As a nation, we have the resources and imagination to make a valuable contribution to the survival of the planet and the well-being of the world's people. Instead, the U.S. spends hundreds of billions of dollars each year on killing and war.
Budgets are moral documents. They test where the country's priorities lie. President Trump is proposing massive increases in Pentagon spending paired with massive cuts in diplomacy, development, and other spending that protects our nation. The Trump administration may believe that violence and its threat is enough to advance U.S. interests, but you don’t have to be a Quaker to see that war isn’t working. Doubling down on this same strategy will not produce a different outcome.
That is why our FCNL community is focusing on encouraging Congress to rein in out-of-control Pentagon spending. Our advocacy together will make a difference.
In May, Congress finalized government spending levels for the fiscal year ending in September 2017. President Trump had requested a $30 billion increase in Pentagon spending over the levels already approved, but in part because of our advocacy, Congress only funded half that amount.
But this $15 billion Pentagon spending increase is still more than the budget for our diplomatic engagement across the world. Even after Congress instituted a cap on federal spending, the $600 billion Pentagon budget is still at or near the levels of the Cold War and Vietnam War. These Pentagon funding increases come at the expense of essential programs that foster peace, justice, and sustainability.
These Pentagon funding increases come at the expense of essential programs that foster peace, justice, and sustainability.
Plans for the coming years have even higher price tags. For 2018, President Trump is proposing a massive $54 billion increase to military spending while cutting the State Department, the EPA, and other domestic programs.
The Constitution stipulates that Congress determines how our nation spends its money, and lawmakers from both major political parties have said that the president’s overall budget priorities for next year are “dead on arrival.” But even with budget caps still in place, Congress has been exploiting the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) budget exemption to get around the budget caps for the Pentagon. FCNL opposes any additional war funding, including through the OCO slush fund.
These proposed spending splurges come after years of rampant waste and misuse of funds at the Pentagon. Even the Pentagon’s own internal study found some $125 billion in potential savings over five years just in administrative and bureaucratic waste. A law passed in the early 1990s requires every government agency to be audited, but the Pentagon’s books still aren’t ready for this basic demonstration of fiscal accountability. The Pentagon is the only federal agency that has never passed an audit. In no other agency would the mismanagement of billions of dollars be tolerated, let alone rewarded with additional funds.
Our senators and representatives must not repeal or roll back existing budget caps on Pentagon spending. They should also roll back last year’s add-ons to the Pentagon’s unbudgeted Overseas Contingency Operations slush fund, at least until the Pentagon finally passes an audit. Rather than an increase, Congress needs to decrease Pentagon spending over the long term.