Not a dime of additional funding should be appropriated this year to the Pentagon's already bloated budget, which has enabled endless war while resources that could have helped the nation better respond to the coronavirus crisis have gone "chronically underfunded." That's the message of a letter (pdf) to congressional leadership delivered Wednesday by over 60 organizations.
"The COVID-19 crisis has revealed that decades of funneling trillions of dollars into the Pentagon while gutting critical social services, including public health measures, has made us less safe, not more," said Stephen Miles, executive director of Win Without War, in a statement.
"Now of all times, it should be clear that the Pentagon does not need more money," he added. Many of the groups behind the letter were veterans' organizations and anti-interventionism advocates such as About Face: Veterans Against the War, Veterans For Peace, Vets for the People, Just Foreign Policy, and Peace Action, among others.
Win Without War led the letter, which is signed by a broad array of organizations including CODEPINK, the Friends Committee on National legislation, Indivisible, Social Security Works, and Veterans For Peace.
"With the additional $10.4 billion provided to the Pentagon as part of the Phase III package, the Pentagon's Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 appropriated funding now totals over $756 billion and provides more than enough resources to respond to the pandemic," the letter states.
The groups go on to describe what they see as fundamentally flawed funding priorities:
Over half of all spending appropriated by Congress annually goes to the Pentagon, leaving other federal agencies to compete with one another for scarce resources. In this context, the United States has chronically underfunded human and environmental needs while, particularly in recent years, passing historically high Pentagon budgets that foster militarism, enable endless war, engender waste, and sow corruption. To give just one example of the spending mismatch: the combined annual budgets of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institute of Health and the annual U.S. contributions to the World Health Organization together equal just seven percent of the annual Pentagon budget.
"The U.S. spends a grotesque and unacceptable amount on its wasteful war machine," said Savannah Wooten, campaign coordinator with People Over the Pentagon.
Rather than direct more cash to the Pentagon for it to respond to the pandemic, the Defense Department should look at savings it's likely seeing now as a result of a slowdown in arms production as a possible resource, the groups wrote.
"Given the steep drop in the price of oil, the Pentagon, as the world's largest purchaser of oil, stands to save billions," the groups added.
In the longer term, some estimates suggest [pdf] that the Pentagon could save hundreds of billions of dollars by ending wars, reforming defense contracting, right-sizing the military services, scaling back or forgoing the purchase of legacy weapons systems, and closing overseas bases. Taking these steps would not only incur savings, but also create more security and stability in the U.S. and abroad.
"If taxpayers are being asked to adjust their budgets, surely the recipient of three quarters of a trillion of our tax dollars can be asked to do the same," said the groups. "We urge you to focus your attention on the national pandemic response and economic relief for people across the United States rather than providing more money for the Pentagon's already overflowing coffers."
According to Pam Campos-Palma, director of Vets for the People, it's simply time to turn off the spigot of funding for the U.S. war machine.
"We have spent trillions of dollars, and lost thousands of lives, fighting endless wars that the Pentagon claimed would make us safer. They didn't," she said.
"Now that our security is fundamentally at risk — from a threat that no weapon can fight—they're asking for more," said Campos-Palma. "We cannot continue spending billions of dollars on weapons of war while people across the country struggle to buy food, pay rent, and survive a pandemic."