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Who Really Benefits from Higher Defense Spending?

August 8, 2012

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Defense Department budget cuts are set to kick in next year because the congressional "super-committee" didn't agree on an alternative - and some in Congress warn they would have devastating effects on the military.

The Project On Government Oversight disagrees. At this nonpartisan watchdog group, public-policy director Angela Canterbury says there would be nothing "devastating" about curbing overcharges and mismanagement by big military subcontractors.

"Half of our discretionary spending every year goes towards defense. There's not a country in the world that spends on guns and planes and ships like we do."

Canterbury calls the claim of 1 million fewer jobs a "political stunt," saying that defense contractors are busy enough to have back-orders for their products. She points to cost overruns on defense projects, and top executives' pay at companies such as Boeing and Lockheed Martin as places where tax dollars are being wasted.

West Virginia's congressional delegation is split on the cuts. Sen. Joe Manchin has called for spending less on the war in Afghanistan. Canterbury says there is growing concern that defense contractors, not U.S. troops, are the real beneficiaries of a bigger military budget.

"They spend so much money on elections, and paired with huge amounts of money spent on lobbying. It's tough to beat the money that's spent in Washington by the Pentagon defense lobby."

She says a lot can be cut from the defense budget without harming national security.

"We really need to get leaner and meaner, and to spend smarter. There's a lot of inefficiencies, there's a lot of fat to cut."

A POGO paper on the issue is online at Support our work. Get more headlines like this via email