People Over the Pentagon

Cut the Bloated Pentagon Budget

The U.S. spends more on its military than the next nine countries combined, yet Congress just passed a staggering $886 billion budget for fiscal year 2024. Congress should reject these increases to the Pentagon’s already bloated budget and instead seek cuts to top-line spending. It is time that legislators reevaluate what threats their constituents truly face.

Polling finds that Americans can see the problem. Particularly at this time of dueling crises, we
should be prioritizing human needs over the military-industrial complex. We can activate
communities on this issue by reminding them of the tradeoffs that come with increases in the
Pentagon budget.


Move the Money

These last few years, we’ve seen security threats in the form of a historic pandemic, an expanding climate crisis, vast racial inequality, and a growing economic crisis. Yet instead of funding solutions to those problems, we continue to allocate over half the U.S. discretionary budget to the military. 

Meanwhile, these massive military budgets eat up funding for critical programs here at home, which takes an overwhelming toll on communities of color and marginalized groups. Reducing the Pentagon’s oversized budget could free up the funds we so desperately need to make necessary investments in our country’s future. Now more than ever, we need spending to prioritize people’s needs, not the defense industry’s endless appetite.

Cut Funding For Dangerous Weapons Systems

There are many possible cuts to be made to the bloated Pentagon budget. Particularly at this time of dueling crises, we should be prioritizing human needs over the military-industrial complex. We should push the Biden administration and Congress to stop wasting money on:

  • Lockheed Martin’s Failed F-35 Jet: Starting at around $100 million per plane, numerous malfunctions over the years have ballooned costs to an estimated $1.7 trillion for this program’s life cycle. This plane has received a reputation as notoriously flawed and carries dangers for those flying it — including potential for fatal whiplash, occasional oxygen deprivation, and a “serious” risk of death during ejections. The Air Force has essentially admitted this jet is not what they need, yet taxpayer dollars for this plane continue to find their way into the pockets of Lockheed Martin executives. We are continuing to push Congress to stop funding the program.
  • New Nuclear Weapons: Congress is debating a new nuclear-armed sea-launched cruise missile (SLCM-N), despite President Biden’s opposition to it on the campaign trail and in his budget requests. In fact, the Biden administration’s 2022 Nuclear Posture Review policy review canceled the SLCM-N, declaring it “no longer necessary.” Additionally, the risk of nuclear escalation also increases with such a missile, as it can carry a conventional or nuclear warhead; a potential adversary wouldn’t know which one was on the incoming missile. We are working to pressure Congress to stop funding and permanently cancel this unnecessary and provocative weapon.
  • So-called “Optimization” of Naval Ships: The Navy’s long-standing Littoral Combat Ship program has run into issues with not only development cost overruns but also design flaws and reliability. Major propulsion flaws found in a whole class of the ship caused the USS Detroit to once be towed into port. Ballooning operating costs — estimated as high as $70 million per ship — should make us rethink this program’s future, as well.

Hold the Pentagon Accountable For Misuse and Gouging

The Defense Department has a long, well-known history of wasteful spending — including the 2016 revelation that the Pentagon buried evidence of $125 billion of administrative waste — and has failed every single one of its five audits since they became required. This waste is so egregious that the House Oversight Committee recently opened a probe into why the Pentagon could not account for 61% of its $3.5 trillion in assets last year.

A 60 Minutes investigation shed light on the widespread price gouging carried out by private defense contractors who receive money from the Pentagon. The most tragic part is that the massive amounts of taxpayer dollars going into the Pentagon do not return to the working class or feed the economy. In fact, over half the taxpayer dollars funding the defense budget go to the same private contractors who are doing the gouging. Of the billions going to corporations like Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Boeing, etc., much of the money goes to executives instead of the workers on the ground. In 2021 — a year in which a global pandemic was still raging — the CEOs of the top five weapons makers received over $104 million in salary.

It’s time Congress implements measures to hold the Pentagon accountable for how they spend our money. We are working with allies like Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Reps. Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Mark Pocan (D-WI), and have built bipartisan support to finally crack down on waste through legislation like the Stop Price Gouging the Military Act and reports on the failed audits.

End Military Transfers To Domestic Police Forces

Endless war and military violations of human rights are rooted in a specific mindset based on coercion, domination, and dehumanization. Excessive and violent policing drinks from the same source. Stopping systemic racism in police forces across the U.S. requires dealing with the problem at root and branch by enacting legal reforms, reversing the militarization of policing, and divesting funds from police forces prone to violence.

Just as we need to move the money from the bloated Pentagon to real human security needs, we must divest funds from excessive policing and mass incarceration and invest in education, non-punitive drug treatment, restorative justice services, and housing and employment programs. Yet for years, the Pentagon’s 1033 Program has authorized them to send military equipment and weapons — including tear gas and pepper spray, which have been turned on protestors — to local police departments, arming them up like a combat force. We have been teaming up with Congressional allies like Reps. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) and Nydia Velázquez (D-NY) to put an end to the program.

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