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Progressive Lawmakers Introduce Bill to Slash $100 Billion From Pentagon Budget

This would likely be the largest cut to the defense budget ever seen in a single year.

Rep. Barbara Lee speaks during a hearing in Washington, D.C., on February 27, 2020.

While the defense budget continues its decades-long upward spiral, Democrats in the House are waging a push to do something unprecedented: take billions from the defense budget and redirect the money to social spending.

On Monday, Representatives Barbara Lee (D-California) and Mark Pocan (D-Wisconsin) introduced a bill that would cut $100 billion from the defense budget — which, for this year, was a towering $782 billion. This would likely be the largest year-over-year budget cut that the Pentagon has ever seen.

The bill would direct the Department of Defense budget for fiscal year 2023 to be calculated by subtracting $100 billion from the amount appropriated for the defense budget for 2022. While this would still be a massive budget of around $680 billion, it would be a major first step toward progressives’ longtime goal of slashing the defense budget to an amount comparable to that of other countries — or nixing it altogether.

“For far too long, this country has put profits ahead of its people. Nowhere is that more apparent than in our Pentagon topline budget,” Lee said in a statement. “It is time that we realign our priorities to reflect the urgent needs of communities across this country that are healing from a pandemic, ongoing economic insecurity, and an international energy crisis — none of which will be resolved through greater military spending.”

While the Democrats are trying to cut the defense budget, President Joe Biden is requesting even more than Congress appropriated for the Pentagon in 2022. Biden has requested $813 billion for defense for fiscal year 2023, including $770 billion for the Pentagon. If Congress approves the budget, it would be the largest ever defense budget in the country’s history.

Biden’s 2022 request for the military was already sky-high when compared to his spending requests for other priorities; the request made up 50 percent of the entire discretionary budget, with spending for the environment, education, housing, health and other priorities making up the other half. Meanwhile, the $813 billion Biden has requested for 2023 is higher than Donald Trump ever requested during his time in office.

“The Pentagon’s budget continues to grow year after year, even as our forever wars have finally wound down,” Pocan said in a statement. “The United States spends more on defense than the next nine countries combined and cutting it by $100 billion will still keep the United States safe at the top spot. The amount of money the defense industry convinces Congress to spend each year doesn’t protect us from real threats like climate change, pandemics, or cyber-attacks. It only lines contractors’ pockets.”

Lee and Pocan, who founded the Defense Spending Reduction Caucus, have waged pushes before to cut defense spending. The past two years in a row, the two have sent letters asking for cuts to the defense budget in order to prioritize public spending.

The bill has the support of multiple progressive and human rights organizations, including Public Citizen, the National Priorities Project and the Project on Government Oversight.

“The Pentagon budget is racing toward $1 trillion annually, while free school lunch programs for 10 million children are set to expire in a few weeks,” Public Citizen President Robert Weissman said in a statement. “We’re told there’s not money to feed the hungry, care for the sick, cut child poverty or protect the planet, even while Congress throws hundreds and hundreds of billions at a Pentagon that can’t even pass an audit.”