Military Spending Growth

from JusticeWatch, the NETWORK newsletter
of the National Catholic Social Justice Lobby,
Vol. 1, No. 2, May 2000,, www. networklobby .org


Military spending is increasing again following almost a decade of deficit-prompted budget cuts. The last time we saw a substantial buildup of the national defense budget was in the 1980s during the Reagan administration. Then, when the Cold War ended, Congress decreased the defense budget to deal with the large budget deficits of the 1990s. When it became evident in late 1998 that the federal budget would have a surplus instead of a deficit, the military chiefs wasted no time in asking for more money. And they're getting it.

The following recent history illustrates how the military budget just keeps growing:

* Sept 1998-Congress authorizes $272 billion for defense for fiscal year 1999.

* Oct 1998-Congress passes emergency supplemental spending bill for $8 billion.

* Feb 1999-President Clinton requests $280 billion for fiscal year 2000.

* Apr 1999-Congress includes $290 billion for defense in budget resolution.

* Apr 1999-Congress passes emergency supplemental with $ 11 billion for defense.

* Oct 1999-Congress authorizes $293 billion for defense for fiscal year 2000.

* Feb 2000-President Clinton requests $306 billion for fiscal year 2001.

* Mar 2000-Congress adds $9 billion for defense to supplemental spending bill.

* Apr 2000-Congress includes $311 billion for defense in budget resolution.

The President gives the military what they ask for, and Congress gives them even more. Meanwhile, organizations trying to get money for human needs (housing, health care, child care, community development block grants, food & nutrition programs, job training, etc.) have to continuously fight Congress' attempts to cut budgets for these programs. Congress has given various reasons for cutting domestic budgets-reducing the deficit, staying within budget caps, "locking" up the Social Security surplus, providing tax cuts-but at the same time, they continue to add more money to defense.

The military budget accounts for over half of all the discretionary spending that Congress appropriates this year. The less-than-half that's left over must pay for all domestic discretionary spending as well as foreign operations. The foreign operations budget contains about $13 billion for diplomacy, international development aid, and international institutions like the United Nations (as well as military assistance to foreign countries.) The Administration says that diplomacy is our first line of defense, but the foreign affairs budget has been cut while the military budget increases, indicating that diplomacy has less priority than military power.


Money for the military is appropriated in three different appropriations bills: Defense, Energy, and Military Construction. The Military Construction bill (about $8.6 billion this year) contains money for military bases and other projects, including $G5 million to start construction of the controversial national missile defense system. The Energy bill contains money for nuclear weapons programs (about $ 12 billion each year) managed by the Department of Energy. The largest bill (over $280 billion and growing) is for the Department of Defense (DOD).

The DOD bill contains 4 major accounts: Procurement, Research and Development, Personnel, and Operations and Maintenance. The Operations and Maintenance account (about $110 billion) has funds for training and equipment, or what is sometimes referred to as "readiness." The Personnel account (about 75 billion) is for military pay and benefits. The Research and Development ($38 billion) and Procurement ($60 billion) accounts are for new weapons. This year the military chiefs and some members of Congress are saying that even though they've reached a long desired goal of $60 billion for procurement of new weapons, that is not enough.

Pentagon watch

Index of Website

Home Page