pentagon

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

'Unconscionable': House Committee Adds $37 Billion to Biden's $813 Billion Military Budget

The proposed increase costs 10 times more than preserving the free school lunch program that Congress is allowing to expire "because it's 'too expensive,'" Public Citizen noted.

Progressives expressed outrage after a House panel voted Wednesday to tack an additional $37 billion on top of President Joe Biden's already gargantuan military spending request.

"Members of the House Armed Services Committee put the demands of the military-industrial complex over the needs of the American people yet again."

The Biden administration's March request for $813 billion in military spending for Fiscal Year 2023 already marked a $31 billion increase over the current, historically large sum of $782 billion.

During its markup of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the House Armed Services Committee approved by a 42-17 margin Rep. Jared Golden's (D-Maine) amendment to boost the topline budget by $37 billion.

"Today members of the House Armed Services Committee put the demands of the military-industrial complex over the needs of the American people yet again," Public Citizen president Robert Weissman said in a statement.

"Granting $37 billion to a war machine that can't even pass an audit while saying that we 'can't afford' what American families and communities need is quintessential hypocrisy," said Weissman. "Congress can still correct this misstep--rerouting that funding into investments like economic stability, climate justice, and affordable healthcare for all Americans instead."

The House panel's increase comes less than a week after the Senate Armed Services Committee voted to add $45 billion to Biden's $813 billion request, pushing the upper chamber's total proposed budget for national military spending in the coming fiscal year to a whopping $857.6 billion--including $817 billion for the Pentagon, $30 billion for the Department of Energy, and an additional $10.6 billion that falls outside NDAA jurisdiction.

During a speech Wednesday in which she explained why she voted against Golden's "unconscionable" amendment, Rep. Sara Jacobs (D-Cailf.) stressed that "there are simply not military solutions to every problem."

Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) also voted against Golden's amendment and explained his opposition in remarks delivered from the House floor.

"If you're supporting this amendment, you're basically paving the way to a trillion-dollar defense [bill]," said Khanna. "Is that what we want in this country?"

"I just want to be clear," he added. "There is no country in the world that is putting over half its discretionary budget into defense and I would rather for us to be the preeminent economy of the 21st century by investing in the health of our people, in the education of our people, in the industries of the future."

Public Citizen, meanwhile, noted that the military spending increase approved by the House panel costs 10 times more than preserving the free school lunch program that Congress is allowing to expire "because it's 'too expensive.'"

Public health experts from the progressive advocacy group have also spent more than a year urging the U.S. to ramp up vaccine manufacturing and inoculate the world against the coronavirus with an investment of just $25 billion, or roughly 3% of the nation's annual military budget.

Last week, Reps. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) and Mark Pocan (D-Wis.)--co-chairs of the Defense Spending Reduction Caucus--introduced the People Over Pentagon Act of 2022, which proposes cutting Pentagon spending for the next fiscal year by $100 billion and reallocating those funds toward threats facing the nation that "are not military in nature," such as the Covid-19 pandemic, the climate emergency, and worsening inequality.

Although a majority of U.S. voters are opposed to military spending in excess of $800 billion, earlier efforts to slash the Pentagon's budget have failed to gain enough support to pass the House or Senate thanks in part to lawmakers who receive significant amounts of campaign cash from the weapons industry, which benefits from constantly ballooning expenditures.

Roughly 55% of all Pentagon spending went to private sector military contractors from FY 2002 to FY 2021, according to Stephen Semler of the Security Policy Reform Institute. "If this privatization of funds rate over the last 20 years holds," Semler wrote in December, arms dealers will gobble up an estimated $407 billion in public money in FY 2022.

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