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As Bids to Slash Pentagon Budget Fail, US Military Spending Slammed as ‘Height of Absurdity’ – Brett Wilkins

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 U.S. military budget a “national shame.”

“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

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.”

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 U.S. logistical support and weapons.