No one is suggesting cuts in defense spending that would lessen our security (see the next entry below). But, much of military spending is useless, if our enemies are North Korea (with a $5 billion defense budget) or Iran ($4.8 billion), and to conduct asymmetrical warfare in various places, and even to maintain an adequate defense posture vis-a-vis China. The ultimate assessment of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, most likely, it seems to me, is that they are mostly pointless (as was the Vietnam War). If the type of military we have is to fight those kinds of pointless wars, then we would not need whole defense hardware systems that we have.
Interesting about the recent Chavez military purchases from Russia: those are big dollars ($5 billion, $2.2 billion lent by Russia) which yet another government could use for more productive--human--purposes. The quality of Russian military hardware has been suspect for some time (see this article in "NY Times": http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/13/business/global/13ruble.html?pagewanted=1). Seems Russia, itself, is buying from overseas. It would be difficult, too, for Venezuela to do training and maintenance on its purchases. Still, the loose cannon in Venezuela must be watched. It might be a fitting place for our next pointess war!
The claim that military spending amounts to 53% of the federal budget (see next entry below) does not include the funds collected for Social Security, which is about 42% of federal funds collected. The argument to not include SS collections is that, since the Vietnam War, the Social Security Trust Fund was included in the budget as a way to dilute the percentage of military spending in the budget--to make it appear smaller to the American public. Also, the usual compilation of numbers would not include $400 billion for interest payments on debt due to previous military spending, nor the $100 billion on veterans' benefits and health care, nor the $94 billion in non-DOD military spending. Yet, these are all military costs for which we pay and they total to $1.6 trillion next fiscal year, according to this accounting. The Vietnam War still costs real money today, as is evident with the Vietnam vet several doors down who is in and out of rehab. In any case, the 2011 military budget is, according to my source, the largest in US history, in both actual and inflation-adjusted dollars. Not sure if it is the largest in percentage of the total budget. Probably not.
But, the point is the ginormous defense spending itself. Particularly with looming, massive budget deficits coming around in the mid-term future, we will, as a society be forced to decide what to cut. Without rather drastic cuts in defense spending (at least 25% according to some in Congress), there is no way to make it work.