Skip to main content

On June 24, a broad and bi-partisan coalition sent a letter to the Senate calling on them to oppose a National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2020 that provides $750 billion for Pentagon spending.

June 24, 2019

Dear Senator: As organizations representing Americans across the ideological spectrum, we are writing to urge you to vote “no” on any version of S. 1790, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year (FY) 2020, that provides for Pentagon spending of $750 billion.

Current national defense spending is not driven by necessity. Indeed, the ever-changing budget levels that emerged from the Trump administration demonstrated that politics guide the President’s budget requests. Less than eight months ago, the Pentagon and Pentagon boosters in Congress were calling for a $733 billion topline, as President Trump pushed for $700 billion. The President’s formal request for $750 billion has been reported to have been an arbitrary “round number” and a “negotiating tactic” to ensure the most Pentagon spending. This level of Pentagon increase remains unacceptable and unwise —even, to borrow the President’s words, “crazy.

Recent polling suggests a majority of the public does not want defense spending increased, and in fact, may prefer substantial reductions. Twenty-nine percent of Americans say the current level of Pentagon spending is too high while 43 percent (the highest in 15 years) believe the country is spending roughly the right amount already. That means that nearly three-quarters of Americans would not support more of their tax dollars going to the Pentagon, as S. 1790 would. Citizens are paying attention to policy changes in this area and are increasingly acting on their preferences.

Furthermore, there have been growing calls for substantial reductions from groups and experts across the ideological spectrum and across issue areas nearly all of which seek elimination, reform, or reduction of the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) account, the deeply troubled and costly F-35 program, U.S. force structure plans including expanded Navy shipbuilding, the U.S. nuclear arsenal, the establishment of a Space Force, and costly inefficiencies including excess or duplicative personnel, contractors and property.

Many of the aforementioned recommendations draw heavily from the findings of government agencies like the Congressional Budget Office, Government Accountability Office, and the Pentagon itself. There have similarly been calls for Congress to reject as too high Pentagon spending levels of $750 billion from women state legislators from 29 states, a former high-ranking Reagan administration Defense Department official, as well as by coalitions of left-and right-leaning groups(including many of the under-signed).

S. 1790 as reported by the Committee on Armed Services expands on last year’s already excessive use of Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funding to escape budget limits Congress agreed to impose on itself and the Pentagon nine years ago. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) and two former Pentagon Comptrollers who served in Republican and Democratic administrations are part of the growing chorus calling on Congress to rein in OCO to ensure better use and accounting of taxpayer dollars, especially those used ostensibly for war-making. Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney previously has decried the use of OCO dollars as a “slush fund.”

The Pentagon has acknowledged that tens of billions of these OCO dollars supplement “base” budget spending on non-war programs. These abuses should be met by significant reductions, not increases, in the use of OCO funding. In late 2018, the Department of Defense finally completed—and failed—a first-ever full financial auditthat every other major federal agency has passed. No business or private sector employee would expect to see such a failure rewarded with a massive increase in financing or salary. Instead of rewarding the Pentagon with still more of the taxpayers’ billions,the Senate should insist that the Pentagon decrease waste, improve accountability, and prioritize missions.

We urge you to oppose an FY 2020 National Defense Authorization Act that provides three-quarters of a trillion dollars for the Pentagon.


Campaign for Liberty
Center for International Policy
Coalition to Reduce Spending, Inc.
Friends Committee on National Legislation
Just Foreign Policy
National Priorities Project at the Institute for Policy Studies
National Taxpayers Union
Peace Action
Project On Government Oversight
Taxpayers for Common Sense
Taxpayers Protection Alliance
The United Methodist Church-General Board of Church and Society
Truth in Accounting
Win Without War
Women’s Action for New Direction

Join our email list!

Quakers and Friends are changing public policy.