Candidates Take an Anti-Status Quo Stand on Defense

Updated: Apr 8, 2020

This piece was originally published on Inkstick.

Recent surveys of potential Democratic nominees ahead of tonight’s debate show that many agree on a perspective long treated as a taboo in Washington: We spend too much money on the Pentagon. This perspective is a departure from the oft-cited scapegoat of “waste, fraud, and abuse” that has received bipartisan lashings but allowed the Pentagon to continue to grow. Instead, a broad base of support has begun to emerge in favor of reassessing, reducing, and restructuring the Department of Defense’s resources at a more fundamental level. The catch is that candidates disagree on how to make such a huge bureaucracy more sustainable. Tonight’s presidential debate presents an opportunity for candidates to separate themselves by sharing exactly how they would reduce the Pentagon’s budget to support American and global security.

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has consistently critiqued the seemingly limitless funding to go to war and tweeted about saving trillions from ending endless wars overseas. Mayor Pete Buttigieg expressed the need to take a holistic approach to national security spending outside the military, and Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) said he hopes to reduce defense spending to “appropriate” levels. Even Vice President Joe Biden commented that we need greater fiscal discipline in terms of defense spending.