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US military tanks in the US Centcomm Area of Responsibility

U.S. soldiers in the 30th Armored Brigade Combat Team return to base after conducting a live-fire training event in the U.S. Central Command Area of Responsibility on March 4, 2020. (Photo: The National Guard/Flickr/cc)

'Not a Single Dollar More to Pentagon' in Infrastructure Package, Groups Demand

"Of the many, many sectors of the economy and society that are underfunded, the Pentagon is not among them," said one backer of a letter signed by 48 organizations.

Julia Conley

Four dozen public interest groups on Wednesday demanded that Congress include "not a single dollar more to the Pentagon" in the forthcoming infrastructure and relief bills that are currently being negotiated, calling on lawmakers to reject adding to the military's bloated budget as Americans face continued economic injustice, housing insecurity, and the climate crisis. 

Organizations including Public Citizen, Win Without War, the Sunrise Movement, and Demand Progress wrote in a letter (pdf) to congressional leaders that despite President Joe Biden's existing request for $753 billion in defense spending in his 2022 fiscal year budget proposal, lawmakers have made numerous requests to fund military projects with the American Jobs Plan.

"No way should a dollar be siphoned from bridges, clean water, broadband, child care, poverty reduction, healthcare, averting catastrophic climate change or other acute needs in order to stuff more money in the Pentagon's overflowing coffers."
—Robert Weissman, Public Citizen

As Mother Jones reported, senators from both sides of the aisle requested $25 billion to upgrade Navy shipyards.

"We are a nation experiencing multiple crises," the 48 organizations wrote Wednesday, pointing out that Americans are "recovering from a year of record unemployment and housing insecurity, reeling from the loss of loved ones, staggering under the weight of multiplying medical and student loan debt, confronting systemic racism and violent white nationalism, and combating the ongoing climate crisis."

"Militarized spending has not solved these problems, and in many ways has made them worse," they wrote. "Every additional dollar allocated to the Pentagon is another dollar that is not being used to address these urgent challenges, and will not provide the relief our communities desperately need."

The letter followed a similar call by progressive lawmakers including Reps. Cori Bush (D-Mo.), Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), and Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), who noted in a letter (pdf) last week that Pentagon funding in the American Jobs Plan "will actually make our effort to create jobs more difficult, as research shows that other sectors, like healthcare, clean energy, and education will create far more and far better paying jobs per dollar invested than the defense industry."

In Wednesday's letter, the public interest groups wrote that the Pentagon has already mismanaged taxpayer funding it received as part of the CARES Act in March 2020—spending the majority of a $1 billion fund meant to build up the country's medical equipment supply on body armor, jet engines, drone technology, and other military spending. 

"Instead of further lining the pockets of defense contractors, we must cut Pentagon dollars from the infrastructure bill and ensure our tax dollars benefit communities suffering from housing insecurity, hunger, and violent racist and patriarchal policymaking," said Mac Hamilton, advocacy director for Women's Action for New Directions, a signatory of the letter. 

Stephen Semler, co-founder of the think tank Security Policy Reform Institute, wrote that Biden's proposal for defense spending for 2022 is already $127 billion more than the total amount in the bipartisan American Jobs Plan.

"It gets uglier when these figures are annualized," Semler wrote. "The infrastructure plan is spread out over five years, so average annual funding for it is $115.8 billion. By contrast, the [Department of Defense] appropriations bill is just for FY2022."

Instead of including even more funding for the Pentagon, the groups wrote in their letter, the American Jobs Plan and the budget reconciliations bill Democratic leaders say will follow must focus "squarely on our communities' most urgent needs."

"Of the many, many sectors of the economy and society that are underfunded, the Pentagon is not among them," said Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen. "If there are unmet military infrastructure needs, the bloated Pentagon budget is more than enough to attend to them."

"No way should a dollar be siphoned from bridges, clean water, broadband, child care, poverty reduction, healthcare, averting catastrophic climate change or other acute needs in order to stuff more money in the Pentagon's overflowing coffers," he added.


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