It’s Time to Debate Pentagon Spending

Despite hopes to the contrary, the Pentagon’s new, $740 billion-plus budget will waste scarce tax dollars while making America less safe. With the presidential primaries accelerating, it’s time for the candidates to address this urgent issue.

This extraordinary spending has a direct impact on American taxpayers when it comes at the expense of diplomacy, education, and anti-poverty programs that can improve people’s lives. These programs create more jobs than buying weapons we don’t need at prices we can’t afford, but they’re facing deep cuts.

There is a better way to protect the nation without breaking the bank.

The Center for International Policy’s Sustainable Defense Task Force has created a blueprint for defense that would save $1.25 trillion from current Pentagon plans over the next decade — while providing a greater measure of security, not less.

The plan would cut the size of the active military by about 10 percent, in line with a policy that forgoes nation building and large-scale counterinsurgency operations of the kind undertaken in Iraq and Afghanistan. It would also roll back the Pentagon’s $1.7 trillion, three-decades long nuclear weapons buildup, and eliminate excess Pentagon bureaucracy, including its massive force of over 600,000 private contractors.

A new strategy is urgently needed.

As the Costs of War Project at Brown University has shown, America’s post-9/11 wars have cost us some $6.4 trillion, a sum that could have gone far in rebuilding America, underwriting high-paying jobs, and funding investments in alternative energy sources that would help stave off the worst impacts of climate change.

Those funds are gone. But we can at least pursue a more restrained strategy that ensures that we don’t make the same mistake again.

There’s more than money involved. Again and again, aggression has made us less safe.

The chaos caused by the U.S. invasion of Iraq led to the rise of ISIS, as did the corruption and sectarianism of a series of U.S.-backed regimes in that nation.

A nuclear buildup of the kind envisioned by the Pentagon will stoke a new nuclear arms race, when even a fraction of the current U.S. arsenal would deter any nation from attacking the United States.

And a failure to seek areas of cooperation with Russia and China, from arms control to joint efforts to mitigate climate change, will make war — or at a minimum a new Cold War — more likely, to the detriment of all concerned.

It’s time for the candidates for president to step up and address this failed strategy that has led to overspending on the Pentagon at the expense of other urgent national needs. There have been some efforts made to raise the issue, but much more needs to be done.

Senator Elizabeth Warren has called for the elimination of the Pentagon’s war budget at a savings of up to $800 billion over the next decade. Senator Bernie Sanders has pointed to the important domestic investments that could occur if Pentagon spending were reduced.

Joe Biden’s platform calls for ending America’s “forever wars” and reviving nuclear arms control, measures consistent with reductions in Pentagon spending. Pete Buttigieg hasn’t stated whether the Pentagon budget should be reduced, although he has sensibly pointed out that any spending should be aligned with a new strategy.

These positions should be just the beginning of a robust conversation on the future of American national security strategy and spending that needs to begin as soon as possible.

More articles by:

William D. Hartung is the director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy and a senior adviser to the Security Assistance Monitor and a columnist for the Americas Program.

April 02, 2020
Pam Martens - Russ Martens
The Dark Secrets in the Fed’s Last Wall Street Bailout Are Getting a Devious Makeover in Today’s Bailout
Jason Hirthler
The Temple of Self-Gratification
Eve Ottenberg
Prisons are a COVID-19 Petri Dish
P. Sainath
What We Should Do About COVID-19
Rev. William Alberts
The Coronavirus Rained on Trump’s Easter Charade
Stephen Corry
It’s Time to Clean Ecofascism Out of Environmentalism
Binoy Kampmark
The Swedish Alternative: Coronavirus as a Grand Gamble
Rebecca Gordon
The Future May Be Female, But the Pandemic is Patriarchal
Thomas Knapp
By The Time We Notice We’re Hungry, It May Be Too Late
David Rovics
An Open Letter to My Landlord #CancelRent
Simone Chun
Appeal for Humanitarian Diplomacy in the Korean Peninsula
Liu Jian
How COVID-19 Changed Our Lives: a Report From Beijing
Dean Baker
The Return of Infrastructure Week
Mike Garrity
Alliance for the Wild Rockies Sues Feds to Stop a Project That Will Kill 72 Yellowstone Grizzly Bears in Wyoming’s Upper Green and Gros Ventre Rivers
Elliot Sperber
Plague Days
April 01, 2020
Steve Early - Suzanne Gordon
No Pandemic-Related Pause? VA Privatization Leaves Veterans Waist Deep in Another Big Muddy 
Kenneth Surin
The UK and Covid-19 Crisis
Jack Wareham - Dylan Burgoon
“Whose University? Our University!” The Struggle for a COLA at UC Berkeley
Erik Molvar
Oil industry Exploits Pandemic as Excuse to Dodge Federal Regulations, Fees
Robert Jensen
Apocalypse, Now and Forever
Jake Johnston – Kira Paulemon
COVID-19 in Haiti: the Current Response and Challenges
Jen Moore
Guatemalan Water Protectors Persist, Despite Mining Company Threats
Danny Shaw
“The Coronavirus is Man-Made:” the Conspiracy Theory Trap 
Nafeez Ahmed
Former WHO Director: 8-Week Suppression Strategy Could Stop US COVID Crisis in Its Tracks
Frances Madeson
Death Camps in the Making: New York’s Prisons During a Time of Pandemic
Clark T. Scott
The White House and the CDC are United in Stupidity
George Ochenski
What Does COVID-19 Have to Do With Industrial Pollution?
Norman Solomon
Trump’s Mass Negligent Homicide Doesn’t Let Democratic Leaders Off the Hook
Scott Owen
Another New Peace
Elizabeth Schmidt
Lessons From Africa: Military Intervention Fails to Counter Terrorism
Greta Anderson
What’s the Hang Up on Releasing Adult Lobos?
Ted Rall
The Speech Trump Must But Cannot Give
Marshall Sahlins
Trumpty’s Country
March 31, 2020
Jonathan Cook
Netanyahu Uses Coronavirus to Lure Rival Gantz into ‘Emergency’ Government
Vijay Prashad, Du Xiaojun – Weiyan Zhu
Growing Xenophobia Against China in the Midst of CoronaShock
Patrick Cockburn
Trump’s Chernobyl Moment: the US May Lose Its Status as World Superpower and Not Recover
Roger Harris
Beyond Chutzpah: US Charges Venezuela With Nacro-Terrorism
M. K. Bhadrakumar
Has America Reached Its Endgame in Afghanistan?
Thomas Klikauer
COVID-19 in Germany: Explaining a Low Death Rate
Dave Lindorff
We’ve Met the Enemy and It’s a Tiny Virus
Binoy Kampmark
Barbaric Decisions: Coronavirus, Refusing Bail and Julian Assange
Nicolas J S Davies
Why is the U.S. so Exceptionally Vulnerable to Covid-19?
James Bovard
The Deep State’s Demolition of Democracy
Michael Doliner
Face Off: the Problem With Social Distancing
John Feffer
The Politics of COVID-19