The United States military is the strongest in the world. Maintaining our military prowess is essential to defending our vital national security issues. But the current track of military spending is both unnecessary and unsustainable.
Today, in inflation-adjusted terms, the Pentagon is higher funded than it was at the height of Vietnam War. The United States is rapidly approaching the spending levels of the height of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. But much of the billions of dollars allotted to the Pentagon cannot be accurately accounted for. A 2016 report found that the Pentagon had buried an internal study that highlighted $125 billion in potential savings over five years due to administrative waste. The Pentagon chose to hide the report rather than risk making it public in fear that Congress would use it as the basis for future budget cuts.
In November of 2018, the Pentagon announced that it had failed its first-ever audit. While the results were not surprising, the fact that the audit was even completed is notable. As Deputy Secretary of Defense said “it was an audit on a $2.7 trillion dollar organization, so the fact that we did the audit is substantial.” Completing the audit required 1200 auditors, who poured over a sample of 18 billion transactions.
The opacity of the Pentagon’s budget marks it hard to know just how much money has been spent on the never-ending wars of the last two decades. An estimated $5.9 trillion has been appropriated for the war on terror through Fiscal Year 2019, including direct war and war-related spending and obligations for future spending on post 9/11 war veterans.
In March, President Trump released his budget request for 2020. After pondering potential budget cuts on Twitter at the end of 2018, President Trump reversed course and proposed a national defense budget of $750 billion. Included in that request is a 150% increase (totaling over $173 billion) in Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funds. By allocating additional funds for OCO President Trump was able to stay under the congressional budget caps set by the Budget Control Act. This is a blatant abuse of a fund that White House Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney has criticized as a “slush fund”.
President Trump’s budget request has not been met with approval in the United States House of Representatives. The House Budget Committee instead offered a budget proposal that would have put Pentagon spending at $664 billion in the next fiscal year and $680 billion in fiscal 2021.
In April, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was forced to delay a vote on a budget proposal due to a lack support for the domestic spending levels from Democrats.
In early August, President Trump signed into law the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2019. The deal included a 3% increase in defense spending in return for a 4% increase in domestic spending. As a part of the deal Members of Congress also voted to suspend the nation’s borrowing limit until July 31st, 2021 amid warnings that the Treasury Department might run out of money by September. However, Congress has yet to pass all of the individual appropriations bills that fund federal agencies, including the Pentagon, so the threat of a government shutdown this fall remains.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Congress is poised to reject President Trump’s reckless increase in defense spending. We can maintain the U.S. Military’s strength while also re-examining how the defense budget is spent and ensuring that it used effectively. Call your Senators and Representatives at (202) 224-3121 and ask them to fully exercise its oversight responsibilities and to authorize and fund the Defense Department at a sustainable level tied to future national security challenges. Be sure to mention:
The United States already spends more on our military than the next seven countries combined. Our military advantage is undisputed, and does not require billions of dollars in increases to maintain.
It’s time to bring accountability to the defense budget and for Congress to exercise its oversight responsibilities, especially when it comes to the Overseas Contingency Operations. President Trump should not be allowed to sidestep the budget caps by overfunding OCO.
Do not accept President Trump’s reckless budget increase for the Department of Defense.
Fiscal Year 2020 Defense Spending Briefing Book - Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation
Costs of War Study - Brown University
Would a $700 Billion Budget Really Sink the Pentagon? - Defense One
Infographic: The Facts About U.S. Defense Spending - Peter G. Peterson Foundation
Military Spending Fact Sheet - National Priorities Project
How, and Where, to Cut Defense Spending - Brookings Institution