Entries in Spending (4)


Pentagon Spending Down for the First Time in Over a Decade

Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. budget deficit has remained relatively steady in the past three years, but spending continues to surpass the 40-year average, according to a new report by the Congressional Budget Office.

Government spending in 2011 continued to hover around 25 percent of gross domestic product, similar to previous years but higher than the 40-year average of 20.8 percent, according to the report released Monday.

The most noticeable change was in the Pentagon.

Army spending declined in 2011 for the first time since the mid-1990s, while defense spending increased by only one percent, considerably below the average of nine percent in the past decade.

The report comes as the Department of Defense struggles with finding new ways to trim the budget. Its new secretary, Leon Panetta, is looking at making cuts in areas that were once considered off-limits, as he said in an interview with the New York Times.

Spending on entitlement programs -- Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security -- rose three percent in 2011, less than the average of seven percent in the past five years. Social Security beneficiaries did not receive a cost-of-living adjustment this year.

The U.S. budget deficit stood at $1.3 trillion in 2011, the second-highest on record and the third-highest deficit as a share of the nation’s GDP since 1945. The deficit is five times higher than what it was five years ago.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Debt Committee’s Cuts Could Impact Younger Generation: Report

iStockPhoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Countless battles are being waged behind the closed doors of the Congressional deficit-reduction "super committee," which has less than a month to strike an agreement on reducing federal spending by at least $1.5 trillion over the next decade.

But while the committee members battle in secret, the automatic cuts that will take effect if the committee fails to reach an agreement would create a greater imbalance between the old and the young than between the wealthy and the poor.

“When push comes to shove they are going to cut programs for the kids,” said Ron Haskins, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institute. “Elected officials, they don’t want to mess with the elderly. Not only are they a huge constituency, but relative to many other constituencies they are well organized.” In short? Kids can't vote.

The two of the three major entitlement programs, Social Security and Medicaid, will remain untouched by the automatic cuts, which would kick in for the 2013 fiscal year budget if the super committee fails to create a deficit-reduction plan that passes through Congress.

The third big-dollar entitlement program, Medicare, would be cut a maximum of 2 percent, or about $11 billion in the fiscal year 2013 budget, according to the Bipartisan Policy Center.

The vast majority of the back-up plan cuts would fall on discretionary spending, with half of the $109 billion yearly cuts coming from defense spending.

There are few concrete details on how the remaining $55 billion would be cut, but a report by the Federal Funds Information for States, which does budget analyses for the National Governor’s Association, shows that cuts to children’s programs would likely far outpace cuts to programs for the elderly.

Taking into account likely budget reductions for public education, child welfare services, child care subsidies and the low-income infant nutrition program known as WIC, the younger generation lose about $5 billion in federal funding, according to the report.

About $250 million would be cut from programs aimed toward seniors, such as the Administration on Aging and housing for the elderly.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Is Halloween the New Christmas?

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- In days of old, the sight of houses covered in over-the-top light decorations, miles of yard displays and extravagant spending on sweets meant only one thing: Christmas was near.

Now, the celebration begins two months earlier, in October, for Halloween.

The holiday that once meant just quaint trick-or-treating and a costume contest or two is now second only to Christmas when it comes to celebrating, according to a survey from the National Retail Federation.

Nearly 69 percent of Americans say they intend to celebrate the holiday this Monday, Oct. 31, the highest amount in the survey’s nine-year history.

Nearly half of those celebrating will decorate their homes and/or yard, and each will spend an average $72.31 on decorations, costumes and candy -- a figure second only to the amount spent by individuals on Christmas décor.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


$77 Billion Jets, Never Seen Combat, Now Grounded Indefinitely

U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Ben Bloker(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. Air Force fleet of stealth F-22 Raptor fighter jets, which has never seen combat despite costing the U.S. government nearly $80 billion, has now been grounded indefinitely.

The order came down from the Air Force's Air Combat Command Tuesday due to "recent reports of potential oxygen system malfunctions," Air Combat Command Captain Jennifer Ferrau told ABC News.

"The stand-down provides Air Force officials the opportunity to investigate the reports and ensure crews are able to safely accomplish their missions," Ferrau said.

The grounding comes just days after a rare video surfaced featuring a flight by one of the F-22s closest potential air rivals, the Chinese J-20 stealth fighter.

But for U.S. forces in each of America's three current major combat operations, having the F-22s sitting on the sidelines may not make much of a difference -- other than training and patrol operations, that's where they've been since the first of the expensive planes went combat ready in December 2005.

When the U.S. led an international effort to secure a no-fly zone over Libya in March, the Raptors did not participate. The Air Force said the planes simply weren't necessary to take out Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi's air defenses.

"If this was a requirement, it would've been used," Air Force spokesperson Maj. Chad Steffey told ABC News then. "We had all the assets that we needed in Europe already... It simply wasn't an operational requirement."

In fact, though the Air Force has more than 160 F-22s, Steffey said that they have not been an "operational requirement" in any major theater of combat for the U.S., from Iraq to Afghanistan.

Not a single one of the planes -- which cost U.S. government $77.4 billion for a total of 187 planes from Lockheed Martin according to recent report by the Government Accountability Office -- has used what Lockheed Martin's website called a "revolutionary leap in lethality" in defense of U.S. interests.

In 2009, Congress cut all funding for new Raptors, stopping the orders at 187 operational planes -- the last of which are still being delivered -- compared to the more than 600 that were originally part of the deal. However, Lockheed Martin is still receiving hundreds of millions in taxpayer dollars to make upgrades to existing planes.

The closest an F-22 has come to combat was in 2007 when a pair of Raptors intercepted and monitored two Russian bombers that were on patrol in airspace near Alaska, according to a report by Air Force Magazine.

Both the Air Force and Lockheed Martin said the reason the planes have yet to fire on any enemies is because they're designed to dominate the air against rival, sophisticated air forces or air defenses, not a small, poorly armed third-world militaries and insurgent groups.

The planes' natural enemy, therefore, is one that the program's biggest critic, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, said as of now does not exist.

"The F-22 is clearly a capability we do need -- a niche, silver-bullet solution for one or two potential scenarios -- specifically the defeat of a highly advanced enemy fighter fleet," Defense Secretary Robert Gates said in 2009 while advocating that Congress ditch further funding for the Raptor from the budget. "[But] the F-22, to be blunt, does not make much sense anyplace else in the spectrum of conflict."

Dozens of supporters of the F-22 program in the House and the Senate wrote letters to President Obama ahead of the 2009 budget decision, arguing a full force of F-22s would be needed to meet the future challenge of other nations like China and Russia that are also developing fifth generation fighters and new, high-tech air defense systems. Gates dismissed these claims and said the U.S. next generation fighters, both the F-22 and the newer F-35, would greatly outnumber any adversaries for the next 15 years at least.

Jeff Babione, the vice president and project manager for the F-22 program at Lockheed Martin, told ABC News last month China and Russia's fighter programs were a consideration in the F-22's development, but also said the F-22 could find a home in strike missions against rogue nations like North Korea and Iran.

"[The F-22s] are in an area where they would be solely or more suited for a sophisticated adversary like North Korea," Babione told ABC News. "In particular, its ability to penetrate highly defended locations -- such as North Korea -- only the Raptor would be able to get in there and prosecute the missions."

In the meantime, Babione said the F-22 was "absolutely" a prudent investment for its value as a deterrent to potential foes and said he hopes the Raptors never do go to war.

"The best weapon is the one that's never used," he said.

News of the stand-down order for the F-22s was first reported by the aviation website

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio