The nation's biggest military contractors are descending on Capitol Hill this week to lobby against potential defense spending cuts they warn would produce "devastating job losses". But military spending is one of the least efficient ways the government can create jobs, according to a campaign the antiwar group Brave New Foundation launched on Monday.
By the group’s reckoning, "when you compare it to other ways of spending the money, every $1 billion spent for military purposes costs us, at minimum, 3,222 jobs." The group uses as a basis for its calculations a 2009 study by the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
"In assessing the impact of military spending on job opportunities in the U.S. economy, the relevant measure is how many jobs it creates per dollar of spending relative to various alternative spending targets," the report's co-author, economics professor Robert Pollin, said in a statement on Monday.
"By this standard, military spending does very poorly. It creates about 12,000 jobs per $1 billion in spending, compared with 17,000 for the green economy, 20,000 for health care and 29,000 for education. This means that when we spend $1 billion on the military rather than green investments, health care or education we are forfeiting between 5,000 and 17,000 jobs. Creating more job opportunities in this country therefore means moving money out of the military and into socially beneficial domestic spending.”
And keep in mind that when it comes to military spending, $1 billion is almost a rounding error. The Commission on Wartime Contracting concluded just last week that as much as $60 billion in taxpayer money has been lost to waste and fraud in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past decade.
A spokesman for the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA), the umbrella group coordinating this week's lobbying blitz, said he had no comment on the antiwar group's job figures. But he said his own group will be releasing some jobs data they have compiled at a press briefing on Wednesday.
The defense budget has already taken a $350 billion hit over the next decade -- relative to projected future growth -- as part of the debt ceiling agreement.
But if the 12-member supercommittee doesn't come up with a more palatable way to reduce the deficit by $1.5 trillion over 10 years, about $500 million more will automatically be cut from defense -- unless, of course, Congress votes to change the rules again.
The committee could also decide to make more reductions to military spending, although one member, Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) last week said he would quit the committee in protest if it came to that.
The potential for cuts that could actually reduce spending, rather than just tame its growth, has led big defense contractors to join forces in a messaging and advocacy blitz under the slogan "Second to None".
But even the most drastic defense budget cuts being considered wouldn't come anywhere close to dislodging the U.S. from its top spot in global defense spending.
This week is National Aerospace Week, and the industry has many Capitol Hill events planned. At one, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) will be presented with the group's Aerospace Wings of Liberty Award. Murray is also a co-chair of the congressional supercommittee.
The group also has a luncheon with Murray on Wednesday, and will have an exhibit up in the Rayburn House Office Building on Thursday.