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US Spent $1.1 Trillion of Federal Discretionary Money on Militarism in Past Year

This left less than two-fifths of the discretionary budget for public health, education, the environment, and more.

President Joe Biden arrives for the U.S. Coast Guard change of command ceremony at USCG Headquarters in Washington, D.C., on June 1, 2022.

A staggering majority of the U.S. federal discretionary budget went toward so-called defense and other militaristic and carceral programs in the past year, a new report reveals, as U.S. defense spending continues to reach new heights.

According to an analysis by the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) released on Wednesday, the U.S. spent $1.1 trillion of the discretionary budget on militarism and war last year, including funding for the Pentagon and law enforcement agencies like the Department of Homeland Security.

This amounts to 62 percent of the $1.8 trillion allotted to discretionary spending in total in Fiscal Year 2023 — a pool of spending that is also meant to fund programs for public health, education, housing, disaster relief, the environment, scientific research, and more.

As a result of the huge amount of spending allocated to military and law enforcement, less than $2 of every $5 of the budget was spent on such public programs in FY2023. Even though the vast majority of the total $1.1 trillion was spent on weapons and the Pentagon, the budget for federal law enforcement alone ($31 billion) was double the budget for child care and early childhood education last year ($15 billion).

Tellingly, IPS found that the U.S. spent 16 times more on weapons and the Pentagon, at $920 billion, than it did on foreign humanitarian aid and diplomacy.

This represents a huge increase in spending on militarism from previous years. According to the analysis, adjusted for inflation, such spending has increased by 94 percent since 2001.

“When we invest so heavily in militarism at home and abroad, we deprive our own communities and people of solutions to problems that pose immediate security threats,” said report author Lindsay Koshgarian, IPS’s National Priorities Project program director.

“We underfund programs to end poverty, provide affordable housing, bolster public education, and protect clean air and water at our peril,” Koshgarian continued. “Spending on militarism takes up the majority of the federal discretionary budget, and it has grown faster than all other spending. If we keep up these patterns, we are hurtling toward a future where we can’t afford the basics of a civilized society.”

These massive increases in spending for initiatives like the increased militarization of the southern border and the failed war on drugs have only led to the U.S. having the highest rate of incarceration in the world, while U.S. military conquests like its wars in the Middle East have sapped trillions away from U.S. taxpayers and yielded millions of deaths in the region.

Meanwhile, hundreds of billions of this spending goes to private defense contractors, with roughly half of the Pentagon budget going to defense contractors each year. This amounts to tens of billions of dollars of pure profits for corporations like Lockheed Martin and Raytheon, who, a former Pentagon official revealed in an interview aired this week, have been intentionally “gouging” the prices of weapons and equipment in order to make as much profit from federal contracts as possible.

But still, “Congress continues to fund these militarized programs — the military, homeland security, and federal law enforcement — nearly as a matter of faith,” the report says.

Indeed, Congress increases the amount that the government spends on the Pentagon — the only federal agency that has never passed an audit — nearly every year. This spending is on track to reach a new high for Fiscal Year 2024, with the White House issuing a record high request for $886 billion in discretionary funding for defense next year, including $842 billion for the Pentagon.

For some lawmakers, the U.S.’s absurdly bloated defense budget still isn’t enough; in talks over their far right debt ceiling wish list, Republicans have been saying that they want to push military spending even higher while also demanding cuts in overall spending for health care and public programs.

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