war is the enemy of the poor
Issues Military Budget

A study guide for the war budget

war is making us poor


MONEY IN: REVENUE (Tax Receipts)

MONEY OUT: EXPENDITURES (Government Spending/Public Investment)

DEFICIT/SURPLUS= Difference (plus or minus) between revenue and expenditure in one fiscal year. Reflects political decisions. Current Deficit=$1.5 Trillion (Tripled from 2008 to 2009).

NATIONAL DEBT= Accumulation of government borrowing over the years.

2001 Debt=$5 Trillion

2008 Debt=$10 Trillion

Current Debt=$14 Trillion

PRODUCTIVE (for public investment) versus NONPRODUCTIVE (wasteful/destructive) DEFICITS/DEBT.

SELECTIVE DEFICIT DISORDER: Focus on cutting productive debt (infrastructure) and ignoring nonproductive debt (wasteful military spending as a “sacred cow”).


1) Reagan-Bush Tax Cuts for Corporations and the Wealthy.

2) Military Spending:

*Pentagon Budget: FY 2011=$708 Billion: Base Budget ($549 Billion) + Overseas Contingency Operations/War Spending ($159 Billion).

The true cost of military spending is over $1 Trillion with all military related spending counted. This massive waste of social resources goes on year after year.

*$1.2 Trillion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2002 (Currently $300 Million a day; over $2 Billion a week; over $100 Billion a year for Afghanistan).

3) 2008 Great Recession that dramatically reduced tax receipts.

FEDERAL FUNDS/DISCRETIONARY BUDGET: Mostly personal and corporate income tax receipts that Congress has the freedom to allocate. Military spending is part of the discretionary budget.

TRUST FUNDS (Social Security and Medicare): Separate budgets based on worker payroll taxes; protected and paid out from trust funds only, not the general discretionary budget. Not in any way responsible for deficits/debt.

UNIFIED FEDERAL BUDGET: Combination of federal funds (general discretionary budget) and trust funds. Created by LBJ to hide the true cost of the Vietnam War. Military spending takes up 56 percent of the general discretionary budget, but only 25 percent of the unified budget.


Base Budget: Federal Funds (Discretionary Budget) allocated to the DOD for salaries, training, equipment, facilities, operations, procurement of weapons, housing, research and development, etc. This budget funds all branches of the U.S. military.

Overseas Contingency Operations: The invasions and military occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan were originally funded by supplementary spending bills and not included in military budget figures. Starting in FY 2011 these wars were categorized as “overseas contingency operations” and included in the budget.

Non-DOD Military Related Expenditures: Many military related spending items fall outside the DOD (Pentagon) Budget. For example, nuclear weapons research, maintenance, cleanup and production is in the Department of Energy (DOE) Budget. Other non-DOD military spending includes the Department of Homeland Security, State Department financing of foreign arms sales and military-related development assistance, the Veterans Affairs Budget, FBI counter-terrorism spending, NASA intelligence gathering, and interest on the national debt due to past military spending.

DOD Base Budget + Overseas Contingency Operations + Other Military Related Spending (Non-DOD) = Overall Military Spending

FY 2010: Base Budget ($533 Billion) + Two War Supplemental Spending Bills ($160

Billion) = $693 Billion.

FY 2011: Base Budget ($549 Billion) + Overseas Contingency Operations ($159 Billion)

= $708 Billion (requested).

FY 2012: Base Budget ($553 Billion) + Overseas Contingency Operations ($117 Billion)

=$670 Billion (requested).

Adding in the Non-DOD Military Related Expenditures to any of these years brings Overall Military Spending in the U.S. to between $1.1 and $1.3 Trillion.

U.S. military outlays today equal that of every other nation on the planet combined, a situation without precedent in modern history.

Here is what a select list of other nations spend on their military: China-$130 Billion; Russia-$80 Billion; North Korea-$5 Billion; Iran-$4.8 Billion.

The U.S. spends more today on the military in constant dollars than during the Cold War.

The overall State Department Budget is only around $50 Billion.

The Sustainable Defense Task Force has conservatively identified cuts to the military budget that would result in savings of up to $960 Billion over ten years.


