by Jake Johnson, CommonDreams.org
More than 60 faith-based organizations on March 14 urged the U.S. Congress to impose major cuts on the bloated military budget as President Joe Biden pushes for a nearly $30 billion increase and Republicans demand an even bigger spending hike.
“The country is sprinting towards a trillion-dollar budget for weapons and war—propping up an expensive and harmful militarized foreign policy while people struggle to meet their basic needs,” reads a new letter to members of Congress signed by U.S., international, and state and local groups including the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), Unitarian Universalists for Social Justice, Hindus for Human Rights, and dozens of others.
“We cannot continue down this morally bankrupt path,” the letter continues. “We urge members of Congress to dramatically cut militarized spending in the fiscal year 2024 budget—both to facilitate reinvestment in the well-being of our communities, and to curtail the harms of our militarized foreign policy.”
The groups’ principled stand against devoting further resources to the U.S. military—and specifically to the Pentagon, an agency that recently failed its fifth consecutive audit—comes days after Biden requested an $886 billion military budget for the upcoming fiscal year, with $842 billion of that total earmarked for the Department of Defense.
Tori Bateman, the policy advocacy coordinator at AFSC, said March 14 that “we know that there is enormous waste, fraud, and abuse at the Pentagon—and that spending exorbitant amounts of money on weapons and war takes away from the funding our communities receive for things like healthcare and housing.”
“This year, we need Congress to commit to cutting Pentagon spending, and maintaining a robust level of spending on human needs programs,” Bateman added.
But that demand is likely to be ignored in a Congress that agrees each year—on a bipartisan basis and with relatively little pushback—to increase the U.S. military budget, often by tens of billions more than the president’s original request. In 2022, just 78 members of the House voted for Rep. Barbara Lee’s (D-Calif.) amendment to cut the military budget by $100 billion while 350 opposed it.
In response to Biden’s budget framework, leading Republicans made clear that they would push for even more military spending, calling the president’s proposal “woefully inadequate”—even though it’s among the largest in U.S. history.
“If past experience is any guide, more than half of the new Pentagon budget will go to contractors, with the biggest share going to the top five—Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon, General Dynamics, and Northrop Grumman—to build everything from howitzers and tanks to intercontinental ballistic missiles,” William Hartung of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft noted last week. “Much of the funding for contractors will come from spending on buying, researching, and developing weapons, which accounts for $315 billion of the new budget request.”
Of the $1.7 trillion in discretionary spending that Biden has proposed for fiscal year 2024, just $584 billion is reserved for social programs, analyst Stephen Semler observed.
The anti-war group CodePink said in a statement March 14 that while “President Biden’s overall 2024 budget does have some positive proposals like restoring the child tax credit, investing in clean energy projects, and cleaning up nuclear waste sites,” the “likelihood of passing the tax reform needed as well as the policies themselves seems very unlikely as congressional Democrats couldn’t even pass the Build Back Better legislation when they had more control in 2021.”
“What will pass—what always passes no matter who is in the White House and what majority fills the halls of Congress—is the defense budget,” the group added. “Any domestic policy being dangled to the public by the Democrats is meaningless while they still support the ever-growing and immoral defense budget.”