Altogether, the military costs American taxpayers about $1 trillion per year. That includes less-visible expenses such as veteran care and interest on past arms spending done with borrowed money.
No other nation burdens its citizens with such gigantic militarism. Why should America be the most militaristic country on the planet -- especially when warfare has faded enormously?
Worse, the Pentagon can't even explain what it does with so much money. Unlike other government agencies, the Defense Department never has been able to pass a routine audit. For 17 straight years, the Government Accountability Office has labeled the Pentagon a "high risk" for waste, fraud and financial misconduct.
Indirectly, this violates Article 1, Section 9 of the U.S. Constitution, which requires Congress to publish "a regular statement and account of the receipts and expenditures of all public money."
To correct this mess, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., joined a small group of bipartisan senators sponsoring the Audit the Pentagon Act. Bravo.
The bill would force the military brass to produce an audit -- or lose authority to build any new weapon systems, and also let the Treasury Department take over its financial management.
"By failing to pass an audit, the Pentagon has undermined our national security," says another bill sponsor, Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla. "This bill ends the culture of 'don't ask, don't tell' budgeting within the Pentagon that says: 'Don't ask us how we're spending the money because we can't tell you.'"
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch noted that "the Pentagon now spends roughly twice as much as it did in 2001," counting the ruinous costs of the Iraq and Afghan wars.
Unless warring parties within Congress can agree on a deficit-reduction plan, automatic cuts approved last year will remove $450 billion from the Pentagon over the next decade. Frankly, we think U.S. militarism should be downsized considerably more than that, freeing money for other American needs.In the meantime, it's insulting that Pentagon chiefs cannot tell Americans how they spend a colossal amount of their money. Manchin deserves praise for trying to correct this problem.