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Long IslandColumnistsDan Janison

U.S. isn't alone in boom in defense spending

The Pentagon works these days with $2.2 trillion worth of assets, according to official numbers. But auditing defense spending and systems, policy makers seem to agree, adds up to a huge challenge that is nowhere close to being met.

Earlier this year, the auditing firm Ernst & Young found the Department of Defense's "logistics agency" didn't properly document more than $800 million in construction projects. A paper trail was lacking for other parts of the operation, the firm said, according to the report obtained by Politico. 

Military spending and its mammoth details come into view this week because the House is reported to be nearing final approval on a spending measure that will add billions for troop strength and pay, equipment and weapons.

Whether the federal government is ready to use the money efficiently and for useful purposes, America is not alone. Defense budgets seem to be on the rise in other nations.

Germany is set for what will total a 30 percent increase from 2014 to 2019, although a big helicopter purchase was put off there this week. France is adding $2 billion for 2019, the website DefenseNews.com reported Thursday.  And Japan's Defense Ministry has requested its biggest budget increase in five years, Bloomberg News reported.

In the U.S., there seems to be a remarkable consensus and lack of overall skepticism from lawmakers on the specifics of the expanded spending. Many regard it as economic stimulus. The Trump administration proposes a new "space force" branch and updating of nuclear arms.

The key pending appropriations bill was approved in the Senate last week by a 93-7 vote. Backers touted it as a significant 3 percent defense increase for 2019. 

New York magazine points out: "Even those few left-leaning senators who have put significant thought into foreign policy — and have formulated a progressive critique of the Beltway common-sense on that subject — still don’t dare to propose removing any coins from the Pentagon’s piggy-bank."

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) told the magazine: “The American public supports a very strong military, so I think Democrats would be swimming pretty hard upstream if we were arguing for massive transfers of funding from the Department of Defense to other accounts.”

At some point, sooner or later, the exact impact of all this spending seems likely to come in for harder public scrutiny.

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