Reducing Military Spending to Spur Economic Growth at Home

The Senate struggled to approve a $15 billion jobs bill and has yet to enact additional fiscal relief for the states, but lawmakers continue to approve trillions of dollars for wars and defense appropriations.  In fact, ignoring the almost $1 trillion spent on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, military spending has grown 41 percent since 1998.  If progressive leaders intend to reduce long-term deficits and ensure a robust economic recovery, cutting inefficient and costly areas of the defense budget should be a top priority.

For this reason, state legislators from across the country have signed on to the Women Legislators' Lobby's (WiLL) letter encouraging the federal government to trim the unnecessary spending in the Pentagon budget and redirect that money to areas in the economy that generate more jobs and address significant issues, such as climate change, education, and infrastructure maintenance. 

If you are a female state legislator and interested in supporting the effort, please sign on by clicking here, calling (202) 544-5055, ext. 2602, or emailing

FY2010 Budget Request:  In February, President Obama remarked that one of his priorities would be reforming the defense budget so that the country is not spending scarce revenue on obsolete weapons.  Nevertheless, the President's FY2010 budget request for the Department of Defense and the nuclear weapons portion of the Department of Energy is approximately $557 billion, which amounts to half of the entire federal discretionary budget.  The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) finds that this level of spending will only increase in the future.  "In CBO’s estimation, carrying out the Department of Defense's 2009 plans for 2010 and beyond—excluding overseas contingency operations—would require defense resources averaging at least $573 billion annually (in 2010 dollars) from 2011 to 2028."  These astronomical figures do not include the costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as they are funded through an emergency supplemental budgeting process.  Since 2001, the country has allocated approximately $915 billion to the military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In the State of the Union, President Obama proposed to freeze all non-security discretionary spending for three years, creating $250 billion in savings, yet exempted the defense budget from scrutiny.  However, as Lawrence Korb, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and former Assistant Secretary of Defense under President Reagan indicates, "[i]f President Obama is serious about controlling spending, he can’t exempt the Pentagon... Because the budgets of [Defense] agencies, particularly that of the Pentagon, are responsible for a large and increasing share of the discretionary portion of the federal budget, the president’s spending freeze will have a marginal effect."

Source: Women's Action for New Directions - Making the military budget smarter, not bigger

US Military Spending:  Even as the US is failing to invest in the basic infrastructure needed for global economic competitiveness, the nation's military budget dwarfs the amount other countries allocate for defense and accounts for almost half of all military spending in the world.

Additionally, 83 percent of US national security spending is specifically allocated to the military, while 11 percent is directed toward homeland security, and 6 percent to international affairs.  As a result, US security spending is overwhelmingly skewed towards weaponry rather than basic protection and diplomatic efforts.  As Women's Action for New Directions (WAND) notes, portions of the military's budget go to "weapons systems that were intended to fight the military might of the Soviet Union during the Cold War.  They are now obsolete, unnecessary, and eating up federal dollars that could be better spent elsewhere."  WAND and the Center for American Progress identify several defense spending cuts that would not threaten US efforts overseas or security within the nation's borders.  

Jobs and Economic Recovery:  According to a report by economists at the University of Massachusetts, reducing spending on obsolete weaponry and inefficient defense spending and shifting funding towards other critical sectors will create jobs and foster economic recovery.  For example, investing in mass transit creates twice as many jobs as spending on the military.  Specifically, investing $1 billion in the military only creates 8,500 jobs, while the same investment in:

  • home weatherization and infrastructure create 12,800 jobs;
  • health care, 12,900 jobs;
  • education, 17,700 jobs;
  • and mass transit, 19,800 jobs.

Other countries have recognized that these investments translate into economic growth.  For instance, China's $585 economic stimulus program is predominantly focused on infrastructure spending on highways, railroads, and power grids.

Speaking in Florida in January, President Obama acknowledged that Asian and European countries are vastly ahead the United States in developing high-speed rail:  “Other countries aren’t waiting. They want those jobs.  China wants those jobs.  Germany wants those jobs.  They are going after them hard, making the investments required.”

Take Action:  Sign on to WiLL's letter calling on the President to cut non-essential spending in the Pentagon budget and redirect that money to areas in the economy that generate more, and better, jobs for long-term security by clicking here, calling (202) 544-5055, ext. 2602, or emailing

Center for American Progress - Paying for the Troop Escalation in Afghanistan
Congressional Budget Office - Long-Term Implications of the Fiscal Year 2010 Defense Budget
Progressive States Network - Reforming Defense Spending and National Guard Overseas Deployment
Women's Action for New Directions - Finding New Ways to Create Jobs
Women's Action for New Directions - Making the military budget smarter, not bigger
Women Legislators' Lobby - Balanced Security Spending