Background on Homeland Security
Defense Spending Proposals
- Defense spending is intentionally made murky by the federal budget process -- politicians hide from voters how much the United States spends on our military.
- $524B: Pres. Obama's officially proposed figure for defense spending is $524 billion for 2013. That figure only includes Department of Defense operations -- excluding the costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
- $673B: Pres. Obama's 2013 proposed budget includes an additional amount for "Overseas Contingency Operations", which means the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, so the real total for the Department of Defense is $673 billion.
- $192B: Pres. Bush considered the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to be "supplemental budget items" which did not appear in the budget at all. That "supplemental" item totaled $192 billion for 2007 for the Iraq War. Pres. Obama ended the "supplemental" practice in 2010.
- $221B: The Department of Homeland Security's 2013 budget is $55 billion; the Department of Veterans Affairs' 2013 budget is $60 billion plus $89 billion in mandated spending; and part of the Department of Energy's 2013 budget of $35 billion goes toward maintaining our nuclear weapons. Hence another $221 billion in defense spending is distributed in departments outside of the Department of Defense.
- $894B: A more realistic total for defense spending in Obama's 2013 budget, acconting for the items as listed above, is $894 billion.
- $820B: When politicians compare defense spending to entitlement spending, they use the official $524 billion figure to compare to Social Security's $820 billion budget. Using the more realistic comparison figure, defense spending is actually more than Social Security spending.
- $811B: The total for Medicare/Medicaid/SCHIP spending in 2013 is $811 billion; in other words, defense spending is comparable to either healthcare entitlement spending or Social Security entitlement spending. Those three together acount for over 60% of the budget.
- The presidential candidates talk about defense spending as a percentage of GDP. "GDP" means the country's Gross Domestic Product, or the total earnings of all 300 million Americans.
- Defense spending as a percentage of GDP is between 3% and 4%. Defense spending as a percentage of the annual federal budget is between 18% and 25%. And their definition "defense spending" only counts the part of military expenditures which goes toward the Department of Defense operations.
- America's GDP stands at $14.7 trillion in 2012, according to CIA World Factbook. Gov. Romney's suggestion that we spend 4% of GDP on defense spending would mean a defense budget of $588 billion. President Obama's 2013 budget proposal includes $524 billion for defense, or 3.6% of GDP. Hence Romney would spend $64 billion more on defense than Obama in 2013.
- Obama further proposes slowing the growth of defense spending in future years. Obama would increase the defense budget by 2% per year, while the CBO projects GDP to grow at about 3% per year. In 2017, Obama proposes $568 billion. Applying Romney's 4% target on 2017 GDP of about $17 trillion would mean $681 billion on defense. Hence Romney would spend $113 billion more on defense than Obama in 2017.
The PATRIOT Act
- The PATRIOT Act is a new topic in our VoteMatch quiz as of the 2008 election. It encompasses an enormous number of controversial civil rights issues, from habeas corpus restrictions through the right to privacy. Defense-related aspects of the PATRIOT Act are covered under outr Homeland Security section.
- The USA PATRIOT Act was first passed in Oct. 2001 as a response to 9/11. It was reauthorized by Congress in 2005. The title is an acronym for ‘Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism.’
- Habeas corpus: The ‘Writ of habeas corpus’ means all people have the right to not be held indefinitely by a government. The Latin term means ‘you have the body’, i.e., that when the government is holding a person, that person can demand a hearing on why they are being held. Habeas corpus is older than the Constitution -- it was part of English Common Law back to the 12th century, and forms a key basis of the legal underpinning of the US Constitution. Critics of the PATRIOT Act claim that Pres. Bush has suspended habeas corpus illegally (by holding prisoners in Guantanamo, e.g.); the Consitution specifies that habeas can only be suspended for civil war or insurrection.
The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 set up a system of ‘FISA Courts’ which would decide when it was ok for the federal government to spy on people -- by granting surveillance warrants against suspected foreign intelligence agents inside the US. Opponents claim that the FISA courts are sufficient safeguards and that Pres. Bush is conducting ‘warrantless surveillance’ by avoiding FISA.
- Secret wiretapping: The
Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 established restrictions on unauthorized government access to private electronic communications, such as email or phone calls. The PATRIOT Act weakened those restrictions, which opponents say allows the government to secretly record email and phone conversations by US citizens. An additional controversy comes from requiring electronic service providers, such as phone companies and email providers, to supply the federal government with customer records without telling the customers.
- Secret Renditions: Since 9/11, the CIA has flying captured terrorist suspects from one country to another for detention and interrogation, a practice known as ‘rendition’. For several years, the rendition flights were secret, and denied by the CIA and the Bush Administration. In Nov. 2007, under mounting evidence about the use of European airfields for this purpose, the CIA and Bush Administration admitted the use of secret renditions, including the explicit involvement of several European governments. The ultimate destination of rendition flights is usually Guantanamo prison. The Bush Administration justifies the practice as necessary for the War on Terror.
