For Immediate Release

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Lee, Pocan Lead 29 Dems Demanding Defense Spending Decrease Ahead of NDAA Talks

WASHINGTON - Representatives Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Mark Pocan (D-WI) led a group of 29 Democrats demanding that this year’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) authorize a level of spending below last year’s budget, in a letter to House Armed Services Committee (HASC) leadership this morning.

Since the start of the Trump Administration, defense spending has increased every year—over $100 billion, almost 20%, in three years. Now more than ever, in the middle of a global pandemic, we cannot allow this ballooning spending to be directed towards this president’s warmongering. Over 90,000 Americans have died from COVID-19, and we must focus our spending efforts on the expansion of testing, contact tracing, treatment, vaccine development and relief for the people of this country. Last year’s NDAA authorized $738 billion in defense spending for FY20, while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) got 1/90th of that: less than $8 billion.

“Year after year, the Pentagon budget has inflated to historic levels while the vital needs of everyday people are left unmet,” said Congresswoman Lee. “The COVID pandemic has laid bare how America has failed to make its budgets reflect the real needs of our everyday families. It’s long past time that we address our bloated military budget and retarget resources towards policies and programs that matter the most for keeping us safe, healthy, and secure.”

“We are facing a crisis in this country and billions of dollars in defense spending increases won’t solve it,” said Congressman Pocan. “Year after year, we see taxpayer dollars line the pocket of defense contractors instead of supporting the American public. The enemy we’re fighting right now is COVID-19, so our sole focus should be on expanding testing, tracing and treatment, funding towards vaccine development, and relief for the American people. Increasing defense spending now would be a slap in the face to the families of over 90,000 Americans that have died from this virus.”

Last year’s House NDAA passed out of the House of Representatives in July with zero Republican votes and eight Democratic “NO” votes—both Pocan and Lee voted against last year’s defense spending increase. Republicans withstanding, 19 Democrats would need to vote “NO” this year for the bill to fail. 29 Democrats signed this letter.

This letter was co-signed by Representatives Blumenauer (D-OE), Cohen (D-TN), DeFazio (D-OR), DeGette (D-CO), Espaillat (D-NY), Evans (D-PA), J. Garcia (D-IL), Grijalva (D-AZ), Huffman (D-CA), Jayapal (D-WA), H. Johnson (D-GA), Kennedy (D-MA), Khanna (D-CA), A. Levin (D-MI), McGovern (D-MA), Napolitano (D-CA), Norton (D-D.C.), Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Omar (D-MN), Pressley (D-MA), Raskin (D-MD), Sarbanes (D-MD), Schakowsky (D-IL), Serrano (D-NY), Tlaib (D-MI), Velázquez (D-NY), and Watson Coleman (D-NJ).

The letter was endorsed by Peace Action; Public Citizen; Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL); Just Foreign Policy; Pax Christi USA; United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries; National Priorities Project at the Institute for Policy Studies; American Friends Service Committee; Global Ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the United Church of Christ; Council for a Livable World; CODEPINK; Women’s Action for New Directions (WAND); Indivisible; Center for International Policy; Beyond the Bomb; Demand Progress; Win Without War; Physicians for Social Responsibility (including the Greater Boston, San Francisco Bay Area, Maine, and Washington Chapters); and Washington Against Nuclear Weapons Coalition.

See the full letter below and here.


The Honorable Adam Smith Chairman

House Armed Services Committee 2216 Rayburn House Office Building

Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable Mac Thornberry Ranking Member

House Armed Services Committee 2216 Rayburn House Office Building Washington, DC 20515

 

Dear Chairman Smith and Ranking Member Thornberry:

We write to request a reduction in defense spending during the coronavirus pandemic.

As you draft this year’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), we encourage you to authorize a level of spending below last year’s authorized level. Congress must remain focused on responding to the coronavirus pandemic and distributing needed aid domestically. In order to do so, appropriators must have access to increased levels of non-defense spending which could be constrained by any increase to defense spending.

In the last three years alone – during a time of relative peace – we have increased annual defense spending by more than $100 billion, almost 20 percent. This has occurred during a period without any military action authorized by this Congress. Right now, the coronavirus is our greatest adversary. It has killed more than 90,000 Americans, far surpassing the number of casualties during the Vietnam War.1 We must remain focused on combating the coronavirus and not on increasing military spending that already outpaces the next 10 closest nations combined (China, India, Russia, Saudi Arabia, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Japan, South Korea, and Brazil).2 At some point, spending more than every other nation on earth must be enough.

America needs a coronavirus cure, not more war. We need more testing, not more bombs. In order to reopen our nation in a data-driven, safe manner, we need to focus our spending efforts on the millions of additional coronavirus tests and tens of thousands of additional contract tracers we will need, as well as covering treatment costs, developing therapeutics, and distributing future vaccines.

We thank you for your service as Chairman and Ranking Member of the Armed Services Committee and your consideration of this request. These are unparalleled times. We encourage you to constrain defense spending during this pandemic so that we can defeat the greatest threat to our nation – the coronavirus.

Sincerely,

Mark Pocan,  Barbara Lee

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Congresswoman Barbara Lee, a Democrat, represents the 13th District in California.

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