Progressive sections and anti-war groups decried the US Congress’ approval of a record defense budget for the year 2022. On Wednesday, December 15, the Senate approved the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) with 88 votes in favor and 11 against, stipulating USD 778 billion for the country’s defense expenditure. The original vote was by an 89-10 margin but senator Cory Booker later reversed his support for the act.
The NDAA presented in May was approved by the House of Representatives by a vote of 363 against 70 on December 12.
Condemning the Congress’ overwhelming approval of the increased defense budget, anti-war group CODEPINK called it a “slap in the face to working people across” the country. Speaking to CommonDreams, CODEPINK’s national co-director Carley Towne said that the passing of the NDAA shows that the Congress is ready to prioritize war profiteers over human needs as when it comes to social sector spending of much lesser amounts it sees a gridlock. The group also thanked the senators who voted against the bill.
Thank you to the 10 Senators who voted NO on the disturbingly enormous $778 BILLION Pentagon budget today. 🙏🏽🙏🏿🙏🏼🙏🏾
— CODEPINK (@codepink) December 15, 2021
CODEPINK has been leading a movement for the reduction of defense-related expenditure in the US, pointing out that the money should be spent to solve the issues faced by common people. The campaign called Cut the Pentagon demands the diversion of billions of dollars away from the military-industrial complex in the country, which is the largest beneficiary of the increased defense expenditure.
Biden outdoes Trump in defense expenditure
In May, the Biden administration had proposed a defense budget of USD 753 billion citing the need to tackle the rising challenges from China. The final budget approved is nearly USD 25 billion more than what was demanded and nearly USD 38 billion more than last year’s budget presented during the Donald Trump presidency.
The increase in the defense budget was approved despite the fact that the Biden administration had withdrawn its troops from Afghanistan and significantly reduced its military presence in Iraq and some other countries. Both Trump and Biden have claimed that the so-called “forever wars” in Afghanistan and West Asia have been straining the US economy.
Progressive senators like Bernie Sanders and representative Pramila Jayapal, who have also been part of the campaign to reduce defense expenditure and prioritize social sector spending on unemployment benefits, student loans and health care, among others, expressed their disapproval of the NDAA and demanded that the Congress pass the Build Back Better bill as soon as possible. The bill seeks USD 1.75 trillion from the Congress for the next 10 years with an annual budget of USD 175 billion to be spent on social and climate issues.
Anti-war and progressive sections also denounced the excuse of China’s rise that has been used to increase the defense budget. Claiming this to be yet another ploy by the military-industrial complex to increase their profits, Stephen Miles, executive director of Win Without War, was quoted by Al-Jazeera saying that “for the last 20 years we heard that terrorist threat justified an ever expanding budget for the Pentagon.”