NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

The Riddle Of Pentagon O&M Spending

November 11, 1999

Although the total number of military troops has fallen in the past decade, the Pentagon is spending more per soldier and sailor than ever before. Analysts are trying to figure out why.

The Pentagon spends well over $100 billion on its support structure -- with the biggest component by far being the operations and maintenance budget. O&M covers many things: spare parts, equipment overhauls, environmental programs, training, child care, health care, cutting grass and painting barracks.

  • Since 1989, the number of active troops and the level at which they train have dropped by more than one-third.
  • Yet O&M expenses have fallen at less than half that rate.
  • Today the Pentagon spends roughly $70,000 a year per trooper on O&M costs -- 30 percent more than it spent a decade ago, after adjusting for inflation.
  • Numerous government studies suggest that the O&M budget helps finance a system rife with inefficiencies -- partly empty depots, underused testing facilities, commissaries that can't compete with neighboring Wal-Marts and warehouses crammed with tens of billions of dollars in inventory that may never be used.

Fiscal concerns aside, the O&M budget is the principal means by which military readiness is assured -- and questions are being raised about that readiness. Indeed, the Army has just concluded that two of its units are unprepared for war because they are pinned down by peacekeeping duties.

Source: Chris Adams, "As Military Slims, Each Soldier's Upkeep Grows More Expensive," Wall Street Journal, November 11, 1999.


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