Ten Good Things About the House’s (Too-Big) Military Budget
Representative Adam Smith (D-WA), far left, is Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, which is resposible for military spending. Photo courtesy of U.S. Air Force.
On Friday the House of Representatives voted 220-197 to approve a military budget of $733 billion through the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The Senate had previously approved its own version of the NDAA with $750 billion total funding, in line with the Trump administration’s request.
While the funding level is much higher than we need to secure our nation (more on that below), the bill passed in the House of Representatives takes important steps toward ending wars, preventing dangerous new military conflicts, and safeguarding human rights.
Here are ten ways the House bill would lead to more sensible and more moral military policies:
- Iraq: Repeals the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq of 2002.
- Afghanistan and beyond: States that the Authorization of Military Force of 2001 (which was passed to justify the war in Afghanistan) has been used beyond the scope that Congress intended and has served as a blank check for any President to wage war at any time and place, and that any authorization of force to replace it must have a dedicated end time, a clear geographic scope, and a clear statement of targets and objectives.
- Iran: Prohibits unauthorized military force in or against Iran.
- Yemen: Prohibits U.S. support for the Saudi/ United Arab Emirates war in Yemen.
- North Korea: States that diplomacy is the best option for denuclearization of North Korea and that military conflict poses unacceptable risks;
- Nuclear weapons: Blocks spending on dangerous “low-yield” nuclear weapons that could make nuclear confrontation more likely.
- Nuclear weapons: Requires study of a “No First Use” nuclear weapons policy that could add a layer of protection against nuclear conflict.
- Guantanamo: Bans arrival of new detainees at Guantanamo Bay.
- Civilian casualties: Provides for strengthened oversight of DoD civilian casualties reporting.
- Border wall: Prohibits the use of Department of Defense and military construction funds to build a border wall or barrier.
While the total $733 billion budget is less than the $750 billion approved in the Senate, it is still far more than the United States needs to guarantee our safety. The House bill passed last week includes a $69 billion war budget, as well as more than $22 billion for nuclear weapons and related expenses. The House version does not change U.S. policy of maintaining more than 800 overseas bases (between 90-95% of all foreign military bases in the world) and would continue to direct roughly half of the Pentagon budget toward for-profit contractors. The bill includes a 3.1 percent raise for the troops, but with military pay accounting for only about one-fifth of the military budget, our resources are still being used primarily for military overreach and corporate profits.
The bill passed in the House of Representatives is far better than the Senate version, not because of its marginally lower spending level, but in spite of it. The ten policy changes above would lead to real changes in our military engagements, and are worth fighting for.
But first they’d have to pass the Senate.
Before any of this becomes law, the House and Senate have to agree on a single version of this bill. The National Defense Authorization Act is a 58-year streak of being passed in both the House and Senate – which means 58 times in a row, the House and Senate have managed to agree on a single version of the bill. Once that happens, both the House and Senate have to complete the next step of the funding process, passing an appropriations bill. This next step is typically the bigger hurdle for military spending.
In the meantime, members of Congress will haggle over a Pentagon bill between $733 billion and $750 billion.