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This month, Congress is preparing to pass the largest Pentagon budget in U.S. history. 

If U.S policy makers continue down this path, we are likely to see trillion dollar annual defense budgets in the near future. 

With bipartisan support, lawmakers are set to approve $858 billion for the Department of Defense and related activities in this year’s defense policy bill, known as the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). That’s $45 billion higher than President Biden’s initial request of $813 billion and far above what the Armed Services Committees in the House and Senate recommended earlier this year. 

As a faith-based organization that seeks a world free from war and the threat of war, FCNL condemns these excessive and unjustifiable levels of military spending. Unrestrained military budgets not only take resources from high-priority domestic needs and diplomatic solutions to international crises, but also contribute to arms races and global instability. 

If U.S policy makers continue down this path, we are likely to see trillion dollar annual defense budgets in the near future. 

The Arms Industry is Cashing In on the War in Ukraine

Congress has been quick to point to Ukraine as the primary reason for these spending boosts. They have argued there is a need to replenish our stockpiles and provide further aid to Ukrainian forces. 

In reality, the Pentagon and major  weapons contractors are using this crisis to permanently expand the size of the U.S. arms industry, going far beyond helping Ukraine in its response to the Russian invasion. 

As William Hartung, senior research fellow at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, points out:

Dramatically expanding the size of the military-industrial complex in contemplation of another Ukraine-style conflict or a future war with China is a dangerous option that will only further militarize U.S. foreign policy and security planning at a time when a more sophisticated approach grounded in a diplomacy and economic statecraft is more likely to promote peace and stability than pouring ever more resources into arming, and arms racing.

Rapid expansion of the military-industrial complex is unnecessary, immoral, and unwise.

First, the war in Ukraine will not be ended militarily; peace will only come at the negotiating table. The United States should be putting its emphasis on diplomacy, not more war. 

Second, hasty approval of large Pentagon funding increases will exacerbate existing problems of waste and mismanagement, as evidenced by the Pentagon’s repeated failure to pass an audit.

Of the $14 trillion the Pentagon has spent since the war in Afghanistan began in 2001, one-third to one-half has gone to defense contractors. In 2022, despite rhetoric about supply chain issues and challenges caused by inflation, military contractors earned higher profit margins than usual, with Raytheon profiting $3.9 billion and Lockheed Martin with a $4.2 billion profit margin.

End Unsustainable Spending on War, Invest in Humanitarian Relief and Diplomacy

Reducing the bloated defense budget would free up funding for policies that benefit society. Earlier this year, FCNL created our first People’s Unfunded Priorities List, where we highlighted tradeoffs that could be made if just $24 billion dollars of the Pentagon budget was used for other urgent priorities. 

This includes reducing child poverty, easing the burden of moderate and low wage workers, reducing housing insecurity, and preventing unnecessary COVID-19 deaths. We can’t continue to tie up funds on weapons and war when there are so many urgent priorities that cannot be solved through military might.

Lawmakers should focus on peacebuilding efforts and diplomacy to end Russia’s illegal war of aggression against Ukraine. Instead of sending endless supplies of weapons, the United States should focus on responding to the humanitarian and refugee emergency, protecting civilians, and supporting nonviolent civilian resistance. 

Tell your lawmakers that more diplomacy is the best way to protect human lives and end the war in Ukraine.

Staff: Vlad Salas Moreno

Vlad Salas Moreno

Program Assistant, Nuclear Disarmament and Pentagon Spending (2022-2023)
Vladimir Salas Moreno served as FCNL’s Program Assistant for Nuclear Disarmament and Pentagon Spending for 2022-2023.