The US military faces five “big challenges,” Ash Carter told the Economic Club of Washington on Tuesday.

Those challenges are: Russia, China, North Korea, Iran, and ISIS.

So essentially, the exact same “challenges” Washington has been trotting out for years to justify hundreds upon hundreds of billions in defense spending, only with one CIA pet project gone horribly awry added to the list.

Despite the fact that The Pentagon’s list of threats includes all of the usual suspects, Carter contends that “today’s security environment is dramatically different than the one America has been engaged with for the last 25 years.”

This “new” environment, Carter argues, “requires new ways of thinking and new ways of acting.”

United States Secretary of Defense Ash Carter Pentagon

United States Secretary of (War) Defense, Ash Carter.

Developing these “new” ways of doing business militarily will apparently cost $582.7 billion. That’s the figure for The Pentagon’s 2017 defense budget and it will include the following line items.

  • $7.5 billion to fight Islamic State (which the US pretty clearly thinks is going to be sticking around for a while because after all, the next fiscal year doesn’t begin until October)
  • $71.4 billion for “strategic development”
  • $8.1 billion on “undersea warfare”
  • $1.8 billion for “munitions” (recall that the US is about to run out of bombs to drop on the Mid-East)

Drilling down, Washington will increase military spending in Europe fourfold to $3.4 billion in an effort to deter what the Pentagon calls “Russian aggression.”

“Almost half of the new investments Carter will propose are related to what officials see as a growing threat from Moscow, where President Vladimir Putin has demonstrated his willingness to employ Russian military might from Ukraine to Syria,” The Washington Post wrote on Monday. “Under the proposed expansion to the European Reassurance Initiative the Pentagon would increase the U.S. troop presence in Europe; expand positioning of combat vehicles and other equipment there; help allies build up military infrastructure; and train more allied troops.”

In other words, $3.4 billion worth of (loud) sabre rattling in the Baltics.

“This is not really a provocation or an escalation,” a senior administration official said. “Rather, it is the result of our longer term response to Russia’s foreign interventions.”

Right. Well you can bet Russia won’t see it that way. If Moscow had 62,000 troops (the number of active duty US service members operating in Europe) in Canada and Mexico along with a variety of “equipment” and missiles, The White House would be just as ornery and hypersensitive as The Kremlin sometimes appears to be.

Additionally, it’s always worth noting the hypocrisy inherent in the utterances of any US official who chides another nation for “foreign interventions” when Washington has its hands in more global conflicts that we’d care to catalogue.

“Even as we fight today’s fights, we must also be prepared for the fights that might come 10, 20 or 30 years down the road,” Carter said on Tuesday, as though the idea of not fighting has never crossed his mind.

The Defense Chief, who last month used a make believe medical term (the “parent tumor”) to describe the ISIS stronghold at Raqqa, was back at it with the semantic shenanigans. “We cannot blind ourselves to the actions nations appear to choose to pursue,” he said, in a linguistically torturous allusion to Russia’s activities in Ukraine and China’s land reclamation efforts in the Spratlys. Russia and China, he added, are America’s “most stressing competitors.”

Also “stressing” for Carter is the threat of a cyber attack which is why The Pentagon is going to spend $7 billion next year shoring up the nation’s cyber defenses and developing “offensive” capabilities. “Among other things,” Carter said, “this will help further improve DoD’s network defenses, which is critical, build more training ranges for our cyber warriors, and develop cyber tools and infrastructure needed to provide offensive cyber options (so no more sabotaged Seth Rogen movies on this defense chief’s watch).”

So there you have it. Ash Carter is all set to make you safer in 2017 by spending nearly $600 billion of your taxpayer dollars on, i) exacerbating what amounts to a new Cold War in the Balkans, ii) buying smart bombs to drop on Sunni extremists that the CIA probably armed with more of your tax dollars, iii) making sure Kim Jong-Un can’t sabatoge any more Seth Rogen movies.

You’re in good hands America…

Pentagon Ash Carter