Multinational Monitor


Not Kosher: The Ralph Reed-Jack Abramoff Connection.
by Andrew Wheat

The United States, Bolivia, and the Political Economy of Coca
by Gretchen Gordon

The CAFTA Chronicles: Strong-Arming Central America, Mocking Democracy
by Tom Ricker and Burke Stansbury

Thais Take to the Streets to Stop U.S. Trade Agenda
by Martin Khor

Drilling East Timor: Australia's Oil Grab inthe Timor Sea
by Charles Scheiner


Saving $60 Billion: Lawrence Korb's Common Sense Budget Defense Plan
An Interview with Lawrence Korb

The Market for Virtue: The Impact of Corporate Social Responsibility
An Interview with David Vogel


Behind the Lines

The Lobby Reform Fiasco

The Front
Philippines Gets Stomped - EPA Program Off Track

The Lawrence Summers Memorial Award

Names In the News

Book Notes


Saving $60 Billion: Lawrence Korb's Common Sense Defense Budget

An interview with Lawrence Korb

Lawrence Korb served as U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense (Manpower, Reserve Affairs, Installations and Logistics) from 1981 through 1985. In that position, he administered about 70 percent of the U.S. defense budget. He is currently a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and a senior adviser to the Center for Defense Information, both in Washington, D.C. His 20 books on national security issues include American National Security: Policy and Process, Future Visions for U.S. Defense Policy. He is the author of the 2006 report, "The Korb Report: A Realistic Defense for America," published by Business Leaders for Sensible Priorities.

Multinational Monitor: How much is the United States now spending on defense?

Lawrence Korb: The baseline defense budget this year is $463 billion. The Defense Department says that it is spending $439 billion, but it does not count the expenditures for example in the Department of Energy, which makes the nuclear weapons. That's another almost $22 billion.

If you weigh in the costs of fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is at least another $100 billion, so you're talking about $575 billion a year.

MM: How does this defense budget compare with previous administrations?

Korb: If you take a look at the baseline budget exclusive of fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is about $100 billion higher than the budget they inherited from President Clinton.

If you count the war expenditures, defense expenditures are above the height of the Reagan build-up, even if you control for inflation; and they're significantly higher than the budgets of the first Bush administration, when the Cold War ended and they began to cut military expenditures.

MM: You have pointed out that when he was Secretary of Defense in the first Bush administration, Dick Cheney criticized some programs he now supports.

Korb: When the first President Bush came into office - this is even before the end of the Cold War 1989 - he ordered Dick Cheney, then the Secretary of Defense, to cut $30 billion from the existing defense budget. He was concerned about the deficit and also felt that, given the Reagan build-up, the military was in pretty good shape. Cheney tried to cancel a number of weapon systems including the V-22 - which according to press reports in private he called a turkey - but he was overridden by the Congress.

President Clinton supported the weapons system, as did Dick Cheney when he was running for Vice President.

MM: How does U.S. military spending compare to the rest of the world?

Korb: If you look at our defense budget and you look at all the countries in the world with any meaningful military, it is more than the rest of the world combined.

MM: Is there any rationale for why the United States should be responsible for half of the world's total military expenditures?

Korb: I think if you take a look at the programs you're spending on, no. There are a significant number of programs that don't contribute to dealing with real threats to national security. They basically were built to deal with threats from a bygone era and somehow the bureaucratic and political momentum keeps them going.

You have the F/A-22 fighter jet, for example, which costs over $300 million per plane. It was built to deal with the next generation of Soviet MIGs, and of course there is no next generation of Soviet MIGs. You have the DD(X) Destroyer, which is designed to wage open ocean warfare, but there is no other blue water navy in the world that you would have to deal with.

MM: You have proposed saving $60 billion a year in defense spending. How can that be done?

Korb: The first thing is to take a look at our nuclear weapons. We have about 6,000 operational nuclear weapons and another 5,000 or 6,000 in reserve. We don't need that many. Even the former head of the strategic command General Eugene Habiger said you need no more than 1,000. If you got rid of the other 9,000 weapons, you could save a significant amount of money.

Then there is the national missile defense system, which we're deploying even though it doesn't work, and you could cut that back to a research program.

