News Release

The Pentagon’s $7.3 Trillion Dollar Bill

WILLIAM HARTUNG, whartung@internationalpolicy.org
    Hartung is director of the Arms and Security Program at the Center for International Policy and recently wrote the piece “Reining in the Pentagon: Can It Possibly Happen?” for TomDispach.

    He writes: “Even as Congress moves to increase the Pentagon budget well beyond the astronomical levels proposed by the Biden administration, a new report from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has outlined three different ways to cut $1 trillion in Department of Defense spending over the next decade. A rational defense policy could yield far more in the way of reductions, but resistance from the Pentagon, weapons contractors, and their many allies in Congress would be fierce.

    “After all, in its consideration of the bill that authorizes such budget levels for next year, the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives recently voted to add $25 billion to the already staggering $750 billion the Biden administration requested for the Pentagon and related work on nuclear weapons at the Department of Energy. By any measure, that’s an astonishing figure, given that the request itself was already far higher than spending at the peaks of the Korean and Vietnam Wars or President Ronald Reagan’s military buildup of the 1980s.

    “In any reasonable world, such a military budget should be considered both unaffordable and deeply unsuitable when it comes to addressing the true threats to this country’s ‘defense,’ … Worst of all, providing a blank check to the military-industrial-congressional complex ensures the continued production of troubled weapon systems like Lockheed Martin’s exorbitantly expensive F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which is typically behind schedule, far above projected costs, and still not considered effective in combat. …

    “At the request of Senate Budget Committee Chair Bernie Sanders (I-VT), the CBO devised three different approaches to cutting approximately $1 trillion (a decrease of a mere 14 percent) from the Pentagon budget over the next decade. Historically, it could hardly be a more modest proposal. After all, without any such plan, the Pentagon budget actually did decrease by 30 percent between 1988 and 1997.

    “Such a CBO-style reduction would still leave the department with about $6.3 trillion to spend over that 10-year period, 80 percent more than the cost of President Biden’s original $3.5 trillion Build Back Better proposal for domestic investments. Of course, that figure, unlike the Pentagon budget, has already been dramatically whittled down to half its original size, thanks to laughable claims by ‘moderate’ Democrats like Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) that it would break the bank in Washington. Yet such critics of expanded social and economic programs rarely offer similar thoughts when it comes to the Pentagon’s far larger bite of the budgetary pie.”