The thing is, most Americans don’t follow this Civics 101 process, or could care less. Perhaps if they knew that 63% of the US discretionary budget allocated to the arms industry so our military can obliterate brown people for our freedom, they might pay closer attention. A lot of us have either succumbed to grounded prospects and the futility of dealing with the Military/Industrial/Congressional Complex or caved to the bloated economics of media fear cards and the military elite narrative. The rest of us are still pushing our boulders uphill, futilely persisting with Sisyphean expectations of reasonable reductions (read: crumbs) to Pentagon spending. On the other hand, things might be looking up. With an economy on life support in the middle of a global pandemic, with streets convulsing with police abuse and racial protests, and no end in sight, at least it’s taken our minds off of our catastrophic climate collapse. And so far, no threat of an asteroid collision.
Here’s a bizarre concept for a new normal. What if our empathetically bereft House and Senate Armed Service Committee number crunchers ignored Defense industry donors for once and threw the rest of us, including the marginalized, the poor, and the disenfranchised, some of those reallocated domestic crumbs? There has never been a more fitting time. Social distancing or no social distancing, a tsunami of righteous indignation is a clear indicator that enough has never been more than enough than now, today, if the smoke ever clears.
And here are just a few of the numbers, reasonable reductions to the Trump Pentagon budget that could significantly fulfill domestic priorities, thanks to People Over Pentagon and a bill introduced in the House this week by Representatives Barbara Lee, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Pramila Jayapal to cut $350 billion worth of waste from the Pentagon budget to invest in our local communities. A few examples:
- Don’t create a Space Force—save $2.6 billion. Does the US really need a Starship Fleet Command before we join the United Federation of Planets and choose to actually conduct deep space exploration, research, defense, peacekeeping, and diplomacy. Creating a new space bureaucracy will undermine effectiveness and increase costs and is unlikely to significantly add to US capabilities in this domain.
- Eliminate the Overseas Contingency Operations account—save $68.8 billion to $174 billion. There is bipartisan consensus that the overseas contingency operations account has become nothing more than a slush fund for Pentagon programs that have no connection to emergencies or contingencies.
- Cut service contracting by 15 percent—save $26 billion. Several analyses, including one conducted by the Project on Government Oversight, have found that hiring private contractors to perform work that would otherwise be performed by civilians, or not at all, has increased costs.
- End use-it-or-lose-it contract spending—save $18 billion. Branches of the military are afraid that if they spend less than their budget allows, Congress might send them less money in the next year. They often try to spend everything that’s left instead of admitting they can operate on less.
- Defer or cancel development of the B-21 Bomber—save $3 billion. The Air Force currently operates a fleet of 157 long-range bombers, which will be able to keep flying until at least 2040. The Air Force estimates the new B-21 would begin operating about five to ten years from now. This manned bomber would be entirely irrelevant, looking for a mission.
- Replace future F-35s with F-16s and F-18s—save $2.4 billion. The F-35 program has already fallen nearly a decade behind schedule with a price tag that has more than doubled, $80 to $100 billion per. Nothing is slowing down the acquisition of the most expensive lemon in DOD history, despite flaws and huge cost overruns.
- Cancel the Ford-class carrier program—save $1 billion. Knowing the role carriers play in projecting power, US adversaries have been developing and deploying weapons to keep them at bay. Aircraft carriers are sitting ducks to adversaries’ anti-ship missiles, placing more than 5,000 US sailors in enemy crosshairs in every potential confrontation.
- Authorize a Base Realignment and Closure process—save $2 billion per year. Multiple administrations have requested that Congress authorize a Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) round to improve capabilities and get rid of excess capacity. Any BRAC round should also include adequate funding for the Office of Economic Adjustment to help affected communities transition.
- Reduce our active troop presence in Europe to 40,000—save $1.5 billion. Cold War I is so over. Eastern Europe has switched sides, and America’s European allies now possess a collective GDP and population larger than the US. Why are American military personnel still stationed on the continent
At $740 billion per year, this year’s budget for the Pentagon and related agencies is at one of its highest levels since World War II – more than the next seven nations in the world combined, five of which are US allies. This arms industry cash is ready for pasture.
Just as we are exposing the rot in our militarized police and calling for its defunding and dismantling, so we must expose the rot in our interventionist foreign policy and call for the moral imperative of defunding the Pentagon. Decreasing Pentagon funds would allow for greater investments at home – healthcare and infrastructure, confronting militarism and racism, quality education, affordable housing, renewable energy and more. Recent polling indicates that a majority of American voters finally agree.
Mark Twain wrote of US interventionism, “Trampling on the helpless abroad had taught her, by a natural process, to endure with apathy the like at home.”
Today enduring with apathy is no longer an option for the donor class. A sincere social compact with working people and marginalized communities can be readily achieved by legitimate Congressional oversight and annual reallocations of Pentagon funds. This new normal will end wasteful spending that only benefits Pentagon contractors and their wealthy shareholders, resulting instead in human security for the rest of us. With the murder of George Floyd and its justifiable outcry, the near and future ramifications of dismissing such a compact now and in a post-pandemic world, are clearer now than ever before - with or without an asteroid.
The author of this post is Gene Marx, a former Naval Flight Officer and Past National Board of Directors Secretary of Veterans for Peace. He is currently the Communications Coordinator for Bellingham’s VFP Chapter 111. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.