We’re already paying for it: the US’ $1.2 trillion national security budget

Speaking Security Newsletter | Advisory Note for Organizers and Candidates, n°51 | 8 October 2020

-Senator Sanders’ Green New Deal proposal to reconcile both climate change and inequality would cost $1.1 trillion annually for 15 years. After that, it pays for itself.

-Below is a $1.2 trillion spending program that worsens climate change and inequality and will never pay for itself (with its costs projected to increase dramatically by 2035).

-Only of the first do establishment Democrats ask, “How do you pay for it?

Summary table

*Totals refer to Fiscal Year 2020 (FY20), except for police and corrections (latest available data is for FY18). Veterans Affairs total is adjusted, see elaboration below. Intelligence agencies are excluded because they’re believed to be funded via appropriations titles of different names somewhere in the DOD base budget.

Elaboration of summary table, p. 1 (foreign policy)

National defense: $738,000,000,000

National defense (or the “Function 050” budget classification) for FY20 includes $666.5 billion for DOD’s ‘base’ budget, $71.5 billion for its ‘OCO’ account, as well as funding for DOE’s nuclear program, and small amounts for DHS, Coast Guard, and the FBI.

DOD supplemental funding: $10,573,674,000 

DOD immediately turned around and spent ~$1 billion of its ~$10.6 billion in coronavirus relief funding (via the CARES Act) on military equipment (perhaps we should be thankful — before the bill’s enactment, DOD said it would spend $3.2 billion on non-COVID programs). But I’m including all of it because giving money to the military is a really dumb way to respond to a public health crisis. DOD isn’t designed for it and we can’t really count on them to use the funds effectively because DOD failed its first- and second-ever audits.

A breakdown:

  • $746,591,000; National Guard, Army

  • $482,125,000; National Guard, Air Force

  • $160,300,000; O&M, Army

  • $360,308,000; O&M, Navy

  • $90,000,000; O&M, Marine Corps

  • $155,000,000; O&M, Air Force

  • $48,000,000; O&M, Army Reserve

  • $186,696,000; O&M, Army National Guard

  • $75,754,000; O&M, Air National Guard

  • $827,800,000; O&M, Defense-Wide

  • $1,000,000,000; Defense Production Act purchases

  • $1,450,000,000; Defense Working Capital Funds

  • $3,805,600,000; Defense Health Program (p. 1)

  • $1,095,500,000; Defense Health Program (p. 2)

  • $20,000,000; Office of Inspector General

  • $70,000,000; Army Corps of Engineers

State Department’s military aid programs: $9,013,947,000

State Departments’s ‘security assistance’ (US-sponsored military training and equipping programs) occupy about 17% of its budget. I’m tempted to include its entire FY20 budget ($52,505,402,000) here, and not just because its current Secretary regularly spews megachurch bullshit. It’s that it’s dead weight in the fight to demilitarize US foreign policy. Even if establishment politicians like Chris Murphy got their wish to rectify the (very real) funding imbalance between State and DOD (the latter of which now runs the foreign policy show), US embassies would still be working in service of DOD’s fiefdoms (aka geographic combatant commands).

Militarized knowledge production: $45,000,000

The United States Institute of Peace (USIP), a think tank, was the recipient of these State Department funds. It published this report that called for levels of military spending that are now, two years later, our reality (a thorough critique of this report, here). To build the 120,000-square-foot palace to serve as its HQ, the think tank previously received $14 million (and more since then, repeatedly) from the federal government and the remaining $172 million from the private sector (including Chevron Corporation, with a $10 million donation, and Lockheed Martin with a $1 million contribution). For Philip Kennicott, USIP’s HQ design befits its sponsors (and who its research is actually for): “The institute’s design marks yet another low point in [the architect’s] long descent into repetitive corporate architecture.”

Veterans Affairs: $166,000,000,000* [*adjusted]

I wasn’t going to include this at all because I’m quite fond of socialized healthcare, and that’s what the VA provides. But excluding it would let many politicians off the hook for voting for the endless wars that produced so many veterans in the first place. So I looked at VA’s budgets from FY1995-2000 ($37 - $44 billion) and adopted that growth rate onwards to FY20 to control for the post-9/11 wars. By my (crude) estimate, the VA budget should have been around $72 billion this year. Congress appropriated $237.5 billion (+$166 billion). Though an appropriate use of funds (if anything the VA is underfunded), it doesn’t signal virtue — it signals a failed foreign policy.

Elaboration of summary table, p. 2 (domestic policy)

Two notes:

  1. The following are routinely justified on the grounds of national security and coordinate with traditional national security structures (above), hence their inclusion.

  2. Funding for DHS and FBI, along with countrywide expenditures on police and corrections (mostly incarceration), is $277,962,580,000, annually based on the most recently-available data. That’s more than China spent on its entire *military* last year:

^Source. Figures are in billions ($). Data for the chart appears to come from SIPRI (so it’s legit).

Department of Homeland Security (DHS): $68,010,000,000

DHS never did what its name implied (see its Hurricane Katrina response). Instead, it’s become the secret police force it was destined to be after years of its Customs and Border Protection agency (CBP, under which falls ICE) subjecting minority groups and immigrants to surveillance, detention, and violence. The department should be dismantled; its funds diverted to social programs. Immigration processing can be reassigned to the Department of Labor.

FBI (2020, via Department of Justice budget): $9,880,928,000

Police (2018, data via Census Bureau): $118,800,031,000

Corrections (2018, data via Census Bureau): $81,271,621,000


This one took a while. If you have the means, please consider supporting my think tank: patreon.com/SPRI.

Thanks for your time,

Stephen (@stephensemler; stephen@securityreform.org)