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Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby speaks at press conference on January 28, 2021 in Arlington, Virginia. (Photo: Yasin Ozturk/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby speaks at press conference on January 28, 2021 in Arlington, Virginia. (Photo: Yasin Ozturk/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

'The Status Quo Is Failing': 36 Progressive Groups Demand Pentagon Cuts

"We must change course and invest in the needs of people rather than the greed of the military-industrial complex."

Kenny Stancil

Rejecting President Joe Biden's call for a $753 billion military budget as a non-starter, a diverse coalition of dozens of progressive advocacy groups on Friday demanded that Biden and Congress work to reduce funding for the Pentagon in favor of increased spending on programs that improve social well-being.

"We simply cannot justify pouring billions of dollars into weapons and wars that serve to maintain conflict and violence at home and abroad... while constituents in every district continue to struggle to meet their basic needs."
—Coalition statement

Last week, the Biden administration unveiled its first congressional budget blueprint, which asks for $715 billion to be allocated to the Pentagon, a slight increase from the current $704 billion level approved under former President Donald Trump.

Biden requested $753 billion in overall military spending, compared with $769 billion for non-defense federal departments, provoking sharp criticism from Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) and other progressive lawmakers.

"As organizations that believe strongly in the need to invest in our communities, there are many parts of this budget request to celebrate," wrote 36 social justice, faith, immigration, climate, and peace groups Friday in a statement (pdf). "Unfortunately, an increased Pentagon budget is not one of them."

"It is crystal clear that the status quo is failing to keep our communities at home and abroad safe," said the coalition, which includes CodePink, the National Priorities Project at the Institute for Policy Studies, Public Citizen, and Win Without War, among others. "We must change course and invest in the needs of people rather than the greed of the military-industrial complex."

Citing the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic "that has killed over 500,000 people in the United States and nearly three million people around the world, led to the highest national unemployment since the Great Depression, and ravaged the U.S. and global economy," the groups emphasized that "we simply cannot justify pouring billions of dollars into weapons and wars that serve to maintain conflict and violence at home and abroad."

"The weapons industry's wealth has only grown during the pandemic, while constituents in every district continue to struggle to meet their basic needs." And yet, the coalition noted, "the Pentagon topline in this proposed budget request communicates a commitment to the status quo."

Last Saturday, as Common Dreams reported, Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, argued that amid the devastating coronavirus crisis, it's time to stop "dumping billions of dollars into a bloated Pentagon budget." Other members of the caucus joined her in calling for cuts to military spending.

Echoing the critiques of Biden's budget request made by progressive lawmakers, the coalition said Friday that "after a surge of funding for the Pentagon over the last four years, it is important that Pentagon spending not increase in any way, and in fact it is vital that it be reduced."

"The previous administration, with congressional acquiescence, increased the Pentagon's budget by $133 billion even as the Defense Department failed its first two audits, continued to produce faulty weapons systems and programs with cost overruns, accelerated a new global nuclear arms race, and remained one of the world's largest polluters at a time when climate change presents an existential threat," the coalition wrote.

"That Trump-era surge capped nearly two decades of endless war with a price tag of more than $6 trillion that could have been invested in diplomacy, domestic infrastructure, green jobs, healthcare, and more," the groups added.

As Common Dreams reported earlier Friday, the U.S. has spent $2.26 trillion on military operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan alone since the 2001 U.S. invasion, according to the Costs of War Project, which also estimated that 241,000 people have died as a direct result of the war.

Last month, the Biden administration was given a blueprint for how to slash military spending.

As the coalition pointed out, "There are numerous proposals on how to rein in the gargantuan Pentagon budget while increasing national and global security."

"We are eager to work with Congress and the Biden administration to support these or other long-overdue efforts to scale back Pentagon spending," the groups added. "The American people know that producing more weapons, greenlighting corporate contracts, and propping up endless war slush funds will not make us safer."


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