You could get rid of your Cold War era weapons, like the F/A-22, the DD(X) Destroyer, and weapons that are simply not performing, like the V-22 Osprey, with a record replete with accidents and exponentially growing costs.

And you could get rid of the earmarks in the defense budget.

If you did all those, you could easily save $60 billion.

MM: One other category of concern that you have identified is space-based weapons.

Korb: The problem with space-based weapons is the difference between what we call militarization of space and weaponization of space. Militarization means you use space for your military operations, like GPS for example, or satellite imagery. Weaponization means that you would actually launch attacks from space. The administration is moving in that direction. Not only would it be expensive - it would cost over 100 times as much to fire weapons from space as it does, for example, firing from a ship - you would also create an arms race in space, which would not help anybody. Right now, we have the best of all possible worlds because we can use space and nobody threatens our use of it.

MM: Do you think there could be cuts beyond the $60 billion that you're talking about that would be reasonable?

Korb: You could cut those weapons without impacting national security. Those are probably the maximum cuts that I see right now.

MM: You served as an Assistant Secretary of Defense in the Reagan administration and now there is a Republican administration. Have you changed, or have Republicans changed?

Korb: I think the big change is that the Republicans have gotten away from Eisenhower's values. I consider myself an Eisenhower or Rockefeller Republican. Right now, the GOP has moved away from Ike's principles. In addition to spending on weapons that you don't need, the Bush administration is not funding government activities. Thus, we're ending up with a very large national debt.

MM: Why do these Cold War-era programs continue?

Korb: They continue for many reasons, some of them having to do with what President Eisenhower called the military-industrial complex. You have a situation where it becomes hard to cancel them because of concern from Congress about resulting unemployment. Additionally, the services have a view of what they need - and you have an exaggeration of the threat; for example, people think China is going to be another Soviet Union. So it is a whole combination. Eisenhower called it the military-industrial complex, others call it the military-industrial-Congressional complex.

MM: Is the military industry's influence in Congress greater than it was 10, 20 or 30 years ago?

Korb: No, I think it has always been there, but it has been revived. Now that we're in this so-called global war on terror, politicians are afraid to vote against weapons programs. I think that makes the influence of the complex even greater. By contrast, in the 1990s, people were not as worried [about external threats] so they didn't pay as much attention to the defense industry.

MM: Has consolidation in the industry affected the companies' influence one way or the other?

Korb: Consolidation means that there is less competition and it means that each of the companies is more powerful, because they have facilities all over the country.

A company like Lockheed has facilities in nearly every state. When there is a weapons program that impacts Lockheed, they can bring influence in many more places than they could when there were separate Lockheed and Martin and General Dynamics [competitors] in the aircraft business.

MM: Is the trend toward privatization and contracting out of Defense Department functions affecting either the size of the budget or the influence of these lobbies?

Korb: I think that the problem with privatization, particularly when you use it in a war zone, is that you are getting people to perform military functions and the rules governing them are not clear.

MM: What do you see as generating the political momentum to move to the kind of cuts you are talking about?

Korb: It will be very difficult in a war-time situation. I think the only thing that might motivate cuts is that we have this huge and growing budget deficit and that in order to deal with the deficit, people are talking about cutting some very important social programs, like Medicaid, for example.

MM: You have issued a report, and the Congressional Progressive Caucus has proposed a bill that is based on your recommended cuts. Why is it that only the progressive end of the Democratic Party is willing to support what seem to be such commonsense proposals?

Korb: I don't know. That's not my area. I just tell Members of Congress what I believe should or should not be in the budget. I don't lobby.


Lawrence Korb's Proposed Changes & Savings in Weapons Spending

Weapons System
Bush Administration 2007 fiscal year budgetary request (in $ billions)
Korb's proposed "realistic" budgetary expenditure (in $ billions)
Savings in fiscal year 2007 (in $ billions
Space Weapons

Total savings from these weapons cuts would be $200 billion over the period 2007-2012. Korb suggests other major savings are available from reducing the nuclear weapons arsenal, eliminating forces not needed in the current geopolitical environment, and eliminating earmarks and waste.

Source: "The Korb Report - A Realistic Defense for America," Business Leaders for Sensible Priorities, 2006.


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