Three Major Explanations

1. Strategic Foreign Policy (Empire)

At the end of World War II, the U.S. was in a globally privileged position. With 6% of the world’s population, the U.S. held 50% of the world’s wealth. American’s strategic foreign policy was geared to maintain this disparity and an overall imperial domination.  Military power held the key to preserving this exalted status by maintaining access to markets, cheap labor and critical resources such as oil (Michael Klare (Blood and Oil) refers to the U.S. military as a “global oil protection service”). As Andrew Bacevich (Washington Rules: America’s Path to Permanent War) points out, to create a stable world order for the American empire, would “require the United States to maintain a global military presence, to configure its forces for global power projection, and to counter existing or anticipated threats by relying on a policy of global interventionism.” This strategy, which has nothing to do with legitimate defense needs, explains why the U.S. has over 700 military bases ringing the world and why it has become a permanent war state that, at great expense, actually fosters instability, incites anti-Americanism and is a major cause of terrorism.

2. Institutional Self-Interests (The Military-Industrial Complex)

In his farewell address, President Eisenhower warned Americans to guard against the “unwarranted influence” of the military-industrial complex. The nation did not listen. The powerful intersection of private military contractors seeking corporate profits and a Pentagon establishment attempting to continually enlarge its domain and power within the government works to create high military budgets. The term really should be the military-industrial-congressional complex, for it is Congress that makes the military budget decisions and whose members also derive benefits in terms of bringing “pork” and jobs back to their home districts. It is no surprise that the DOD spreads contracts for weapons systems across as many Congressional districts as possible to build in support for its outsized budgets. The interlocking self-interested relationships between a permanent arms industry and a gargantuan national security state generates enormously wasteful military spending that again, has little to do with the legitimate defense needs of the country.

3. Cultural Narratives (American Exceptionalism and Patriotism)

A naked and brutal imperialism and an unmitigated greed for profits and power are ugly spectacles. Those who seek such goals often attempt to deceive themselves and others about the true nature of their actions. They engage in denial, invent justifications, and attempt to neutralize guilt. They create myths of morality and illusions of justice. Cultural narratives (stories) emerge that serve to normalize and make acceptable what others would judge as criminal or deviant. Two cultural constructions in particular operate to hide the ugly truths about how the U.S. Empire and the military-industrial-congressional complex combine to produce a bloated, wasteful, and unnecessary war machine.

First, the mythic ideals of political leaders in the U.S. are usually drawn from a broad, historical, cultural narrative often referred to as American exceptionalism. This story generally portrays the U.S. as a nation of exceptional virtue, a moral leader in the world with a unique historical mission to spread “universal” values such as freedom, democracy, equality, popular sovereignty, and increasingly global capitalism. This credo summons the U.S.-and the U.S. alone-to lead, save, liberate, and ultimately transform the world, usually through military means. This “mission” is constantly used to justify the “defense” budget. We are the essential nation, the reluctant superpower. We are not imperialists; we are a force for good in the world. And that is why we must maintain our military might, no matter what the cost.

Second, the Vietnam War broke down the World War II cultural consensus about America’s role in the world and what it means to be patriotic. The anti-war movement of the 1960s claimed that peace was patriotic and that dissent from wrongful government policy is the highest form of patriotism. As Andrew Bacevich notes, “Patriotism, once a simple concept, had become both confusing and contentious.” In recent years, the political and military establishment has tried to restore the earlier concept of patriotism with the demand to “support the troops,” whose decision to serve and whose sacrifices demonstrate that old-fashioned patriotism is still alive and well. In practice, “supporting the troops” and demonstrating “patriotism” has found expression in an open-ended and unquestioned effort to provide the military with whatever money it requests; in effect, a blank check. And woe to the unpatriotic politician that refuses to provide the troops on foreign battlefields with all the material support they need to “defend our freedoms” because as you know, “freedom isn’t free.”


While many people remember President Eisenhower’s warning against the military-industrial complex in his Farewell Address, he gave another important speech earlier in his presidency that we in KNOW should quote on a regular basis. On April 16, 1953 Eisenhower delivered his famous “Chance for Peace” speech in Washington, D.C. before the American Society of Newspaper Editors. As James Ledbetter (Unwarranted Influence: Dwight D. Eisenhower and the Military-Industrial Complex) points out about the speech: “The president argued not merely that war was destructive and undesirable, but also that spending on war, even during peacetime, diverts resources that could be put to better use.” In the most memorable passage of the speech, Eisenhower said:

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.

Prepared by Ron Kramer for Kalamazoo Nonviolent Opponents of War (KNOW)


peace rally