have insurance who failed to pay for their medical bills. Thirty percent of health care funds go to waste on things like overprescribing antibiotics and administrative paperwork. Companies like Medicaid and Medicare pay staff to fill all of the billing in their companies. They could save $190 billion dollars if they switched computerized billing. If the government invested 1.5 trillion dollars into health care, they could afford to cover every single American in nursing homes. The government could spend $200 billion a year and afford to cover every single American who does have insurance.
Another big area that could be improved is the domestic infrastructure. In 2007, Minneapolis Interstate-35W bridge crumbles in the Mississippi river below. This killed 13 people and injured 145 more. One-fourth of our countries bridges have extreme structural problems or obsolete designs. Our assessment method is extremely outdated and doesnt catch many of the signs of structural fatigue, impact damage, or corrosion. Many researchers are looking into new building materials such as high-performance steel, self-healing materials, and a wireless system that inspects the general performance and health of the bridge. The University of Michigan is conducting a project that includes developing a carbon nanotube-based sensing skin that would be lined with electrodes that would detect cracks and corrosion. If we were to apply some of this money redirected from military spending we could use these very useful materials to build new and improved bridges all over our country. This would enable our bridges to be more sustainable which could actually save us a ton of money in the future.
Another cut that could be made in our military is the submarine budget that was enacted in 2016. An enormous budget of $90 million was enacted for a submarine unit in our US military. It was enacted in order to keep the super-expensive new nuclear missile submarine outside the normal shipbuilding budget, also known as the National Sea-Based Deterrence Fund. This fund is a part of our US Navy services and is quite unnecessary. A year later in 2017, the Pentagon shifted $630 million more to this fund. Giving the Navy this extension on its fund pushes the opposite branches of the military against each other. Competition is already high as a result of continuously shrinking defense budgets and what they see as unfair advantages given to other branches.
Another ridiculous expense that our government feels is necessary for our military is the Joint Strike Fighter program. The Joint Strike Fighter program was meant to produce a fighter that the Air Force, Marines, and Navy could all use – a fast, stealthy plane that could take off from anywhere, land on anything, and deploy almost any weapon. The government expected to have a successful outcome, but instead, there were lots of technical difficulties, delays, and an expensive cost. This Joint Strike Fighter program has cost our government nearly $1.5 trillion and it has never been used or even touched. This program has had reliability issues, troubles landing the aircraft, and it is quite vulnerable to lightning strikes. This is yet another expense that our government has wasted our tax dollars on. This program has never been used, and look at how much money has been spent on it.
China is the next highest spender when it comes to their defense budget, they spend about 140 billion a year. Russia follows this with a 75 billion dollar budget. Our military is so big we account for 41 percent of all military spending in the world. Fixing our domestic infrastructure has become worse and worse every year. We would need approximately 3 trillion dollars in order to fix our domestic infrastructure and to make it safe again.
There are numerous ways that we could cut our governments spending on our military and protective government. Cutting overhead spending would save the Pentagon millions of dollars and cutting funds and the size of Guantanamo could save our government millions as well. If we look back onto Obamas suggestion and close bases that are not in demand or in definite need, we could easily cut funds. All of these options are laid out and are logical. The United States spends a ridiculous amount of money on our military and we have so many options as to how we can lower this amount of spending. By employing civilian workers in many or all departments, we could cut over $80 billion in one year or maybe even more; just like the Pentagon did in 2013.
The United States of America spends the funding on our military far more than any other country does. Proper funding is not allocated into the departments that need it, and if we cut our military costs, we could easily fund the departments that need it most. Billions of dollars are inefficiently spent on our military and protective government that could easily be used in departments such as education, natural disaster relief, and many more. By using these methods, we could efficiently and effectively cut our militia funding and provide for the areas that need this financial support, while also saving our government billions of dollars each year.