Foreign Policy Briefing No. 22

Politics and the National Defense: The 1993 Defense Bill

By Jeffrey R. Gerlach
January 20, 1993

Executive Summary

Pork-barrel politics has long plagued the defense budget process, wasting untold billion of dollars and distorting the composition of the military. Though policymakers have used the national defense to serve parochial interests for some time, the past year has brought particularly egregious examples of the practice. During the Cold War, the presence of a formidable enemy provided a plausible reason for continuing programs of dubious value. With the demise of the Soviet Union, it is apparent that programs designed to serve narrow special interests should not be continued. Decisions about national defense should be based solely on security considerations, not the political calculations of officials and their influential constituents. Playing politics with America’s defense has serious implications, including damaging the U.S. economy and potentially threatening the nation’s security.

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Jeffrey R. Gerlach is a foreign policy analyst at the Cato Institute.