Follow us on social


Kori Schake shakes the money tree for the DoD

DC establishmentarian says we've allowed our military to atrophy, and need more than $1 trillion a year to restore its 'reach and its punch.'

Analysis | Military Industrial Complex

There’s apparently no limit to how high D.C. hawks want to push the Pentagon budget, whether it will make America or the world a safer place or not. The latest case in point is Kori Schake’s latest piece in Foreign Affairs, which calls for a Pentagon budget well in excess of $1 trillion per year, an astonishing figure that is neither wise nor affordable given other urgent security priorities, from preventing pandemics to reducing the ravages of climate change.

When D.C. analysts start throwing around numbers like Schake’s, it’s important to remember how high the Pentagon’s budget is already. The Biden administration’s proposal of $773 billion for Fiscal Year 2023 -- $813 billion if activities like nuclear warhead development at the Department of Energy are included – is well over $100 billion more than the highest level reached during the Cold War, and far more than was spent at the height of the Korean or Vietnam Wars. The United States already spends ten times what Russia does on its military, and three times what China does. And that doesn’t even include spending by U.S. allies in Europe and Asia, which is on the rise. 

America is spending too much on the Pentagon, not too little. To the extent that there are problems with U.S. defenses, they are related to a misguided strategy, gross mismanagement, and special interest politics that put parochial economic concerns above considerations of what systems and forces will best defend the country at this moment in its history.

To be fair, there is one thing – and perhaps only one -- in Schake’s essay that I agree with, her assertion that “the United States . . . must make sure that its strategy matches the resources it is willing to dedicate to the country’s defense.”  Our current, “cover-the-globe” military strategy is a recipe for disaster that could not be successfully implemented at any price. We need a new strategy, not more money for the Department of Defense.

Both the 2018 National Defense Strategy crafted during the Trump years and the new one released by the Biden administration late last month outline far too many missions, from winning a war against one nuclear-armed “great power” while holding off another, to continuing to wage a global war on terrorism, to preparing to fight regional conflicts with Iran or North Korea. If America should have learned one lesson after spending $8 trillion on its post-9/11 wars, it is that guns and money are no substitute for a keen understanding of the limits of military power. Even before we get to the question of how best to address the challenges posed by China and Russia, our leaders should at least acknowledge that our globe-spanning counter-terror and nation building efforts have been dismal failures, and reduce the U.S. global military footprint accordingly. And as difficult as it can be, diplomacy offers a far better route to curbing Iran and North Korea’s nuclear programs than war or the threat of war.

This brings us back to Schake’s essay. She suggests that the deployment of one aircraft carrier to the Mediterranean and a few thousand extra troops to Europe to address the Ukraine crisis will greatly weaken America’s ability to deal with China. Nothing could be further from the truth. America has 1.3 million troops under arms and 11 aircraft carriers. Current U.S. deployments to Europe related to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine represent a tiny fraction of America’s military power. If there is a further buildup in Europe, it should be financed by the United States’ NATO allies, not by boosting the Pentagon budget.

By all means, let’s align America’s spending on the Pentagon with its strategy. But first let’s develop a more realistic strategy that recognizes that the military is only one of many tools for pursuing security, and that it should be funded accordingly, at considerably lower levels than currently prevail.

Dr. Kori Schake (now Senior Fellow and Director of Foreign and Defense Policy Studies at the American Enterprise Institute) joins Maj. Matt Cavanaugh, Fellow, Modern War Institute at West Point (left) and Lt. Gen. (ret.) Ben Freakley, Professor of Practice of Leadership and Special Adviser to the President, ASU at New America's Future of War Conference in 2018. (New America/Flickr/Creative Commons)
Analysis | Military Industrial Complex
Shutdown averted but Ukraine aid left behind

Shutdown averted but Ukraine aid left behind


House and Senate supporters of continuing Ukraine aid were seething yesterday but left little choice but to leave a vote for a new multimillion dollar war package for another day.

After a spirited debate on the House floor Saturday, the chamber voted 335-91 for a "clean" stop gap measure without Ukraine aid that would continue funding the government for another 45 days. It then sent it along to the Senate, which had already passed its own bill, but with $6 billion in new funding for Kyiv.

keep readingShow less
Chris Murphy Ben Cardin

Photo Credit: viewimage and lev radin via

Senate has two days to right Menendez’s wrongs on Egypt


Time is ticking if senators want to reinstate a hold on U.S. military aid to Egypt following indictments this week against Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), who is accused of taking bribes in exchange for greasing the skids for Cairo to receive weapons and aid.

On September 22, the Southern District of New York indicted the New Jersey Democrat, his wife Nadine Arslanian Menendez, and three associates on federal corruption charges. Prosecutors alleged that the senator accepted bribes, including gold bars, stacks of cash, and a Mercedes-Benz convertible, using his position as chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to benefit the government of Egypt. The FBI is now investigating Egyptian intelligence’s possible role.

keep readingShow less
Diplomacy Watch: A peace summit without Russia
Diplomacy Watch: Laying the groundwork for a peace deal in Ukraine

Diplomacy Watch: Domestic politics continue to challenge Ukraine’s allies


Last week’s edition of Diplomacy Watch focused on how politics in Poland and Slovakia were threatening Western unity over Ukraine. A spat between Warsaw and Kyiv over grain imports led Polish President Andrzej Duda to compare Ukraine to a “drowning person … capable of pulling you down to the depths ,” while upcoming elections in Slovakia could bring to power a new leader who has pledged to halt weapons sales to Ukraine.

As Connor Echols wrote last week, “the West will soon face far greater challenges in maintaining unity on Ukraine than at any time since the war began.”

keep readingShow less

Ukraine War Crisis