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Defense budget keeps climbing despite pulling out of Afghanistan

As defense appropriators in both Chambers of Congress consider the Biden budget, they must also consider the impact of the Afghanistan withdrawal on our military spending. Estimates indicate that between $20 and $50 billion will be saved by withdrawing troops from the unwinnable war in Afghanistan. Robust diplomacy will be needed to ensure the fragile gains for Afghan women secured throughout the past 20 years. Given that this amount is higher than the combined budgets of the State Department and USAID, the answer is clear. Congress must reject the tactical fear-mongering of our generals and begin the process of trimming the defense budget in favor of diplomatic and human security needs.


May 21, 2021

Dear Chairwoman McCollum, Ranking Member Calvert, Chairman Tester, and Ranking Member Shelby,

The undersigned 40 organizations believe that the Biden administration’s recently announced troop withdrawal from Afghanistan offers an opportunity to re-examine the nation’s extremely large commitments to the Pentagon budget. We are dismayed that the administration's initial budget blueprint to Congress did not reflect a corresponding reduction in war funds, and instead included a gargantuan request of $753 billion for the Pentagon and affiliated spending. We urge the congressional defense appropriations subcommittees to appropriate a lower topline than initially requested by the Biden administration to, at a minimum, reflect cost savings from withdrawing troops from Afghanistan.

Estimates indicate that at least $20 billion and perhaps as much as $50 billion will be freed up by withdrawing troops from Afghanistan. Yet the administration requested a 1.7 percent increase from the previous fiscal year, adding $13 billion in discretionary spending to an already sky-high figure. If the costs of the troop withdrawal were not factored into this request, the budget increase will in reality be even greater, given troops are required to withdraw prior to the start of the next fiscal year.

Recently, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute reported that the United States spent more on its military last year than the next eleven nations combined, a whopping 39 percent of global military spending in 2020. If enacted, the administration’s proposed budget would provide the Department of Defense with more money than the Departments of State, Justice, Education, Transportation, Health and Human Services, and the Environmental Protection Agency combined. The increase alone in Pentagon spending is more than the entire budget for diplomatic programs at the State Department - despite the fact that robust diplomacy in Afghanistan will be needed both during and after the troop withdrawal.

As such, we urge you to appropriate a lower topline for the Pentagon and associated spending in the final FY22 budget than that requested by the Biden administration.


American Friends Service Committee

Center for International Policy

Coalition on Human Needs

CODEPINK Common Defense Concerned Veterans for America Daily Kos DC Peace Team

Demand Progress Detention Watch Network Foreign Policy for America

Friends Committee on National Legislation Friends of the Earth Just Foreign Policy Greenpeace US Indivisible MADRE Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns MoveOn National Priorities Project at the Institute for Policy Studies National Taxpayers Union Our Revolution Pax Christi USA Peace Action Peace Direct PlusPeace Progress America Project On Government Oversight Public Citizen Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft Sisters of Mercy of the Americas - Justice Team Social Security Works Taxpayers for Common Sense United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries United Methodist Church - General Board of Church and Society Win Without War Women’s Actions for New Directions World BEYOND War Veterans for Peace

Photo by Mohammad Rahmani on Unsplash of Kabul, Afghanistan.

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