Women Against Military Madness, since its inception in 1982, has been calling for cutting the military budget and using the money to support human needs such as improved healthcare, peaceful job creation, fighting climate change, increasing aid to education, and alleviating poverty.
However, despite the efforts of WAMM and many other groups, the U.S. military budget continues to grow by leaps and bounds. In 1982, it was $180 billion; the Biden Administration’s proposed total National Defense budget for 2022 is $753 billion. This bloated budget, the vast majority of which goes to the military, is unconscionable given the serious internal problems faced by our country.* [Biden’s budget was released May 28, and, as of this moment, is currently in the hands of Congress, which will, unless there is a major shift, match or top Biden’s.]
The devastating impact of the coronavirus pandemic and its economic fallout provide ample reason for our country to reconsider what truly constitutes national security. The massive U.S. arsenal and fighting force deployed worldwide are powerless against grave, nonmilitary threats to national security—from a raging pandemic to the fact that tens of millions of Americans struggle to pay for food, housing, and health care.
Heidi Peltier of the Cost of War Project at Boston University’s Watson Institute, found that $1 billion in military spending creates approximately 11,200 jobs, compared with the jobs $1 billion creates in other areas: 26,700 in education, 16,800 in clean energy, and 17,200 in healthcare.
More and more groups are speaking out, including conservative groups. The Center for the International Policy’s Sustainable Defense Task Force—a collection of former White House, congressional, and Pentagon budget officials, ex-military officers, and think tank experts—published a report detailing how the Defense Department could cut $1.2 trillion in waste and inefficiency over the next decade. The Project on Government Oversight’s Center for Defense Information posted a report recommending ways to cut the Pentagon’s annual budget by $199 billion without compromising national security or military capabilities. The Poor People’s Campaign’s wide-ranging “moral budget” went even further, demanding the Pentagon budget be cut in half. The National Priorities Project points out that “we could save as much as $350 billion per year and achieve true security by ending wars, reducing our aggressive posture overseas, and reining in military contracts that drain the public coffers for private gain.”
The U.S. currently maintains at least 800 bases outside its borders, with troops stationed in 175 foreign nations at a cost of $100 billion a year. Eliminating the Overseas Contingency Operations “slush fund,” for Pentagon programs that have no connection to emergencies or contingencies, could save another $174 billion [Update: the OCO was eliminated in the House Appropriations Committee budget.]
The strategy of global military dominance is what drives the U.S. military budget and is the real reason military spending is so high. The vast bulk of military expenditures today have nothing to do with keeping us safe. And the advocates for war are a small minority – politicians, militarists, weapons makers, oil companies, and relatively small fanatical groups like al Qaeda.
A focus on responding to actual threats would allow big reductions in military spending. And cutting the oceans of money going to the military would also serve the purpose of slowing down the military-industrial complex and its penchant for causing wars.
Moving money from the military budget to meeting human needs will not be easy because of the many vested interests, especially weapons contractors and their powerful lobbies. And there are military contracts in almost every state. Frequently when there is an opportunity to gid rid of outdated equipment, the cry from states and local communities is “Jobs! We will lose jobs!” However, it has been known for decades that federal spending on domestic programs in healthcare, education, clean energy, and infrastructure creates more jobs, dollar for dollar, than military spending. In her 2019 study, Heidi Peltier of the Cost of War Project at Boston University’s Watson Institute, found that $1 billion in military spending creates approximately 11,200 jobs, compared with the jobs $1 billion creates in other areas: 26,700 in education, 16,800 in clean energy, and 17,200 in healthcare.
Marie Braun is a longtime peace and justice activist, WAMM Board member, and is the Chair of the End War Committee.
The total National Defense budget is $753 billion, of which $715 billion is for the Pentagon. The additional $38 billion in the Defense budget includes some COVID and climate change assistance, but also nuclear weapons, which come under the Department of Energy, instead of the Pentagon.
This article originally appeared on page one in the print version of Women Against Military Madness Newsletter Vol 39, No 4, 2021.