And that number includes only bombs dropped in some of the better known conflict areas where the U.S. is involved — Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen. Recent reporting indicates that at least 1,700 U.S. Special Operations forces soldiers are also actually presently deployed to a staggering 33 countries in Africa, or most of the continent’s nations.
The Defense Department has a deadline to be “audit ready” by the end of September of this year. A report from the department’s Inspector General published last summer that indicated trillions of dollars in accounting errors, however, casts serious doubt on whether the Pentagon can meet that deadline.
More recently it has emerged that the DoD “buried an internal study that exposed $125 billion in administrative waste in its business operations amid fears Congress would use the findings as an excuse to slash the defense budget,” according to a report last month from the Washington Post. In the wake of such revelations, not only political liberals but conservative commentators have suggested that serious changes to Defense Department funding priorities should be on the table.
Nevertheless, despite some limited criticism on Twitter of defense contractors Boeing and Lockheed Martin for the costs of some of their projects, President-elect Donald Trump seems poised to increase military spending.
The Defense Department’s budget was $622 billion in 2016, plus however much remains classified in the black budget. Observers believe Trump will likely require an increase of at least $100 billion over his first term, and perhaps considerably more, to fulfill campaign promises of building many new ships and warplanes.
Despite expert predictions that Trump will be unable to deliver on his rhetoric without incurring significant additional costs, the president-elect has offered his trademark contrarian perspective on the issue.
“I’m gonna build a military that’s gonna be much stronger than it is right now,” Trump said in 2015. “It’s gonna be so strong, nobody’s gonna mess with us. But you know what? We can do it for a lot less.”
Trump has been right before when the naysayers have told him the things he was saying could never happen. Then again, he has yet to actually take office and deal with the practical realities of governing, rather than simply campaigning and posturing on Twitter. For the sake of fixing America’s increasingly unsustainable financial situation, if nothing else, we should hope that defense spending is one area where Trump’s seemingly far-fetched thinking about political possibilities proves the conventional wisdom wrong once more.