Defense policy sage and go-to source for defense reporters, Loren Thompson, of the Lexington Institute, wrote a post last week titled “Five Reasons Weapons Spending Won’t Fall.” He contends that even with a resurgent Democratic party taking pretty much all the reins of power in Washington, spending on weapons will continue to grow. “Democrats presided over four of the last five big weapons buildups in the last century,” he writes. Yet, surveying the perilous state of the American economy and the increasing shambles that is the federal budget, there are a number of reasons to expect weapons spending will indeed fall.
First, Thompson says, economic forces don’t drive defense spending, threats and domestic politics do. And threats ultimately trump politics. True, but, while the world can be a dangerous place, it’s just not quite dangerous enough to merit the dramatic growth in the defense budget over the past eight years that has put defense spending near all-time highs. The Pentagon spending spree came in response to the need to wage two simultaneous wars and to make-up for the 1990s “procurement holiday.” As these things tend to be cyclical, the current buildup will likely be followed by a downturn.