The chief “pillar” of Thompson’s proposal is that the United States should not spend less than 4.5 percent of its gross domestic product on defense—not including the vast sums committed each year for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Another crucial pillar is that the U.S. should expand Army and Marine Corps to form a “million‐member” force.
4.5 percent of GDP is an astonishingly large sum. The U.S. already spends as much on the military as the rest of the world combined, but even that vast outlay apparently does not satisfy Thompson and others who want to lavish more money on the Pentagon. Under his plan—and a similar scheme advanced by the Heritage Foundation earlier this year— the U.S. military budget would soar by nearly $100 billion. The total would approach $600 billion—plus at least another $150 billion for Iraq and Afghanistan. Worse, the 4.5 percent figure is a floor; the actual defense budget of a Thompson administration could be even more.
Thompson’s approach turns proper defense budgeting on its head. Instead of crafting a defense strategy and then determining how much we need to spend to implement it, Thompson picks an arbitrary budget figure. He would apparently decide on policy priorities later.
To the extent he thinks about the specifics of security strategy at all, Thompson uncritically accepts all of Washington’s current defense commitments. But there are numerous obligations that reek of obsolescence. Why, for example, does the United States need to keep nearly 100,000 troops in Europe more than 15 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union?