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Sanders Proposes Slashing Pentagon Budget by 10% to Reinvest Funds in Communities 'Devastated by Poverty and Incarceration'

Instead of spending $740 billion on the Department of Defense, said the Vermont senator, the United States should reinvest in "cities and towns that we've neglected and abandoned for far too long."

This picture taken 26 December 2011 shows the Pentagon building in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Staff/AFP via Getty Images)

Sen. Bernie Sanders is planning to introduce an amendment in the coming days to slash the Pentagon budget by 10% and redirect that money toward healthcare, housing, and education funding for U.S. communities ravaged by poverty and mass incarceration.

"Instead of spending $740 billion on the Dept. of Defense, let's rebuild communities at home devastated by poverty and incarceration," the Vermont senator tweeted Friday. "I'll be filing an amendment to cut the DoD by 10% and reinvest that money in cities and towns that we've neglected and abandoned for far too long."

The Sanders amendment, which is still being crafted, will seek to impose a $74 billion cut on the $740.5 billion military budget proposed by the Senate version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for fiscal year 2021. The sprawling annual defense policy bill passed the Senate Armed Services Committee Thursday with an overwhelming bipartisan vote of 25-2.

The NDAA is expected to reach the Senate floor the week of June 22.

Politico reported Thursday that the bill in its current form authorizes "$636.4 billion for the base Pentagon budget, $69 billion for overseas operations, and $25.9 billion for national security programs under the Energy Department"—e.g., nuclear weapons programs.

"The bill includes $9.1 billion to buy 95 F-35 fighters—60 Air Force F-35As, 12 Marine F-35Bs and 23 carrier-based F-35C variants—or 14 more than requested," Politico reported. "It also prohibits the Air Force from retiring the A-10 and from divesting older KC-10 and KC-135 tankers until technical issues with the new KC-46 are fixed."

The United States is projected to spend close to $660 billion on non-defense discretionary programs in fiscal year 2021—around $80 billion less than the defense budget proposed by the Senate NDAA. If Sanders' amendment is added to the bill, the U.S. would instead spend more on non-defense discretionary programs—which encompass education, the environment, housing, healthcare, and other areas—than on defense.

Sanders is not the only member of Congress pushing for substantial cuts to the military budget and more funding for healthcare and other domestic priorities. As Common Dreams reported last month, a group of 29 House Democrats demanded a substantial reduction of the Pentagon budget and reinvestment of those funds into the fight against Covid-19.

"Year after year, the Pentagon budget has inflated to historic levels while the vital needs of everyday people are left unmet," Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) said in a statement. "The Covid pandemic has laid bare how America has failed to make its budgets reflect the real needs of our everyday families. It's long past time that we address our bloated military budget and retarget resources towards policies and programs that matter the most for keeping us safe, healthy, and secure."

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