National view: disappointments abound in the 2022 Pentagon budget

The high price tag and the complete lack of control over this budget are hard to reconcile with America’s current situation. Having ended our longest war, you would be forgiven for expecting some form of peace dividend, especially at a time when we have massive investment needs at home. Twenty years of war in Afghanistan and Iraq cost the American people nearly $ 6 trillion, most of it paid for in debt. But one way or another, our defense bill continues to rise. Congress even added $ 25 billion more than the Pentagon asked for. This includes five more Navy ships and five more F-15EX jets than had been requested, and a dozen F / A-18E / F Super Hornets that the military had not requested or whose army did not need. A conservative estimate places these add-ons alone at over $ 4 billion.

The Pentagon has long been overflowing with liquidity while domestic needs suffer from severe underinvestment. Now would be a great time to start looking further into military spending, given ample evidence of waste, fraud and abuse. After all, Kabul fell just weeks after the US withdrawal, raising questions about why we funneled hundreds of billions of dollars into a rapidly melting Afghan army.

If this was not enough time to cast doubt, remember the Afghanistan Papers published in 2019. A Washington Post investigation has revealed the utter dishonesty of administration after administration over the war in Afghanistan, which has continued. despite ample evidence that she was doomed to fail. . The Pentagon should face more scrutiny and caution now, but instead it gets a raise.

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

The summary of the bill alone is 670 pages long. Normally, this legislation is subject to one or two weeks of speaking time during which these issues can be publicly debated and their merits examined. Without it, the public is in the dark and the influence of even most members of Congress is sidelined.

With inflation, the 10-year cost of this budget is about $ 8.3 trillion. To put that in context, it’s nearly double the total cost of all of the Biden administration’s economic legislation combined. The COVID-19 stimulus package cost $ 1.9 trillion, the bipartisan infrastructure plan $ 550 billion, and the Build Back Better bill has been slashed to around $ 1.8 trillion. Economic legislation has also been drastically slashed, and the passage of Build Back Better – a bill designed to tackle doomsday climate change and the gaping holes in our social safety net – was a blow.

With provisions to lower the cost of child care and health care, Build Back Better would help American families in need now, but many of its basic provisions have already been gutted or heavily cropped, on the based on claims that we can’t afford it. If paid family leave is phased out, as planned, the United States will remain one of seven countries on the planet that does not offer any leave for new moms.

These arrangements are not luxuries. They are essential to keeping the United States competitive globally and tackling growing inequalities as more Americans fall behind. After all, economic security is an essential component of national security. Twenty years of war didn’t do much but cost the American people, and a dozen more Super Hornets won’t do much for them either. But no one seemed concerned about the deficit when the Pentagon budget was involved.

What was deleted from the final version of the National Defense Authorization Law is also disappointing. The absence of a series of provisions directly addressing the values ​​championed by President Joe Biden at the recent Democracy Summit is blatant, especially since they enjoyed broad bipartisan support. These provisions included tools to fight corruption abroad, to hold Saudi Arabia accountable for gross human rights violations, and to prevent attacks on journalists. It is hard not to conclude that prioritizing human rights and democracy is more about talking than doing. It doesn’t help that the Senate 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.

Ensuring national defense is our government’s top priority, but blindly increasing our defense dollars is not a path to greater security. Contrary to what some politicians would have you believe, this is why national security dollars and decisions should be scrutinized more, not less. Our representatives in Congress are our tools to ensure that scrutiny takes place and that government spending meets the needs of Americans.

If these issues are also bothering you, let your representatives in Washington know.

Elizabeth Shackelford is a senior researcher in American foreign policy at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and formerly an American diplomat. She is also the author of “The Dissent Channel: American Diplomacy in a Dishonest Age”.

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