The United States’s already colossal and record-breaking defense budget is about to get even bigger, with congressional negotiators slated to propose a staggering $847 billion for defense for 2023, new reporting finds — a $45 billion increase over President Joe Biden’s already massive defense budget request.
Four people familiar with negotiations told Politico that House and Senate lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have come to a “compromise” on the budget, which could balloon as high as $858 billion when programs outside of the congressional armed services committees are included. $847 billion is equal to the Senate Armed Services Committee’s proposal from earlier this year.
If approved, this would be the largest-ever defense budget, building upon previous years’ already unfathomably large allotments for U.S. militarism. As in previous years, the defense budget is likely to pass — no matter how absurdly high it gets — as it is deemed a “must-pass” budget item every year by both Democratic and Republican war hawks.
Antiwar and progressive advocates have strongly condemned the proposed budget, saying that it is an absurd amount of money to spend in a time of great economic inequality and a largely-unmitigated climate crisis.
“People are worried about being able to pay rent, about affording groceries, and about being able to afford healthcare. $847 billion for the Pentagon, over half of which goes directly to companies like Lockheed Martin, is a slap in the face to every constituent of every member of Congress that votes in favor of it,” CODEPINK National Co-Director Danaka Katovich said in a statement to Truthout.
“It shows a lack of care. It shows a fundamental difference in the interests working people hold versus the people that govern us,” Katovich continued.
Lindsay Koshgarian, director of the National Priorities Project, added that lawmakers are often deficit hawks for proposals to help the working class, but roll over for the defense budget, no matter the figure.
“The same legislators who refused to continue child tax credits that cut child poverty in half are now choosing to add tens of billions of dollars to an already-enormous Pentagon budget,” Koshgarian told Truthout. “The bonus for the Pentagon is more than the entire annual climate investment under the Inflation Reduction Act. The only ones who will benefit are the corporations that sell weapons to the U.S. and around the world.”
If this budget request goes through, the U.S. will have allocated $1.67 trillion toward military spending during the Biden administration alone. At this rate — with Biden’s increasing defense requests, and Congress’s repeated escalation of those requests — a $1 trillion annual budget for the Pentagon could soon be in sight.
Progressives, frustrated with the incessant increases to the military budget, have said time and time again that just fractions of the amount that the U.S. spends on defense each year could fund other urgent priorities.
Less than half of the likely proposal could pay for the next 10 years of climate action planned under the Inflation Reduction Act, for instance, or the entirety of Biden’s student debt cancellation plan. Meanwhile, less than a quarter of the $21 trillion that the U.S. has spent on defense since 9/11 would be enough to fund the construction of a fully renewable energy grid.
Progressive lawmakers fiercely criticized Biden’s defense request earlier this year.
“It is simply unacceptable that after the conclusion of our longest war and during a period of Democratic control of both chambers of Congress, the president is proposing record high military spending,” said Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Washington) this spring.
“Appropriators and advocates are constantly called to answer for how we will afford spending on lowering costs and expanding access to healthcare, housing, childcare services, on fighting the Covid-19 pandemic, and on combating climate change — but such concerns evaporate when it comes to the Pentagon’s endlessly growing, unaudited budget,” Jayapal continued.
Indeed, the Pentagon is the only federal agency that has never passed an audit. Critics point out that over half of the defense budget goes toward private contractors like Lockheed Martin and Raytheon, resulting in huge profits for these companies; in the first three quarters of 2022, while the public has been suffering due to inflation, Lockheed Martin made over $4.2 billion in profit, while Raytheon reported an operating profit of over $3.9 billion.
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