National view: There are many disappointments in the 2022 Pentagon budget


The high price and total lack of control on this budget are difficult to reconcile with where America is today. Now that we have just ended our longest war, you can expect some form of peace dividend, especially at a time when we have tremendous investment needs at home. Twenty years of war in Afghanistan and Iraq have cost the American people nearly $ 6 trillion, most of which paid off through debt. But somehow our defense law is still rising. Congress even tackled $ 25 billion more than the Pentagon had asked for. That includes five more Navy ships and five more F-15EX jets than what was requested, and a dozen F / A-18E / F Super Hornet fighters that the military did not ask for or need. A conservative estimate is more than $ 4 billion for these add-ons alone.

The Pentagon has long been inundated with cash while domestic demand has suffered serious underinvestment. With so much evidence of waste, fraud and abuse, now would be a good time to look more closely at military spending. Kabul fell just a few weeks after the US withdrawal, which begs the question of why we put hundreds of billions of dollars into an Afghan military that melted away immediately.

If that moment wasn’t enough to cast doubt, recall the Afghanistan Papers published in 2019. An investigation by the Washington Post revealed total government dishonesty after government over the war in Afghanistan, which continued despite abundant evidence that it was doomed. The Pentagon should now face more scrutiny and caution, but instead it’s getting a raise.

Congress passed the National Defense Authorization Act with almost no public debate. Instead, a small group of House and Senate staff from relevant committees met privately to work out final details and shared the full draft just six hours before the House vote.

The summary of the draft law alone is 670 pages. Typically, this legislation has a one or two week term during which these issues can be publicly discussed and their merits examined. Without this, the public will be in the dark and the influence of even most congressmen will be sidelined.

With inflation, the cost of this budget for 10 years is approximately $ 8.3 trillion. To put that in context, this is almost double the total cost of all of the Biden government‘s economic legislation put together. The COVID-19 stimulus package cost $ 1.9 trillion, the bipartisan infrastructure plan was $ 550 billion, and the Build Back Better bill was cut to about $ 1.8 trillion. Business legislation has also been cut significantly, and the passage of Build Back Better – a bill to combat apocalyptic climate change and the gaping holes in our social safety net – has been dealt a major blow.

With provisions to cut childcare and health care costs, Build Back Better would now help American families in need, but many of its core provisions have already been gutted or severely reduced based on claims we cannot afford. If paid family vacations are cut as expected, the United States will remain one of seven countries in the world that do not give mother-to-be vacations.

These provisions are not a luxury. They are essential to keeping America globally competitive and tackling growing inequality as more Americans fall behind. After all, economic security is an essential part of national security. Twenty years of war have done but cost the American people little, and a dozen more Super Hornets won’t do them much either. But nobody seemed to be concerned about the deficit when it came to the Pentagon budget.

What was deleted from the final National Defense Authorization Act is also disappointing. The lack of a number of provisions that deal directly with the values ​​that President Joe Biden championed at the recent Democracy Summit is striking, especially as they have received widespread bipartisan support. These provisions included tools to fight corruption abroad, hold Saudi Arabia accountable for serious human rights violations and prevent attacks on journalists. It’s hard not to conclude that prioritizing human rights and democracy is more talk than action. It doesn’t help that the Senate has also just rejected a bill to block a $ 650 million arms sale to Saudi Arabia so that America is less complicit in war crimes in Yemen.

Providing national defense is our government’s top priority, but blindly increasing our defense budget is not a path to security. Therefore, contrary to what some politicians would have us believe, the dollars and national security decisions should be questioned more, not less. Our MPs in Congress are our tools to make sure there is a review and that government spending is delivering what Americans need.

If any of these issues affect you as well, please let your representatives in Washington know.

Elizabeth Shackelford is a Senior Fellow in US Foreign Policy with the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and previously a US diplomat. She is also the author of The Dissent Channel: American Diplomacy in a Dishonest Age.


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