The good news is that military spending is down. Ninety nations
have reduced their forces since 1990. The bad news is that, despite
procurement cuts and base closings, U.S. military spending, which
accounts for a third of the world's outlays, stands at $496.6
billion - about 7 percent of the gross domestic product.
There is worse news. The U.S. arms industry is offsetting
procurement cuts in the armed forces by aggressive marketing of
high-tech weaponry to foreign customers. The Commerce, State and
Defense departments spend about $2.6 billion a year subsidizing
these foreign arms transfers - in addition to foreign military aid
- by lending equipment and transporting it to arms bazaars, by
staffing trade missions and through loan guarantees.
The military services themselves also compete vigorously in the
weapons market, selling used and unneeded equipment, because income
from these sales is off-budget and allows some
Besides all this, the Pentagon receives a 3 percent cut on
every foreign arms sale it negotiates on behalf of the
This military-industrial complex is now orchestrating huge
lobbying efforts to market a new level of weapons technology
throughout Latin America. Opponents object to these sales because
of the human rights violations of some of the would-be purchasers
and because introducing new military equipment will heighten
regional arms races.
The arms dealers say that if we don't sell weapons, others
will. They have distorted the export figures to South America,
saying that they lost $4 billion in potential sales in this region
to France. But the majority of the French sales were 15 years ago.
According to the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency's "World
Military Expenditures and Arms Transfers 1995," France actually
sold only 30 combat aircraft to Latin America between 1983 and 1994
while the U.S. sold 196.
The above is all bad news, but the worst news is that U.S.
military spending will probably increase significantly in the new
millennium. Congress has made a commitment to spend nearly a
trillion dollars building a new joint-force strike fighter because,
as one Air Force officer said off the record to corporate
procurement officers at a meeting in 1993, "It would be tragic for
our children to defend this country in fighter planes designed in
Edward Teller is leading the renewed call for a Star Wars
system, this time to protect us from asteroids. Smarter landmines
that can be seeded from the air and monitored by satellite are on
the drawing boards.
The Defense Mapping Agency continues, even while layoffs are in
progress, to translate the entire surface of the world into numbers
at points probably 10 feet apart. This digitalization process means
the agency is entering altitude, average daily temperatures, and
numerical codes for buildings, trees, and water, as well as
latitude and longitude, into a computer. …