Friday, April 17, 2020

Who's calling the shots in Trump's Defense Budget?

The "revolving door" between DoD, congress and lobbyists is certainly nothing new. We were warned as a nation by President Eisenhower almost 60 years ago of the dangers of the military industrial complex. More recently, progressive candidates such as Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have blamed lobbyists for driving up costs across an array of industries leading to a lack of funds for public healthcare and education. President Trump himself campaigned on "draining the swamp" of Washington elites tied up in a "globalist agenda" influenced by such industries.
Yet the influence of industry on government has "flourished" under the Trump administration. In three years, Trump has appointed more ex lobbyists to cabinet level positions than Bush and Obama in eight. One of which is Secretary of Defense, Mark Esper, who was previously employed by Raytheon as a lobbyist. Esper participated in submitting the largest defense budget since WWII this February. Much of the budget is asking for funds to update missile systems and nuclear weapons and has been accused of "having no mandate to economize."
This can all be taken as evidence of the enormous clout the defense industry has on the military budget, but the novel coronavirus presents us with even more. For one, all the defense industry has been labeled "essential" under the federal guidelines for limiting the spread of the virus. Over 2.5 million workers are going to work despite the travel restrictions and stay at home orders. At the same time many companies involved in the defense industry such has Boeing have received billions in aid (despite their alternative reasons for needing it). Over time, the influence of these industries have pulled funds away from other programs that could better prepare our country for crises such as the one we are facing. 

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