Senator Rand Paul’s 2018 Festivus Report, “which documented over $114 million in government waste of the American people’s tax dollars,” was almost as entertaining to read as it was infuriating. Of course $114.5M amounts to nothing when the federal government spent over $4.1T in fiscal year 2018; however, if Paul’s intent was to pique the intellectually curious, he likely accomplished that mission, as his report was barely noticed in the mainstream media. One of the ‘highlights’—the report’s largest item—was how the State Department gave over $76.3M to the Somali National Army. Of the five federal bureaucracies responsible for the annihilation of the $114.5M, the State Department executed just shy of 85% of it, while the remainder is attributed to, in order of egregiousness, the Department of Agriculture, the Institutes of Health (NIH), the Science Foundation, and the Endowment for the Arts. For your author, the $4.1T spent in 2018 is about four trillion dollars too many, so it’s difficult to disparage Paul for omitting an endless number of profligate programs which amount to billions—not millions—of tax dollars destroyed when his objective was to raise awareness. Abolishing the United States Military Academy (West Point), the Air Force Academy, and the Naval Academy wouldn’t be as gratifying as eliminating the NIH which “studied the sexual habits of quails on cocaine ($874,503),” but it would save over $1.25B per year.
On the 14th, total public debt outstanding weighed in at $21, 919,993,773,556.77, and the record-long government shutdown is due to a devotedly dysfunctional District of Columbia fighting over $5.7B for a ‘big, beautiful barrier.’ 380,000 federal employees have been furloughed, of whom the State itself deems nonessential.
Wait a second; you just read that we’re almost $22T in the red, but we employ hundreds of thousands to provide nonessential services? If nonessential employees were fired, President Trump could build four walls, assuming the average salary of those furloughed is at least $60,000. Or, if those facts appear hyperbolic, Trump could ensure that the shutdown lasts for a total of three months, not pay nonessentials backpay, and have enough money for his wall. I am not making an argument for, or against, the wall; the point is, like in many shutdowns, is it really about a budget dispute, or is it about politics? Is it really about straining to reallocate what represents less than 0.13% of fiscal year 2019’s federal budget, or is it about exhibiting a show? Putting this in perspective, if your annual budget is $60,000, your ‘wall’ would cost under $78; that’s what our wise overlords are squabbling about. Military spending will be around $886B, but $6B for a cute fence warrants an Oval Office address? Don’t be duped. The shutdown charade is meant only to distract us from how the State has managed to plunder even the unborn and to distract us from how the ruling class know that their scheme has been exposed; when the pretentious paternalism of pandering politicians becomes progressively pronounced, they know that we know. We simply cannot afford the State, including government schools—especially the ‘service’ academies.
The idea of abolishing academies and ROTC is not original. Just 28 years after President Thomas Jefferson established West Point, Representative David “Davy” Crockett introduced a resolution to abolish the academy, arguing that its students “receive their instruction at the public expense, and are generally the sons of the rich and influential.” Thomas Ricks mulled over this topic a decade ago, and Scott Beauchamp, William Astore, and Robert Heffington have since expressed similar sentiments; however, the academies’ most ardent appraiser has been Bruce Fleming, who, in his 2015 piece for Salon—among several others—detailed his many compelling reasons for why we should abolish the academies. I’ll focus on his economic argument: “[More than 80% of US officers] come from the much cheaper Reserve Officer Training Corps programs at civilian universities (at one-quarter the cost of the academies), or from the several months of Officer Training Corps (one-eighth the cost) that follows either an enlisted career, or college.” Ask any soldier if his West Pointer boss is between four and eight times better than the peered, non-academy officers in his unit, and, after his uproarious laughter subsides, you’ll receive a self-assured “Negative.”
For the school year ending in 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, the federal government—after looting it from Americans—gave over $75.5B to “degree-granting postsecondary institutions” across the country, over half of which went to just 70 institutions. Three out of the five academies rank among the top 50, with West Point receiving $323.6M, the Air Force Academy, $459M, and the Naval Academy, $473.5M. Again, firing all nonessential federal employees would save at least $22.8B annually, and if we were to also abolish the aforementioned academies, the savings would exceed $24B, not including the savings accrued from dismantling ROTC. How, might you ask, will we train officers? Answer: Sandhurst.
Back when Trump was just Donnie Tease—grabbing p’s with ease without saying, “please”—he tweeted the following quote from General Patton: “The object of war is not to die for your country but to make the other bastard die for his.” Patton’s message from 1944 has been perverted beyond recognition because at the academies, we infantilize “poor dumb bastards” at exorbitant, taxpayer expense, seemingly for the benefit of other countries. If the federal government must educate and train future officers to defend other countries or to fight their wars, the US should mimic what the United Kingdom has done with Sandhurst. Though an undergraduate degree is not a requirement, most of Sandhurst’s applicants are college graduates. We can do the same in the US, meaning ROTC would be irrelevant, just as ROTC rendered academies redundant a century ago—especially since World War II.
If the US insists on its officers holding an undergraduate degree, then future officers can graduate from any college in the US before beginning something akin to a year-long master’s program at any of the repurposed academies. The academies would focus solely on military and physical training, and the officers they produce would be far more respected than are academy graduates today. Some—especially those who benefit from the academies’ existence—will certainly bemoan, “But the academies are a national tradition!” Do those same people lament the loss of a business that practiced the tradition of losing money? With government, the only return on investment—is tyranny and other undesirable, unintended consequences. Whether we strengthen the national-security state, reestablish our republic, or even break apart, let’s at least cut the fat.