1. Update
  2. Nuclear Weapons, U.S. Wars & Militarism

House Votes to Increase Pentagon Spending

By Jamie DeMarco, July 14, 2017

The House of Representatives voted this week for a military policy bill that increases Pentagon spending by $70 billion – a number that is higher than even the $54 billion increase that President Trump has requested.

The House vote on the National Defense Authorization Act of 2018 (NDAA) was disappointing but expected in a chamber where leadership of the Armed Services Committee has been pushing for even great increases in Pentagon spending.

The good news is that this isn’t the last vote on Pentagon spending. Your senators and representatives will have several more opportunities to vote on Pentagon spending before the Department Defense gets any money. And there is continuing concern, although not majority agreement, about the Pentagon’s failure to adequately account for how it spends money through an audit, the budget process that has essentially provided a $60 billion dollar slush fund and the lack of action to address waste, fraud and abuse in military spending.

What these votes show is our FCNL community has much more work to do.

Evidence of this support comes in several votes on amendments that happened during debate on the NDAA. Representatives Barbara Lee and Jared Polis offered an amendment that proposed a modest 1% decrease in Pentagon spending (see how your member voted). We at FCNL are also grateful for the amendment from Rep. Andy Biggs which would have cut the Pentagon budget by 0.5% every year it failed to complete an audit. The Biggs amendment was not allowed to be considered for a vote, but other legislative language without “teeth” was approved as part of this bill.

What these votes show is our FCNL community has much more work to do. Your emails, calls and visits to Congressional offices are absolutely key to helping to reign in Pentagon spending. The only way to alter this trajectory is for constituents to step up and make their voices heard on this issue.

A New Nuclear Arms Race?

We at FCNL are also particularly concerned because the military policy bill also sets our country on course toward a new nuclear arms race. The truth is, the backers of this bill have no desire to save the tools of diplomacy and negotiated nuclear agreements. They are in a rush to smash and rip up those tools.

This NDAA funds the creation of a new missile that the military has not asked for and that explicitly violates the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, which Russia is currently violating. Make no mistake: the goal here is not to save the INF Treaty. The goal is to kill it. This is not just dangerous, it’s dumb. By having the United States be the ones who so obviously drive the stake into the INF’s heart, we would take international pressure and attention off of Russia for its original unacceptable violation of the treaty’s requirements. The United States should not respond to Russia by violating the treaty itself, but rather by working to persuade Russia back into compliance.

A new intermediate range missile is not the only missile we need to worry about in this legislation. It would also fund a new nuclear cruise missile that would not only be destabilizing, Defense Sec. Mattis is not convinced this weapon is necessary, and former Defense Sec. Perry says there is scant justification for building it.

The United States should be working to reduce the chances of nuclear war

Finally, the NDAA that passed the House ensures that the United States is replacing its entire nuclear weapons arsenal without looking at long term costs. We know that the next three decades of replacing U.S. nuclear weapons will cost 1.2 trillion dollars. However, official cost reports focus on only the 10 year window. Rep. Garamendi proposed an amendment that would have extended the time frame to 25 years, but his amendment was defeated (see how your member voted).

The United States should be working to reduce the chances of nuclear war and ultimately pursuing a world free of nuclear weapons. However, this legislation does just the opposite and puts the United States on the threshold of a new nuclear arms race.

Jamie DeMarco

  • Program Assistant for Nuclear Disarmament and Pentagon Spending

Jamie DeMarco lobbies members of Congress, mobilizes constituents, manages the Nuclear Calendar, and supports the Quaker Nuclear Disarmament Program. He grew up in Baltimore and currently attends Adelphi Monthly Meeting in MD.