Just weeks after Congress passed a massive $783 billion Pentagon spending bill for Fiscal Year 2022, President Biden requested a whopping $813 billion for 2023. This total includes funds for the Defense Department, the Energy Department’s nuclear weapons, and other defense-related activities. If approved, that number would represent the largest military budget that America has ever seen.
Endless money fuels endless war, often at the expense of human needs at home and abroad. Congress had no problem setting the stage for at least $7.5 trillion of Pentagon spending over the next decade, but it failed to endorse even $1.5 trillion for a transformative 10-year package to invest in children and caregiving, combat climate change, expand affordable health care, and strengthen the middle class.
President Biden has said, “Show me your budget—and I’ll tell you what you value,” but his proposed budget fails to prioritize people and the planet. And Congress is not likely to improve the picture.
Throwing more money at the Pentagon is not an effective national security strategy. It is our moral obligation to prioritize diplomacy, development, and peacebuilding as the primary means of promoting U.S. objectives overseas.
Spending $8 trillion on the post-9/11 wars in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Syria and other countries did not eradicate violent extremism, and it won’t solve today’s emerging threats. Throwing more money at the Pentagon is not an effective national security strategy. It is our moral obligation to prioritize diplomacy, development, and peacebuilding as the primary means of promoting U.S. objectives overseas.
Where We Are
The horrendous war in Ukraine has proven that Russia’s military, despite its ruthlessness and cruelty, is far less powerful than Americans had been led to believe. We have also seen that overwhelming U.S. conventional and nuclear superiority did not deter Russian aggression or prevent Putin from threatening nuclear use. Unfortunately, however, many in Congress are drawing the wrong lessons from the crisis. Instead of recognizing that nuclear weapons must be abolished, Congress is feeling renewed pressure for more military spending and more reliance on nuclear weapons.
That pressure is coming from defense companies, large and small, who are scrambling to take advantage of the fear and revulsion sparked by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Defense companies and their lobbyists are pushing Capitol Hill to balloon the Pentagon’s budget by tens or even hundreds of billions of dollars. As one defense industry consultant, Loren Thompson, noted, “For the defense industry, happy days are here again.”
Leaders and concerned citizens in the United States, Europe, and elsewhere need to embrace new thinking and strategies around our concepts of security, diplomacy, and disarmament that move the world from the shadow of war and potential nuclear catastrophe.
What Can We Do?
Over the years, we’ve tried many approaches to cutting Pentagon spending. We’ve pushed for across-the-board cuts, recommended eliminating specific programs and systems, supported alternative budgets, and advocated for transferring money from the Pentagon to diplomacy, development, and domestic needs. But fear-mongering, short sighted political calculations, and greed from the Military-Industrial Complex have proven very difficult to overcome.
This year, we are recommending Congress take the following steps to start reining in excessive reliance on weapons and military spending:
- Eliminate the most dangerous, destabilizing and unnecessary U.S nuclear weapons – These weapons contribute to a renewed arms race and increase the risk of nuclear war. Cancel the development and production of a new ICBM and the sea launched nuclear cruise missile.
- Cut back the F-35 program – Despite more than 20 years and approximately $62.5 billion spent so far, program officials still haven’t been able to deliver a fully developed aircraft. President Biden asked to trim the program from 94 to 61 fighter jets, and Congress should hold the line there.
- Repeal the Pentagon’s unfunded priorities list mandate, which requires the service branches to send Congress their wish lists for weapons that weren’t included in the president’s budget request. The American people have had to make tough economic choices, and the Pentagon should have to do the same.
Spending more on weapons and war doesn’t make Americans more secure, and in fact it diverts precious resources away from serious challenges like the climate crisis, racial and economic injustice, and the COVID pandemic. It’s time for Congress to put the United States on a more equitable, just and peaceful path by ending the massive overspending on the Pentagon.
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