JusticeWatch May 2000
from NETWORK, a national Catholic social justice
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
The following recent history illustrates how the military
budget just keeps growing:
* September 1998-Congress authorizes $272 billion for defense
for fiscal year 1999.
* October 1998-Congress passes emergency supplemental spending
bill for $8 billion.
* February 1999-President Clinton requests $2X0 billion for
fiscal year 2000.
* April 1999-Congress includes $290 billion for defense in
* April 1999-Congress passes emergency supplemental with $
11 billion for defense.
* October 1999-Congress authorizes $293 billion for defense
for fiscal year 2000.
* Feb. 2000-President Clinton requests $30G billion for fiscal
* March 2000-Congress adds $9 billion for defense to supplemental
* April 2000-Congress includes $311 billion for defense in
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
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.
WHAT'S ALL THIS MILITARY MONEY FOR?
Money for the military is appropriated in three different
appropriations bills: Defense, Energy, and Military Construction.
The Military Construction bill (about $X.6 billion this year)
contains money for military bases and other projects, including
$65 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.