- The Biden administration is asking Congress for $753 billion to fund US military operations.
- That’s a slight uptick over last year.
- Sen. Bernie Sanders said he has “serious concerns” about spending money on a “bloated Pentagon.”
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The Biden administration is requesting $753 billion in spending on the US military in its first, $1.5 trillion budget blueprint, disappointing progressives and prompting “serious concerns” from the chairman of the Senate committee that will ultimately decide just how much to appropriate.
In a proposal released Friday, the White House requested a 1.7% increase in national security spending, including $715 billion for the Department of Defense. Accounting for inflation, that is roughly the same amount that Congress approved in 2020.
But liberal Democrats had been hoping for more. Last year, members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus pushed for a 10% cut in defense spending, arguing that the money – over half of US discretionary spending – could be put to better use funding social programs, especially amid a pandemic.
‘A budget is about priorities’
Sen. Bernie Sanders said the request bothered him.
“I have serious concerns,” Sanders, an independent from Vermont who chairs the Senate Budget Committee, said in a statement Friday. “At a time when the US already spends more on the military than the next 12 nations combined, it is time for us to take a serious look at the massive cost over-runs, the waste and fraud that currently exists in the Pentagon.”
That concern was echoed by Sanders’ liberal colleague, Massachusetts Democrat Elizabeth Warren, at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing in February.
“A budget is about priorities, and we continue to overinvest in defense while underinvesting in public health and so much more that would keep us safe and that would save lives,” Warren said.
That comment came during questioning of Dr. Kathleen Hicks, the Biden administration’s pick for deputy secretary of defense. Hicks, for her part, said the Pentagon could get by on less money, but that would require “hard choices” the White House does not appear willing to tackle in its first spending proposal.
In 2020, the Pentagon failed its audit for the third year in a row. It does not expect to pass a comprehensive review of its assets until at least 2027.
Biden administration defends proposal
A White House official, speaking on background with reporters on Friday, sought to assuage progressive critics.
“A large chunk of that increase is to pay for the pay raise for men and women in uniform and the civilians that support them,” they said.
According to the federal formula for military pay increases, service members should expect a 2.7% increase in their salary, the Military Times reported last December.
The Biden administration will release a more detailed spending proposal in the coming months.
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