Biden’s Unconscionable Military Budget

The Biden administration recently released its final budget proposal for fiscal year 2022.

There are some good things in the budget. It rightly calls for major increases in domestic investment, especially for green infrastructure jobs and programs to support families, and funds them with taxes on corporations and the wealthy.

But at the same time, it not only preserves the massive Pentagon spending hikes of the Trump era, but expands them. Under Biden’s plan, military spending would rise to $753 billion, up from the already staggering $740 billion from the last fiscal year.

These continued increases for the Pentagon undermine our desperate need to prioritize human needs and real security over corporate greed. Around half of all military spending goes not to the troops or their families or to any critical safety need, but to military contracting corporations with millionaire CEOs.

It’s been more than a year since the pandemic plunged the United States into a catastrophe unlike any in living memory, killing hundreds of thousands and leaving millions more in poverty, at risk of hunger and homelessness.

At a time like this, it’s unconscionable to send billions of dollars more to profit-seeking Pentagon contractors.

And it’s beyond short-sighted, as the pandemic rages on around the world, to believe that our security can be guaranteed by spending billions on expensive weapons systems and the endless rotation of troops all over the world — which even General Mark Milley, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has said no longer serves a purpose.

The Biden administration has made some baby steps in the right direction, cutting back on a few legacy weapons programs that military leaders no longer see as a priority. But even these modest tweaks will be fought tooth and nail by weapons manufactures and members of Congress who patronize those programs.

As the Afghanistan War finally winds down, this should be a huge opportunity to dial back 20 years of military spending growth and make important investments in jobs, families, and public health. Instead, the president’s budget request takes what should be a “peace dividend” from the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan and squanders it on costly weapons and military bloat.

Worse still, it perpetuates the nuclear weapons threat into a new century with a new ballistic missile program. And it throws good money after bad for the F-35 jet fighter, a money pit that has gone billions of dollars over budget and has yet to meet expectations.

Amid all this, the world is at the precipice on climate change.

Each year of delay can have catastrophic consequences, and global cooperation is more important than ever before. Yet this budget spends mere millions reducing the carbon footprint of the U.S. military, which is responsible for more fossil fuel emissions than many entire countries — and billions more on aid to foreign militaries than on global climate aid.

But the budget passed by Congress almost never looks like the president’s initial proposal, so the real decisions still lie ahead.

Congress must act responsibly to both maintain the administration’s selective cuts and to further reduce the Pentagon budget by at least 10 percent — a figure that would put it in line with previous spending under the Obama-Biden administration.

Multiple proposals exist for how to save at least 10 percent of the Pentagon budget while keeping Americans safe and secure. It is the responsibility of Congress to study these options and enact a sensible Pentagon budget that prioritizes people and the planet over profits and war.

Lindsay Koshgarian directs the National Priorities Project at the Institute for Policy Studies. 

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