50 House Democrats Demand Biden Slash Pentagon Budget to Invest in Public Health, Common Good

A broad range of progressive groups on Tuesday echoed 50 Democratic U.S. lawmakers who urged President Joe Biden to redirect government spending from wars and militarism to programs of social and ecological uplift by seeking to reduce the $740 billion Pentagon budget. 

“Now is the time to reverse course on the ‘too much is never enough’ approach to Pentagon spending and start redirecting some of that money into priority domestic and human needs.”
—Robert Weissman,
Public Citizen

In a letter led by Reps. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), and Jake Auchincloss (D-Mass.), and signed by 47 congressional Democrats, the lawmakers assert that “part of undoing the damage of the last four years is re-evaluating our spending priorities as a nation.”

“That re-evaluation should begin with the Department of Defense,” the letter states. “Hundreds of billions of dollars now directed to the military would have greater return if invested in diplomacy, humanitarian aid, global public health, sustainability initiatives, and basic research.”

Noting that the U.S. “could cut the Pentagon budget by more than 10% and still spend more than the next 10 largest militaries combined,” the letter urges Biden—whose fiscal year 2022 budget will reportedly request the same level of military spending as during former President Donald Trump’s final year in office—to “seek a significantly reduced Pentagon topline.”

“The United States’ war on terror has lasted two decades and cost the U.S. approximately $6.4 trillion,” the lawmakers write. “Our men and women in uniform have served bravely and honorably. Yet, the premise of a military-centric foreign policy is a failure. We must end the forever wars, heal our veterans, and re-orient towards a holistic conception of national security that centers public health, climate change, and human rights.”

“You have spoken frequently about the need to not only reject the destruction of Trumpism, but to build things back better,” the letter notes. “A broad cross-section of voters and organizations—including conservative, faith-based, and progressive groups—support responsible spending reductions at the Pentagon. The same voters who sent you to the White House on this promise sent us to Congress, expecting us to make this vision a reality and to chart a new course.”

“We have a duty to invest in the American people more than we invest in defense contractor profits and Pentagon slush funds.”
—Rep. Mark Pocan

“Therefore, we strongly urge you to request a reduced Pentagon budget when you send your fiscal year 2022 budget to Congress,” the lawmakers conclude.  

In a statement promoting the letter, Lee—the only member of Congress at the time who opposed the 2001 U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan—said that “as we face a global pandemic and unprecedented economic crisis, the needs of American families far outweigh the need to continue feeding our bloated military defense budget.”

Pocan said that the coronavirus pandemic “has proven that American national security should not be defined by the number of nuclear weapons collecting dust in storage, but by healthcare security, job security, housing security—the security of working families surviving with a roof over their heads, food on the table, and money in the bank.”

“We have a duty to invest in the American people more than we invest in defense contractor profits and Pentagon slush funds,” he insisted. 

Auchincloss, a former Marine, added that “you don’t have to be a veteran to know that the defense budget is out of control when you have a trillion-dollar fighter jet that can’t dogfight,” a reference to the F-35, each of which costs well over $100 million. 

Arguing that the “50 House lawmakers are right,” the advocacy coalition Win Without War released a statement asserting that “against the backdrop of a devastating pandemic, global economic crisis, and looming climate catastrophe, it is more critical than ever that we end the failed mindset that has led us to funnel near-limitless funds into warmaking while ignoring the true threats to our security.”

“The U.S.’ budget priorities are dangerously out of whack,” the group added. “It’s time to put them back in order.”

Robert Weissman, president of the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen, said in a statement that the coronavirus pandemic “has underscored how grotesquely bloated is our Pentagon budget and how spending on weapons does nothing to address many of the greatest national security risks.”

“Now is the time to reverse course on the ‘too much is never enough’ approach to Pentagon spending and start redirecting some of that money into priority domestic and human needs,” said Weissman. 

Carley Towne, co-director of the women-led peace group CodePink and coordinator of the Defund the Pentagon campaign, said in a statement that “cutting the Pentagon budget and reinvesting in the needs of our communities is not only morally necessary, it’s also urgent if we’re going to address the biggest threat that faces our planet: climate change. The Pentagon is the world’s single largest consumer of oil and one of the world’s top greenhouse gas emitters.”

“If we’re going to take the future of our planet seriously,” stressed Towne, “we need to cut the Pentagon budget now.” 

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