Tangled Military Industrial Complex & the Elusive Peace Dividend

By Joe White

AYWW wishes to host a discussion on the costs and benefits of effectively untangling the military-industrial complex so as to reap the benefits of a projected peace dividend. The military-industrial complex has been a very long time in the making globally and is spread throughout national and global economies.

According to Prof. Benjamin Valentino, Dartmouth University, U.S. military expenditures consistently experience growth while our comparable military adversaries continually shrink. While the U.S. military budget is larger than the next 17 countries combined, the top 10 biggest military spenders are either close allies or, as in the case of China and Russia, certainly not imminent, direct militant adversaries. If the U.S. has a real “enemy,” it might be Iran number 25 on the defense expenditure list. To quote Steve Chapman, “Taking $492 billion away from the Pentagon over the next decade wouldn’t be hard to do if other nations took more responsibility for their own defense…” (http://reason.com/archives/2012/12/06/defending-the-world-bankrupting-ourselve)

But what happens specifically when specific cuts are made. The present U.S. fiscal cliff has illuminated some of those answers. One in four jobs in the defense-heavy San Diego area are tied to the military or defense industry. The National University System Institute for Policy Research estimates that if the present fiscal cliff is not avoided, a possible $5.6 billion in local tax breaks and contracts will be lost to the San Diego economy. That could translate into 126,000 jobs being in jeopardy according to the Aerospace Industries Association. (http://articles.latimes.com/2012/dec/19/business/la-fi-fiscal-cliff-san-diego-20121219)

As a reaction, the San Diego Military Advisory Council, San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, The San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation and others have created Operation San Diego in an effort to increase their collective influence in lobbying lawmakers. “Realistically we'd like to see no cuts at all,” said Mark Cafferty, president of San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation.

AYWW does not support such efforts as positive attempts to untangle our military-industrial complex but rather as earnest attempts to maintain the unsustainable status-quo. AYWW is committed to rationally cutting back the defense budget so as to inherit an economic peace dividend. Perhaps, a better effort, though controversial and still under study, is the Navy Broadway Redevelopment Project in San Diego. It appears that in this case, Navy real estate will be developed for military and civilian use. The project is presently estimated to involve not only new, updated office space for the Navy but the same piece of military real estate would contain a luxury hotel, boutique hotels, retail space and non-military office space. One study (http://www.sddt.com/files/media/view.cfm?media=VWD29U54#.UNZJnhjj62x.) estimates a tax benefit in ten years of $29 million dollars and the creation of approximately 7,400 new jobs.

Is this a feasible model for scaling back our defense budget and military while rolling in a promise of future economic vitality for our commercial sector? AYWW invites you to enter the discussion.