Regardless of our political feelings, our loony right- or left-wing tendencies, all Texans must pull for Gov. Rick Perry to win the presidency. Why? Money, of course. Is there any other reason? You see, if Perry takes over the Oval Office we will make big bux because of the Defense budget. It alone accounts for nearly half of discretionary spending, and we need to get our share before the vault door slams shut.
Right now there is a lot of loot in the vault. Annual US military spending has doubled since the 9/11 attacks, from $316 billion to $688 billion, with 1.4 million men and women currently in uniform. Even excluding the costs of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the base budget has increased 78 percent in 10 years.
Our baby continues to grow. Last year the world spent $20.6 billion more than the year before on the military. Of that $20.6 billion worldwide increase, how much was America’s share? Almost all of it: $19.6 billion. Who says we aren’t big spenders? Depending upon who’s counting, the US now accounts for between 43 and 49 percent of the entire world’s military spending. That’s more than the next 22 countries combined. Example: We have 11 aircraft carriers, 20 if you count the Marines’ helicopter carriers. The rest of the world has a total of 10, which are one-fifth the size of ours. We’ve still got 268 installations in Germany and another 124 in Japan.
To be fair (and balanced), Texas already gets more than its quota in defense funds. Federal spending in Texas more than doubled over the last decade to more than $200 billion a year. Over the past three years the Army has relocated about 14,000 troops to Fort Bliss, outside El Paso, and plans to permanently relocate an additional 6,000 troops there in the few years. The base proclaims: “Fort Hood is the largest single site employer in Texas, directly inserting nearly $3 billion annually into the Texas economy.” When Johnny comes marching home again from Iraq and Afghanistan, we’ve got to make sure Johnny comes to Texas.
We’ve got 17 military installations here, including three in San Antonio, which has reaped roughly $3.3 billion just on military construction from 2006 to 2011. Operating those installations annually pumps hundreds of millions more into the Alamo City’s economy. Defense-related activity accounts for 4.9 percent for San Antonio, but even more, about 5.3 percent, for Fort Worth. Cow Town makes lots of warplanes.
All told, Texas is home to almost 246,000 active duty personnel, reservists, National Guard personnel, and Department of Defense (DoD) civilian workers. Texas hosts more active duty military personnel than any other state — one out of every 10 US soldier is based at Fort Hood — and ranks third in DoD civilian employment. In addition, we have tens of thousands of workers in defense related businesses. In 2010, more than $30.8 billion in defense contract spending was awarded to 13,056 contractors within Texas.
Feeding off the military is an old Texas tradition. Prior to the Civil War, 15 to 30 percent of the entire U.S. Army was stationed in frontier forts in Texas. The US Army logistical routes across Texas were longer than Napoleon’s supply line from Poland to Moscow in the 1812 campaign. Texas was the army’s largest — and most costly — engagement, absorbing up to 30 percent of the annual total operating budget. In the 55 years from Texas’ annexation in 1845 until the turn of the 20th century, the $70 million expenditure of the Army’s Quartermaster and Paymaster was double – DOUBLE — the total value of real and personal property in 19th century Texas.
“The whole state of Texas counts on the expenditure of money for Army supplies, and when a Congressman tackles the appropriations bill he joins issue with the whole state from Dan to Beersheba.” — Dr. Samuel Smith, U.S. Army, Camp Charlotte, Texas, July 4, 1879. This only makes sense. Texas had the nation’s longest war with the Indians – longer than any other state, 50 years.
But we may be in for a tumble. Among the many cost-cutting proposals before Congress is a reduction of the Pentagon’s budget. Our new Defense Secretary, Leon Panetta, has been told to cut $450 billion in defense spending over 10 years. If a new Congressional debt committee cannot forge a deficit-reduction agreement by Thanksgiving, Panetta faces what he calls a “doomsday mechanism” mandating an additional $500 billion in cuts.
We’ve got to make sure other, less deserving, states get hit while we make a fortune in arms. How does Camp Dallas and Fort Houston sound? The Waco Naval Base has a ring. We had two Presidents Bush, why not two Bush Air Force Bases? There’s always talk of putting troops along our border with Mexico. I propose the Rio Grande Missile Range five miles wide from Brownsville to El Paso. Put the “Fort” back in “Fort Worth” and the “Camp” back in “El Campo.” If Honda can build pickups in San Antonio, Honda can build Humvees in Hondo. “Stewart Beach – watch out for Marine amphibious landings.” Let Secretary Panetta cut all the budget funds he wants – just not ours. It reminds us of the Texas rancher who said, “I’m not greedy. All I want is my own land…and that next to it.”
Look, it’s about time we got more camouflaged bucks, because this current administration hasn’t been doing us any favors, nor should we expect it to. Obama didn’t even win the Texas Democratic primary and got his clock cleaned here in the general election: McCain won by a landslide. Obama won the presidency without us, and sure doesn’t owe Texas any favors. As a result, Sealy lost the multi-billion dollar Army truck contract with 1,300 workers laid off and Houston couldn’t even land a lousy used spacecraft. Get over it, and do so by putting a Texan back in the White House.
Ashby enlists at email@example.com