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.

Weekend Edition
August 14, 2020
Friday - Sunday
Matthew Hoh
Lights! Camera! Kill! Hollywood, the Pentagon and Imperial Ambitions.
Joseph Grosso
Bloody Chicken: Inside the American Poultry Industry During the Time of COVID
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: It Had to be You
H. Bruce Franklin
August 12-22, 1945: Washington Starts the Korean and Vietnam Wars
Pete Dolack
Business as Usual Equals Many Extra Deaths from Global Warming
Paul Street
Whispers in the Asylum (Seven Days in August)
Richard Falk – Daniel Falcone
Predatory Capitalism and the Nuclear Threat in the Age of Trump
Paul Fitzgerald - Elizabeth Gould
‘Magical Thinking’ has Always Guided the US Role in Afghanistan
Ramzy Baroud
The Politics of War: What is Israel’s Endgame in Lebanon and Syria?
Ron Jacobs
It’s a Sick Country
Eve Ottenberg
Trump’s Plan: Gut Social Security, Bankrupt the States
Richard C. Gross
Trump’s Fake News
Jonathan Cook
How the Guardian Betrayed Not Only Corbyn But the Last Vestiges of British Democracy
Joseph Natoli
What Trump and the Republican Party Teach Us
Robert Fisk
Can Lebanon be Saved?
Brian Cloughley
Will Biden be Less Belligerent Than Trump?
Kenn Orphan
We Do Not Live in the World of Before
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Compromise & the Status Quo
Andrew Bacevich
Biden Wins, Then What?
Thomas Klikauer – Nadine Campbell
The Criminology of Global Warming
Michael Welton
Toppled Monuments and the Struggle For Symbolic Space
Prabir Purkayastha
Why 5G is the First Stage of a Tech War Between the U.S. and China
Daniel Beaumont
The Reign of Error
Adrian Treves – John Laundré
Science Does Not Support the Claims About Grizzly Hunting, Lethal Removal
David Rosen
A Moment of Social Crisis: Recalling the 1970s
Maximilian Werner
Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf: Textual Manipulations in Anti-wolf Rhetoric
Pritha Chandra
Online Education and the Struggle over Disposable Time
Robert Koehler
Learning from the Hibakushas
Seth Sandronsky
Teaching in a Pandemic: an Interview With Mercedes K. Schneider
Dean Baker
Financing Drug Development: What the Pandemic Has Taught Us
Greta Anderson
Blaming Mexican Wolves for Livestock Kills
Evaggelos Vallianatos
The Meaning of the Battle of Salamis
Mel Gurtov
The World Bank’s Poverty Illusion
Paul Gilk
The Great Question
Rev. Susan K. Williams Smith
Trump Doesn’t Want Law and Order
Martin Cherniack
Neo-conservatism: The Seductive Lure of Lying About History
Nicky Reid
Pick a Cold War, Any Cold War!
George Wuerthner
Zombie Legislation: the Latest Misguided Wildfire Bill
Lee Camp
The Execution of Elephants and Americans
Christopher Brauchli
I Read the News Today, Oh Boy…
Tony McKenna
The Truth About Prince Philip
Louis Proyect
MarxMail 2.0
Sidney Miralao
Get Military Recruiters Out of Our High Schools
Jon Hochschartner
Okra of Time
David Yearsley
Bringing Landscapes to Life: the Music of Johann Christian Bach