The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release
Contact: Olivia Alperstein, Media Manager, Institute for Policy Studies,

President Trump's $54 Billion Pentagon Grab

In its opening volley in the federal budget process, the Trump administration has called for a nearly 10 percent boost in military spending, to be funded by cuts to domestic spending and foreign aid. Domestic and foreign aid spending already account for less than half of the federal discretionary budget.

"If this is an effort to put America first, it's a complete misfire," said National Priorities Project's Research Director Lindsay Koshgarian. "America has long been first when it comes to military spending and military strength. But we're not first when it comes to education, health outcomes, or economic mobility. Those are the areas where we need to invest more. This budget does exactly the opposite."

The proposal involves cutting domestic spending for programs like the National Endowment for the Arts, National Endowment for the Humanities, Corporation for Public Broadcasting and others. The identified cuts amount to approximately $3 billion - far less than the $54 billion proposed.

"The proposed cuts are not just inadequate to fund the proposed military increase, they're also ill-advised," Koshgarian said. "Foreign aid and diplomacy are often understood as simply a humanitarian or charitable endeavor, but it's far more strategic than that. U.S. diplomacy and foreign aid are carefully targeted to support stability in parts of the world where the U.S. has important safety or national interests. They're recognized by military leaders as a necessary tool in their toolbox. You can't solve every problem with a gun."

Recent U.S. military budgets have been upward of $600 billion per year - more than half of the annual discretionary budget, and higher than at any time during the high-rolling Reagan administration. The Pentagon itself identified $25 billion per year in wasteful bureaucratic spending - nearly half the proposed annual increase - but has failed to curtail the waste. And the Pentagon is the only major federal agency that has never completed an audit.

Cutting $54 billion from the federal discretionary budget won't be easy or painless. For comparison, $54 billion is more than the discretionary budgets of the following agencies:

  • Department of Homeland Security ($48 billion)
  • Housing and Urban Development ($38 billion)
  • Department of Energy ($30 billion)
  • Department of Justice ($29 billion)
  • Department of State ($29 billion)
  • Environmental Protection Agency ($8 billion)
  • National Science Foundation ($7 billion)
  • Corporation for Public Broadcasting ($485 million)
  • National Endowment for the Arts ($148 million)

"Any new spending for the Pentagon should come first from ending wasteful spending within the Pentagon itself. We shouldn't raid programs that make our lives better when the Pentagon isn't doing its fair share to combat waste," Koshgarian said.

The National Priorities Project (NPP) is a 501(c)(3) research organization that analyzes and clarifies federal data so that people can understand and influence how their tax dollars are spent. Located in Northampton, MA, since 1983, NPP focuses on the impact of federal spending and other policies at the national, state, congressional district and local levels. For more information, go to