The Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns joined partner organizations in issuing the following letter to House and Senate Leadership asking them to refrain from giving additional funding to the Pentagon in light of the coronavirus crisis.
April 22, 2020
Dear Speaker Pelosi, Minority Leader McCarthy, and Majority Leader McConnell, and Minority Leader Schumer,
As Congress continues to provide urgent and vital relief to the people of the United States in response to the coronavirus pandemic, we write to urge against providing additional money to the Pentagon in this fiscal year. With the additional $10.4 billion provided to the Pentagon as part of the Phase III package [P.L. 116-136], 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 coronavirus pandemic has made it crystal clear that federal spending is dangerously misaligned with our national priorities and actual threats to human security. 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. If our spending was in line with actual human security needs at home and abroad prior to the crisis, we may have been better prepared to confront the global pandemic.
Any arguments that the Pentagon cannot use existing resources to respond to the crisis should be met with considerable skepticism, for several reasons. First, the Trump administration has been able to find Pentagon resources for non-Pentagon spending when it wanted. By the end of this fiscal year, it will have redirected at least $13.3 billion toward the President’s wasteful, dangerous, and politicallymotivated border wall. Second, the Pentagon often ends up with excess balances that it returns to the U.S.Treasury. From FY 2013 - 2018, the Pentagon returned $80 billion in unspent funds — a time when the budget was more than $100 billion less than it is today. Finally, the Pentagon is not transparent about how it will use the additional money it has already been appropriated. Former Office of Management and Budget official Mark Cancian has suggested that the Pentagon’s share of the most recent supplemental spending package could be “used for virtually anything” and is “a classic ‘slush fund.’” While extreme spending flexibility may be warranted in some cases, more constraints on how and where money is spent is essential for the sole federal agency that has never passed an audit.
There are a number of options for finding savings at the Pentagon that can be redirected toward this crisis, and the government’s larger pandemic response. In the short term, there are likely to be savings from decreased operational tempo both in training and overseas operations, which will also prevent exposure to the virus of U.S. servicemembers. Given the steep drop in the price of oil, the Pentagon, as the world’s largest purchaser of oil, stands to save billions. In addition, economic and public health realities will likely necessitate slower production of military hardware and arms, further saving funds while protecting the workforce. In the longer term, some estimates suggest that the Pentagon could save hundreds of 2 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.
As every family around this country has had to do, the Pentagon should not be immune from making tough decisions on how to reallocate its resources in light of this crisis. 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. Appropriating a dollar more to the Pentagon in FY 2020 would be throwing good money after bad. 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.
About Face: Veterans Against the War
American Friends Service Committee
Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain
Arms Control Association
Beyond the Bomb
Center for International Policy
Church of the Brethren Office of Peacebuilding and Policy
Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach
Council for a Livable World
Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)
Detention Watch Network
Earth Action, Inc.
Franciscan Action Network
Friends Committee on National Legislation
Friends of the Earth - US
Grassroots Global Justice Alliance
Hawai'i Peace and Justice
Institute for Policy Studies, New Internationalism Project
Just Foreign Policy
Leadership Conference of Women Religious
Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns
Mennonite Central Committee U.S. Washington Office
National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd
National Iranian American Council Action
National Priorities Project at the Institute for Policy Studies
Nuclear Watch New Mexico
Pax Christi USA
Physicians for Social Responsibility
Progressive Change Campaign Committee
Sisters of Mercy of the Americas - Justice Team
Social Security Works
Southern Border Communities Coalition
The Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI)
The United Methodist Church - General Board of Church and Society
United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries
United We Dream
US Campaign for Palestinian Rights
Veterans For Peace
Veterans For Peace, Chapter 113-Hawaii
Vets For The People
War Resisters League
Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility
Win Without War
Women Cross DMZ
Women's Action for New Directions (WAND)
Working Families Party