The Guardian • Issue #2055

The Warfare State

United States Air Force - McDonnell Aircraft F-101B Voodoo interceptor-fighter

Photo: James St. John – flickr.com (CC BY 2.0)

The National Priorities Project at the Institute for Policy Studies has released an analysis of the militarised budget in the United States, titled “The Warfare State: How Funding for Militarism Compromises our Welfare.” It has reported that, out of a $1.8 trillion federal discretionary budget, a staggering $1.1 trillion – or 62 per cent – of that budget has been spent on militarism and war.

The group noted that during the recent “debt ceiling” debates threats to cut spending for vital domestic programs have featured prominently, but spending on militarism was almost entirely exempt from the discussion. The argument was that it was necessary to reduce the failed military, homeland security and law enforcement spending to instead fund programs and measures to address the true needs of American communities. It’s interesting to note that we in Australia are currently having the same debate over AUKUS.

These are the key findings of the report:

In FY 2023, out of a $1.8 trillion federal discretionary budget, $1.1 trillion was for militarised programs. That includes war and weapons, law enforcement and mass incarceration, and detention and deportation.

Less than $2 out of every $5 in federal discretionary spending was available to fund investment in people and communities. These investments include primary and secondary public education, housing programs, child care programs, federal disaster relief, environmental programs, and scientific research.

The US spent $16 on the military and war for every $1 that was spent on diplomacy and humanitarian foreign aid. The vast majority of militarized spending was for weapons, war, and the Pentagon, at $920 billion. Only $56 billion was spent for international affairs, diplomacy, and humanitarian foreign aid.

The US spent $51.1 billion for homeland security, approximately half of which goes to Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, better known as ICE ($8.8 billion) and Customs and Border Protection, CBP ($17.4 billion). These are the agencies responsible for deportations, family separations, and violent apprehension at the southern border. That’s nearly three times spending on substance abuse and mental health programs ($7.5 billion), even as opioid use remains a major cause of death.

The US federal budget allocated twice as much for federal law enforcement as for child care and early childhood education programs. Federal law enforcement includes federal prisons, the FBI and other law enforcement agencies, and was allocated $31 billion. Child care and early childhood education programs only received $15 billion.

Since 2001, the US has added $2 to the discretionary budget for militarism for every $1 added to invest in communities. Spending on care for veterans has nearly tripled since 2001, following 20 years of war, repeated deployments for the 3 million veterans who served in the post-9/11 wars, and rampant physical and mental health needs of returning veterans. Spending on homeland security (excluding FEMA) has more than doubled since 2001, and spending on the military and nuclear weapons has grown by 80 per cent, in inflation-adjusted terms.

With the impending AUKUS deal, the militarism compromising the welfare of the American people, is beginning to compromise our welfare here in Australia.

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