As CBO Shows How to Cut $1 Trillion From Pentagon,
Progressives Urge Spending on ‘True Security’
Brett Wilkins / Common Dreams
(October 7, 2021) — Progressive foreign policy experts on Thursday pointed to a new Congressional Budget Office report that concludes it is possible to slash a trillion dollars in military spending over the coming decade without reducing force effectiveness as further proof that the United States can and should prioritize investments in tackling pandemics, inequality, and the climate crisis.
“The US military budget is now higher than it was at the peak of the Vietnam War, the Korean War, or the Cold War,” said Lindsay Koshgarian, program director of the National Priorities Project at the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS). “This report shows that there are viable options for immediate, substantial reductions to the Pentagon budget.”
“We are spending far too much on the Pentagon, and too little on everything else,” Koshgarian continued. “Facing a pandemic that is not yet over, decades of growing economic inequality, unaddressed systemic racism, and a climate crisis, the US is in desperate need of reinvestment for true security.”
Asked to “examine the effects on US forces of a substantially smaller defense budget,” the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) said it “created three broad options to illustrate the range of strategies that the United States could pursue under a budget that would be cut gradually by a total of $1 trillion, or 14%, between 2022 and 2031.”
In all three options, the CBO slashed only full-time active forces, while leaving the less expensive reserves at their current levels. While acknowledging that “none of the plans are without risk,” the study concludes that the Pentagon can reduce spending without sacrificing security.
“Saving a trillion dollars that could be devoted to
preventing pandemics, addressing climate change, or
reducing racial and economic injustice is no small matter.”
According to the report:
In all three of CBO’s options, units would be staffed, trained, and equipped at the same levels as they are today—there would simply be fewer units or a different combination of units. CBO did not explore approaches that would create what is called a hollow force or tiered readiness strategy, in which units are manned, equipped, or trained to lower levels than are needed to be fully operational. CBO chose to retain fully staffed units because, though personnel are expensive, partially staffed units would not be able to execute their missions, reducing the value of the US threat to strike against an adversary.
William D. Hartung, director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy, said in a statement that the new CBO report “is an extremely timely reminder that it is possible to provide a robust defense of the United States and its allies for considerably less money than is being contemplated by either Congress or the Biden administration.”
Hartung argued that “at a time when Congress is seeking to add $24 billion to a Pentagon budget proposal that far exceeds spending at the peak of the Korean or Vietnam wars, the CBO analysis offers an opportunity to step back and take a closer look at how much is actually necessary to protect the US and its allies.”
“At a time when the greatest risks to our lives and livelihoods are not military in nature,” Hartung continued, “saving a trillion dollars that could be devoted to preventing pandemics, addressing climate change, or reducing racial and economic injustice is no small matter.”
Koshgarian at IPS added that “Pentagon cuts are eminently doable, but corporate interests and poor leadership have prevented us from making even the most obvious cuts. After 20 years of war, it’s time to reexamine our security priorities and stop writing blank checks for the Pentagon and its contractors.”
As Bids to Slash Pentagon Budget Fail,
US Military Spending Slammed as ‘Height of Absurdity’
“Spending $780 billion on weapons and war while our communities starve, while the climate crisis worsens, while a pandemic that has killed millions and affected countless more rages on, is a national shame.”
(September 23, 2021) — Anti-war groups on Thursday lamented the failure of two progressive-led amendments to the fiscal year 2022 National Defense Authorization Act that sought to slash the Pentagon’s funding by tens of billions of dollars, with one peace campaigner calling the $780 billion US military budget a “national shame.”
The defeat of the amendments to next year’s NDAA — one by Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) that would have reduced the Pentagon budget by 10%, and another from Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) that would have canceled $25 billion in additional military funding over what President Joe Biden requested — was expected.
However, progressive lawmakers and advocates argued that federal spending should focus on combating the Covid-19 pandemic and addressing domestic social needs rather than funding endless wars and a military that receives more money than the next 11 nations’ combined.
“We face imminent threats from the Covid pandemic, climate change, growing economic inequality, and systemic racial and ethnic inequities [and] also, domestic terrorism,” Lee said earlier this week. “It is time to shift our spending priorities to meet these priorities. I personally support much larger cuts to the Pentagon budget.”
Reacting to the amendments’ defeat, Peace Action senior director for policy and political affairs Paul Kawika Martin said in a statement that “Congress and the White House still need to catch up with the will and needs of the electorate, where over half want to see reductions in the bloated Pentagon to pay for other priorities.”
“The main threats to America’s security have no military solution,” Martin continued. “Right now, Congress must prioritize our spending on helping Americans dealing with Covid, looking for sustainable jobs, and other Main Street issues. The pandemic clearly shows that expensive endless wars that cost over $6 trillion from taxpayers make Americans less safe.”
Martin added that the amendments led by Lee and Pocan “provided a perfect opportunity to free up $75 billion that could go into critical voter needs like healthcare, affordable housing, education, and local infrastructure.”
“Unfortunately, a majority of representatives chose to continue maximally funding Pentagon largesse despite its demonstrated irresponsibility with taxpayer dollars,” he said. “As the only government agency that cannot pass an audit, the Pentagon has returned over $80 billion in funds it failed to spend since 2013 and over half of the Pentagon’s total budget goes straight into the pockets of war contractors.”
“Americans want to see our leaders invest in
solutions to today’s most pressing issues —
not line the pockets of wealthy arms-makers
at the expense of working families.”
— Erica Fein, Win Without War
Erica Fein, senior Washington, D.C. director at the peace group Win Without War, said that “all too often, conversations around our ever-increasing defense budget leave out why so many Americans are fighting to upend this failed approach to national security. Spending $780 billion on weapons and war while our communities starve, while the climate crisis worsens, while a pandemic that has killed millions and affected countless more rages on, is a national shame.”
“Overwhelmingly, Americans want to see our leaders invest in solutions to today’s most pressing issues—not line the pockets of wealthy arms-makers at the expense of working families,” Fein asserted.
“There has been an attempt to position China as a bogeyman requiring billions of extra dollars of military spending. That is not the case,” she added. “Reining in the already bloated Pentagon budget will help put Americans in a better position to achieve our full potential and meet the challenges and opportunities before us.”
Carley Towne, national co-director of the women-led peace group CodePink, said in a statement that “the only people who won today are the CEOs and stockholders of the top weapons manufacturers.”
“As the dust settles and we reflect on the United States’ failed 20-year war on Afghanistan, it is the height of absurdity to hand the Pentagon and military contractors $780 billion,” she added. “While profits continue to soar for war profiteers, working people are struggling.”
While expressing disappointment over Thursday’s NDAA defeats, progressives also celebrated a major win, as the House voted 219-207 to approve an amendment to the annual defense bill by Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) that would cut off the flow to Saudi Arabia of US logistical support and weapons.
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