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

60+ Groups Demand Senate Pass Sanders Amendment to Slash 'Out of Control' Pentagon Budget by $74 Billion

"The current moment should force us to confront the reality that, for too long, we have invested in the wrong priorities, the wrong tools, and the wrong solutions."

Jake Johnson

More than 60 progressive advocacy groups representing millions of members across the U.S. are pressuring senators to pass an amendment led by Sen. Bernie Sanders that would cut the proposed Pentagon budget by 10% and redirect the $74 billion in savings toward funding healthcare, education, jobs, and housing in impoverished and neglected communities.

"Our militarism budget is out of control," a coalition of 61 advocacy groups wrote in a letter (pdf) to senators on Monday. "In 2019, the United States spent more money on our military than the next nine countries combined. The Department of Defense's budget eclipses that of federal courts, education, the State Department, local economic development, public health, and environmental protection combined, yet the Pentagon is incapable of passing a basic audit."

"Millions have lost their jobs and access to healthcare as the novel coronavirus pandemic rages on. The current moment should force us to confront the reality that, for too long, we have invested in the wrong priorities."
—Letter

The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) currently under consideration in the Senate calls for a $740.5 billion military budget for fiscal year 2021. Last week, Sanders and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) unveiled an amendment that would reduce the proposed outlay by 10% and use the savings to "create a federal grant program to fund healthcare, housing, childcare, and educational opportunities for cities and towns experiencing a poverty rate of 25% or more."

Reps. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) and Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) have introduced a companion amendment in the House. Lee has also introduced a resolution proposing up to $350 billion in cuts to the Pentagon budget by closing U.S. military bases overseas, ending funding for ongoing wars, and slashing private service contracting.

The coalition of progressive advocacy groups—which includes Public Citizen, RootsAction, CodePink, and Win Without War—wrote Monday that "common-sense steps" like "eliminating redundant and unusable weapons systems, ending wars, ceasing reliance on expensive contractors, and rejecting new nuclear weapons development" would "allow us to properly focus our investments on our most urgent and pressing human needs."

"The jarring recent images of police with weapons of war in our streets is a stark reminder of how militarism and white supremacy drive misplaced spending priorities both at home and abroad," the groups wrote. "Meanwhile, all over the country, millions have lost their jobs and access to healthcare as the novel coronavirus pandemic rages on. The current moment should force us to confront the reality that, for too long, we have invested in the wrong priorities, the wrong tools, and the wrong solutions."

In a virtual "Putting People Over Pentagon" town hall Monday night, some of the organizations behind the letter joined progressive lawmakers to discuss the urgent need to reduce America's bloated military budget and invest in key domestic priorities.

"This 10% cut is eminently doable and reasonable," Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said during the event. "But it's not going to be easy... As progressives, it is our job to redefine and reimagine what it is to be strong. Strong means an end to endless wars and a return to robust diplomacy and international coalition building."

Read the full letter:

The undersigned organizations, representing our millions of members across the country, write to you in strong support of the proposed amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021 that would reallocate 10 percent of the bloated Pentagon budget toward severely underfunded human needs priorities—many of which are more critical than ever as our country continues to confront the Covid-19 pandemic. We urge you to co-sponsor Amendment 1788 introduced by Senators Sanders and Markey, and vote in support should it reach the Senate floor.

Our militarism budget is out of control. In 2019, the United States spent more money on our military than the next nine countries combined. The Department of Defense's budget eclipses that of federal courts, education, the State Department, local economic development, public health, and environmental protection combined, yet the Pentagon is incapable of passing a basic audit.

Multiple analyses have determined that U.S. and collective security would not suffer, and in fact would improve by, cutting hundreds of billions of dollars from the runaway Pentagon budget through common-sense steps, like eliminating redundant and unusable weapons systems, ending wars, ceasing reliance on expensive contractors, and rejecting new nuclear weapons development. These overdue steps would instead allow us to properly focus our investments on our most urgent and pressing human needs. Polling demonstrates that this is a popular idea, and most American voters want to see money redirected from the Pentagon to invest in human security.

The jarring recent images of police with weapons of war in our streets is a stark reminder of how militarism and white supremacy drive misplaced spending priorities both at home and abroad. Meanwhile, all over the country, millions have lost their jobs and access to healthcare as the novel coronavirus pandemic rages on. The current moment should force us to confront the reality that, for too long, we have invested in the wrong priorities, the wrong tools, and the wrong solutions.

As a point of comparison: last year, the Centers for Disease Control budget was $7 billion, just 7 percent of the national policing budget, and less than 1 percent of the Pentagon budget. Those three figures alone tell a tragic story about what and who this country prioritizes and values.

We should no longer tolerate unchecked spending on systems that fuel violence and corporate greed at the expense of the basic needs of our people. This amendment is a crucial step toward a federal budget that actually aligns with our values. We strongly urge you to support it.


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