Melvin Goodman has watched the growth of America’s military industrial complex from both inside and outside the federal government – as an intelligence analyst at the CIA and State Department in the 70s and 80s and more recently as the director of the National Security Project at the Center for International Policy.
Now, in his sixth book on international security issues, he breaks down America’s military and intelligence failures stretching back to the Eisenhower administration. In "National Insecurity: The Cost of American Militarism", Goodman argues that excessive military spending is damaging America’s mission both at home and abroad, and he makes an authoritative case on how to fix it.
POGO: In your words, American military spending today is excessive. Is there a specific time or time period that spending went from responsible to excessive?
Goodman: Excessive military spending began in the 1980s in the first year of the Reagan Administration. Although there already were signs of a Soviet decline, President Reagan orchestrated unprecedented peacetime increases in military spending. CIA Director William Casey and deputy director Robert Gates distorted US intelligence on the Soviet Union to justify the increases.
POGO: Of the examples of excessive spending and/or improper practices cited in your book, what is the most important for the American public to learn about?
Goodman: The American public must understand that actual defense spending is close to double the budget figures reported in the media. The official military budget does not include the hundreds of millions of dollars for war supplementals (Iraq and Afghanistan); nuclear defense and safety (Department of Energy); military intelligence (the CIA and various collection agencies such as NSA); and military disability (Veteran's Administration).
POGO: How does the cost of the military affect the day to day lives of Americans?
Goodman: Excessive military spending has made it far more difficult to fund domestic requirements that include education, infrastructure, and social welfare. President Eisenhower warned about this in his "cross of iron" speech more than 50 years ago.
POGO: What are the practical ways that the American military can be reformed?
Goodman: Significant military reform would include extensive cuts in military aid, closing overseas military bases, serious nuclear disarmament, cutbacks in such Cold War military platforms as aircraft carriers, fighter aircraft, and nuclear submarines. Military reform must include the demilitarization of the intelligence community and national security policy.
POGO: What changes, for good or for bad, do you think will be seen in the American military system in the next 50 years?
Goodman: President Obama's policies toward Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and Syria suggest an awareness of the need to reduce military engagement and military deployment and to pursue strategic disarmament with Russia. He will try to continue to make these reductions, but will encounter resistance from the military-industrial-congressional-intelligence complex. It will become a serious test of the "audacity of hope."