At $716 billion per year, this year’s budget for the Pentagon and related agencies is at one of its highest levels since World War II — more than the next seven nations in the world combined, five of which are U.S. allies. And now the Trump administration and military hawks want to increase the bloated Pentagon budget even more.
It’s time — past time — to say: No More.
Spending less on the Pentagon — and allocating it to domestic and human needs — will make us stronger and safer.
Last month, a coalition of organizations issued a call for exactly this shift in priorities and orientation. Under the banner of #PeopleOverPentagon, the groups (including my organization, Public Citizen) urged that we “stop misdirecting hundreds of billions of dollars away from domestic and human needs to pad unnecessary budget lines for endless wars, failed weapons and the Pentagon’s corporate handouts.”
The People Over Pentagon agenda has three planks:
—Military spending should be reduced by at least $200 billion annually, freeing up $2 trillion or more over the next decade for domestic and human needs priorities. With those spending cuts, the Pentagon’s budget would remain more than enough to keep America safe at a level well above our nation’s post-World War II historical average.
—The United States should never again go to war without congressional authorization, and Congress should not authorize military action without identifying revenue to pay for current and future costs, including taking care of injured veterans.
—By adhering to our values and promoting international cooperation, we can prevent war, address the underlying causes of conflict and meet humanitarian imperatives.
As former U.S. Defense Secretary Bob Gates once said, “If the Department of Defense can’t figure out a way to defend the United States on a budget of more than half a trillion dollars a year, then our problems are much bigger than anything that can be cured by a few more ships and planes.”
We can make America and its allies safer for less.
—We can start by eliminating tens of billions of dollars in waste and fraud — from excess bureaucracy, to redundant personnel, to overpriced spare parts, to weapons systems that have experienced huge cost overruns — from the Pentagon budget. The Pentagon wastes tens of billions every year on private contractors who cost far more than employees would, or who perform tasks that aren’t needed.
—We can save tens of billions more by cutting back on or eliminating purchases of overpriced weapons that are not needed. Too much Pentagon spending is driven by the corrupting political influence of the weapons lobby, rather than any hard-headed assessment of need.
—There is at least $60 billion a year, and potentially much more, to be saved by eliminating a Pentagon slush fund that has arisen in the wake of the Afghan and Iraq wars.
None of these cuts would imperil the well being of the troops, including by ensuring they are paid and housed adequately.
With hundreds of billions freed every year from wasteful and counterproductive expenditures, we could invest in priorities that will really make us safer.
We could start to deal at appropriate scale with the climate emergency, which is by far the biggest pending challenge to our national security. Already climate-related water shortages, worsening agriculture prospects and resource constraints are fueling conflict in places like Syria and spurring refugee flows from places like Central America.
We could also invest in the domestic and human needs priorities — environmental protection, education, infrastructure, health care and more — that will make the United States truly a stronger nation.
The costs of the post-9/11 wars conservatively total $5.9 trillion. Those wars did not prove an effective way to deal with global terrorism, and in fact helped worsen the problem. Imagine, by contrast, if we had spent comparable sums on providing universal child care, in education investments, in fixing our infrastructure, in tackling the climate crisis, in providing health care to all. Is there any doubt that our country and the world would be better, stronger safer and more secure?
You can add your name to the call to put People over Pentagon here.