The U.S. Defense Budget: Time for A Cut?

The U.S. Defense Budget: Time for A Cut?

The Biden Administration's budget request is greater than that of the departments of State, Justice, Education, Transportation, Health and Human Services, and the Environmental Protection Agency combined.

A total of forty advocacy groups from across the political spectrum have called upon lawmakers to cut the Department of Defense's (DoD's) budget. A letter sent by groups from across the political spectrum to the leaders of the defense appropriations subcommittees in the House and Senate on Friday called President Joe Biden's pullout of Afghanistan an opportunity to slim down the money allocated to the Pentagon.

The effort was led by Public Citizen and was signed by national grassroots, oversight, environmental, faith, and governance groups. That included the progressive groups MoveOn, Greenpeace US, and Progress America among others; but also conservative leaning organizations including the National Taxpayers Union.

The coalition of signees estimated that at least $20 billion and perhaps as much as $50 billion could be freed up by the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan and noted the Biden administration has still requested a 1.7 percent increase from previous fiscal year spending.

"We are dismayed that the administration's initial budget blueprint to Congress did not reflect a corresponding reduction in war funds, and instead included a gargantuan request of $753 billion for the Pentagon and affiliated pending," the letter read. "We urge the congressional defense appropriations subcommittees to appropriate a lower topline than initially requested by the Biden administration to, at a minimum, reflect cost savings from withdrawing troops from Afghanistan."

The Biden administration's planned $753 billion budget for national defense programs, which was released last month by White House, included $715 billion that would go directly to the Pentagon. Defense is the single largest category of discretionary spending for the federal government, and decisions by DoD regarding long-term defense needs have a meaningful impact on the future of the United States. That includes how the DoD operates and executes its mission.

The budget request is greater than that of the departments of State, Justice, Education, Transportation, Health and Human Services, and the Environmental Protection Agency combined.

"The increase alone in Pentagon spending is more than the entire budget for diplomatic programs at the State Department—despite the fact that robust diplomacy in Afghanistan will be needed both during and after the troop withdrawal," the letter added.

The letter's signatories asserted that the money could be better spent on other priorities – ranging from reducing inequality to combating climate change.

"Reducing the Pentagon budget to reflect the savings from ending the Afghan War is just common sense," Public Citizen president Robert Weissman told "The Pentagon has no claim on the money that will no longer be spent on that failed war, the taxpayers do."

"Given the outrageous bloat, waste, mismanagement, and misdirected resources in the Pentagon budget, as well as the long list of underfunded domestic and human needs, the savings from ending the Afghan war—variously estimated at $20-$50 billion a year—should be devoted to nonmilitary priorities to make our nation safer, more secure, and more just," he added.

Moreover, it wasn't just the forty groups that have taken issue with the size and scope of the FY22 budget. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported that the DoD remains the only major agency that has never been able to accurately account for and report on its spending. The government watchdog called for the DoD to establish a process to standardize documentation of reported cost savings and ensure that these reported savings are consistent with the department's definitions of reform.

Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites. He regularly writes about military small arms and is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on

Image: Reuters