In response to reports that the Biden administration may propose the highest level of military spending in U.S. history for fiscal year 2024, a broad range of nearly 60 advocacy groups on Tuesday urged the White House to divert "some of our supersized Pentagon budget to better meet the needs of the American people."
Last week, Pentagon Comptroller Michael McCord toldPolitico that officials were "very close" to agreeing on a topline figure for what would likely be the largest-ever U.S. military budget, which the Biden administration will include in its overall 2024 budget request.
"I do expect it will be a bigger number than Congress provided last year," McCord said.
In a letter to President Joe Biden, 59 peace, national security, climate justice, racial justice, faith, and anti-poverty groups wrote that "we cannot and must not defend the status quo when it comes to the Pentagon budget."
"We cannot and must not defend the status quo when it comes to the Pentagon budget."
"This year's military budget—$858 billion—is the second-highest since World War II. It is 10 times Russia's military budget and more than 2.5 times that of China. It is greater than the next nine countries combined," the groups noted.
The letter continues:
About $452 billion of it will go straight into the pockets of big corporate weapons contractors. Congress added $45 billion on top of what your administration requested—an amount greater than the entire climate investment portion of the Inflation Reduction Act. It will not take many more years for our military budget to hit the $1 trillion mark, an astonishing sum given the Pentagon has never been able to pass an audit or properly account for the billions it already receives.
"This is why we urge you to request a lower military budget this year," the groups explained. "We reject recent calls to roll back the entire federal budget because we can and should be spending more on meeting human needs and addressing the climate emergency through a just transition from fossil fuels and support to communities on the frontlines of the climate crisis."
"One of the many ways we can accomplish this is by spending less on the wasteful Pentagon budget," the letter argues. "We reject pouring our dollars into outdated ships, malfunctioning planes, or record-breaking contractor CEO salaries while everyday people remain hungry, unhoused, in need of adequate healthcare, or seeking a living wage."
In a recent opinion piece, retired Air Force Lt. Col. William J. Astore—a self-described "card-carrying member of the military-industrial complex"—wrote in favor of slashing the Pentagon budget in half.
"Isn't it time to force the Pentagon to pass an audit each year—it's failed the last five!—or else cut its budget even more deeply?" asked Astore, whose piece invoked earlier military-industrial complex critics including former World War II Supreme Allied Commander and President Dwight D. Eisenhower and Maj. Gen. Smedley Butler.
"Isn't it time to hold Congress truly responsible for enabling ever more war by voting out military sycophants?" Astore added. "Isn't it time to recognize, as America's founders did, that sustaining a vast military establishment constitutes the slow and certain death of democracy?"
In an interview with CBS News' "The Takeout" that aired last week, former U.S. Acting Defense Secretary Christopher C. Miller also said the military budget should be halved.
"We have created an entire enterprise that focuses economically on creating crisis to justify outrageously high defense spending," said the former U.S. Army Special Forces colonel—who served for 73 days during the final months of the Trump administration, including during the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
"I think by constantly harping on the fact that China is the new threat and we're going to go to war with them someday actually plays right into Chairman [Xi Jinping's] hands and the Chinese Communist Party," Miller added.