Guest Opinion: Money for our military is Washington’s golden egg

Aesop’s fable warns against killing the goose laying golden eggs. The tale’s origins date to 600 B.C. and tells of the greedy farmer who foolishly killed the prized goose to get to the gold’s source and ended up with nothing.

Skeptics in our nation’s capital today quip that politicians are greedy, self-serving and tone deaf and are cooking their own geese and all of us too.

Those controlling the “other Washington” have us drowning in debt. According to the U.S. Treasury, we owe $31.3 trillion which is rapidly growing. That is a gigantic, unfathomable number and equates to a tax of $94,000 per citizen.

President Biden and Congress are in a pickle. They face looming deadlines to reach a long-term funding solution to keep our government open and money flowing to Ukraine, Israel, securing our southern border, and military.

If they do not break the impasse by midnight on Jan. 19, a partial government shutdown begins, and more agencies will shut down two weeks later (Feb. 2) without a deal.

So how does that affect our Washington? Let us look at military funds and contracts flowing into our state.

We rank sixth highest when it comes to Dept. of Defense (DoD) funding just to run the military each year — more than $15.2 billion. By one count, there are 65,000 active-duty military and 8,400 Washington’s Air and Army National Guard.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, DoD spent $7.9 billion on military installation and $5.2 billion in contract spending in Washington State in 2015, which accounted for 4% of the state’s total gross state product.

Washington ranks No. 1 nationally in aerospace sales, exports, profits, and employment for more than a decade and exports more aerospace products annually than California, Texas, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, Arizona and Alabama — combined.

Boeing is the core of our aerospace which is a $70 billion industry and supports more than 250,000 jobs.

The company advertises: “Every Boeing model that begins and ends with a ‘7’ has been built in Washington. The state is the sole producer of the 737, 767 and 777, as well as military platforms K-46 Pegasus (based on the 767), P-8 Poseidon (based on the 737) and Air Force One, a 747 derivative.”

While funding is key for our national defense, having enough soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen/women in the ranks is golden. However, persistent recruitment shortfalls are growing problems.

American Military News reported in December, “For FY2024, all services except Space Force missed their recruiting goals by a combined figure of 41,000 personnel. The military recruiting crisis and the shrinking of the nation’s Armed Forces comes at a time of decreased stability around the world.”

So, the U.S. military will drop to 1,284,500 personnel in 2024 being the lowest number of service members since before World War II.

Much is made of the services’ struggles to meet recruiting goals in the last few years, which senior military leaders often blame on a shrinking number of young Americans who meet necessary physical standards, as well as a general drop in overall interest in serving.

After the 9/11 attacks new recruits increased to 79,604 in 2002. Recruitments rose above 80,000 in 2006 and 2007 as the Iraq War escalated.

Today, the Reagan National Defense Survey found that even family support for enlistments is dropping and only half of its respondents would encourage a loved one to serve.

Unless our elected leaders make a concerted effort to fund our military at levels equal with the current threat and unless Americans encourage their family members to serve our country in the military, threats to our nation and state will only increase. Our goose could be cooked.

Don C. Brunell is a business analyst, writer, and columnist. He retired as president of the Association of Washington Business. He can be contacted at