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For Immediate Release


Olivia Alperstein,

Press Release

$21 Trillion Over 20 Years: Breaking New Report Analyzes the Full Cost of Militarization Since 9/11

“Our $21 trillion investment in militarism has cost far more than dollars. It has cost the lives of civilians and troops lost in war, and the lives ended or torn apart by our brutal and punitive immigration, policing and mass incarceration systems."

The National Priorities Project at the Institute for Policy Studies released a staggering, groundbreaking new report, “State of Insecurity: The Cost of Militarization Since 9/11” on September 1.

The report found that over the last 20 years, militarized foreign and domestic policies in the United States have cost $21 trillion.

Twenty years later, the War on Terror has fed a sprawling security apparatus that was designed for counterterrorism but has also taken on immigration, crime, and drugs. One result is a turbo-charged militarism and xenophobia in both international and domestic policy that has driven some of the deepest divisions in U.S. politics, including the growing threats of white supremacy and authoritarianism. Another result is a long-standing neglect of threats like those from pandemics, the climate crisis, and economic inequality.

Key Findings

  • Twenty years after 9/11, the response has contributed to thoroughly militarized foreign and domestic policies at a cost of $21 trillion over the last 20 years.
  • The costs of militarization since 9/11 include $16 trillion for the military (including at least $7.2 trillion for military contracts); $3 trillion for veterans’ programs; $949 billion for Homeland Security; and $732 billion for federal law enforcement.
  • For far less, the United States could reinvest over the next 20 years to meet critical challenges that have gone neglected for the past 20 years:
    • $4.5 trillion could fully decarbonize the U.S. electric grid
    • $2.3 trillion could create 5 million jobs at $15 per hour with benefits and cost-of-living adjustments for 10 years
    • $1.7 trillion could erase student debt
    • $449 billion could continue the extended Child Tax Credit for another 10 years
    • $200 billion could guarantee free preschool for every 3-and-4-year old for 10 years, and raise teacher pay
    • $25 billion could provide COVID vaccines for the entire population of low-income countries

“Our $21 trillion investment in militarism has cost far more than dollars. It has cost the lives of civilians and troops lost in war, and the lives ended or torn apart by our brutal and punitive immigration, policing and mass incarceration systems,” said Lindsay Koshgarian, Program Director of the National Priorities Project at the Institute for Policy Studies. “Meanwhile, we’ve neglected so much of what we really need. Militarism hasn’t protected us from a pandemic that at its worst took the toll of a 9/11 every day, from poverty and instability driven by staggering inequality, or from hurricanes and wildfires made worse by climate change.”

“The end of the war in Afghanistan represents a chance to reinvest in our real needs,” Koshgarian continued. “Twenty years from now, we could live in a world made safer by investments in infrastructure, job creation, support for families, public health, and new energy systems, if we are willing to take a hard look at our priorities.”

Read the full report here.

To speak to any of the report authors for comment or further information, please contact IPS Media Manager Olivia Alperstein at or (202) 704-9011.


Institute for Policy Studies turns Ideas into Action for Peace, Justice and the Environment. We strengthen social movements with independent research, visionary thinking, and links to the grassroots, scholars and elected officials. I.F. Stone once called IPS "the think tank for the rest of us." Since 1963, we have empowered people to build healthy and democratic societies in communities, the US, and the world. Click here to learn more, or read the latest below.

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