- Guantanamo: Guantanamo Bay is a US enclave in Cuba, run by the US military (nicknamed ‘Gitmo’). Beginning in late 2001, the US military has used the base to hold prisoners ca
ptured in Afghanistan and Iraq. The prisoners are considered ‘enemy combatants’ and hence not subject to US law, and since they are outside the United States, their legal status has always been ambiguous. In early 2008, the first military tribunals were held to determine these prisoners' status.
- Waterboarding: The US Constitution forbids torture, and the 2008 candidates argue about whether waterboarding constitutes torture, and whether torture is allowed in Guantanamo or other prisons outside the US. Waterboarding simulates drowning, and has been used since the Spanish Inquisition in the 15th century as a form of coercing prisoner testimony. The political controversy around waterboarding was the key topic of Attorney General Michael Mukasey's November 2007 confirmation hearings, which led to an official admission that the US had indeed used the method.
The ‘hollow military’ refers to a reduced size of the US armed forces resulting in lack of readiness. The term was popularized in the post-Vietnam 1970s, but has come back into use for the post-Cold War.
Current US military policy is to achieve sufficient ‘readiness’ to fight two ‘nearly-simultaneous’ wars.
‘Star Wars’ Strategic Defense Initiative
- President Reagan in the 1980s proposed the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI, popularly known as the ‘Star Wars’ Missile Defense).
- Its cost is estimated at $60 billion ($26 billion for the initial phase).
- Some aspects of testing and deployment of SDI would breach the ABM Treaty and the Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty. In particular, deploying a missile defense system only within the US would breach the ABM Treaty, but the US and Russia have issued numerous statements advocating a ‘global protection system’ as well as ‘theater defense systems.’
- The ‘Aegis defense system’ is the Navy’s existing ship-based anti-missile system.
- The newer term for SDI is ‘NMD’, for ‘National Missile Defense’, which generally implies a smaller system.
The Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty of 1972 is an agreement that neither the USA nor the USSR would build any nation-wide missile defense, on the theory that ‘Mutually Assured Destruction’ was the best means to avoid nuclear war. Russia and the 3 other post-Soviet nuclear states have agreed to abide by the USSR’s limitations within the ABM Treaty.
In general, calling for abrogating the ABM Treaty implies support for NMD, while supporting nuclear test bans of any kind implies opposition to NMD.
‘Loose Nukes’ and Weapons of Mass Destruction
- Concern over nuclear war has been replaced by concern over proliferation of nuclear technology and other Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs, referring to nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons). The concern is that terrorists or ‘rogue states’ will unleash WMDs on the US or elsewhere.
- ‘Loose Nukes’ refer to the sale or theft of nuclear weapons from the former USSR.
The Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) addresses loose nukes, and is the primary arms control treaty under negotiation today.
Existing treaties address ICBMs (intercontinental ballistic missiles) and SLBMs (submarine-launched ballistic missiles), both of which can reach the US; recent negotiations include non-missile nuclear threats.
Nuclear Test Ban Treaty
The 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty intends to limit nuclear proliferation. As of April 1999, it has been signed by 152 countries and ratified by 32, but requires 44 ratifications to enter into force of law. Ratification implies that a nation will not advance its nuclear technology beyond its present status. India & Pakistan, who both exploded nuclear devices in 1998, have promised to sign the Treaty now that their testing is complete.
2012 update: The figures below represent consistent totals to allow comparisons between countries. Since those figures were gathered, nuclear reductions have occured, reducing the total number of warheads worldwide to 20,500, of which 8,500 belong to the United States.
|China||400 warheads; at most 50 on ICBMs; 45 nuclear tests||9/24/96; unratified.|
|France||450 warheads; 210 nuclear tests||9/24/96; ratified 4/6/98|
|India||Conducted tests, 1998||Unsigned|
|Iran||Seeking nuclear capability||9/24/96|
|Iraq||Sought nuclear capability under Saddam Hussein||Unsigned|
|Israel ||Unacknowledged nuclear capability||9/25/96; unratified.|
|North Korea||Conducted tests, 2006||Unsigned|
|Pakistan||Conducted tests, 1998||Unsigned|
|Russia||23,000 warheads; 715 nuclear tests; 3,630 warheads on ICBMs,|
including missiles in Belarus, Ukraine, & Kazakhstan
|South Africa||Developed weapons but relinquished them in 1993||9/24/96; unratified.|
|United Kingdom||260 warheads; 45 nuclear tests.||9/24/96; ratified 4/6/98|
|United States||1,030 nuclear tests and 12,000 warheads,|
including 2,000 ICBMs & 3,450 SLBMs.
|9/24/96; rejected 10/13/99.|