10 Better Uses for 10 Percent of the Pentagon Budget

A collaboration with the Congressional Progressive Caucus Center.

As part of the annual must-pass military spending and policy bill (the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021, or “NDAA”), progressive lawmakers have put forward a proposal to cut the massive $740 billion Pentagon budget by 10 percent.

With military spending at historically high levels, and with additional increases under President Trump, a ten percent cut is an overdue correction to the bloated Pentagon budget.

While the Pentagon will spend close to $74 billion on the “Overseas Contingency Operations” fund that finances our endless wars this year, a 10 percent cut to the Pentagon ($74 billion), could be reinvested in:

  1. Ending Homelessness: House every one of the more than half a million homeless people in this country with money to spare.  That’s assuming an annual cost of $30,000 per person, in keeping with high-end estimates from the Urban Institute.

  2. Infrastructure Jobs: Create more than one million good jobs in cities like Flint, Michigan, building desperately needed new infrastructure.

  3. COVID testing: Conduct 2 billion additional coronavirus tests, compared to the 46 million done so far – that’s 44 times as many tests, or enough to offer six free COVID tests to every person in the United States.

  4. Racial Equity in Schools: Close the $23 billion funding gap between majority-white and majority non-white school districts.

  5. Free College: Fund free college educations for more than 2 million low income students, or the poorest ten percent of current college students.

  6. Clean Energy: Fund enough renewable energy to power almost every household in the U.S.

  7. Green Jobs: Create one million well-paying clean energy jobs, enough to transition nearly every worker in the traditional coal, oil, and gas sectors.

  8. Teachers: Hire 900,000 new public elementary school teachers, adding about nine new teachers to every public elementary school in the country.

  9. COVID unemployment relief: Send a $2,300 check to the more the 32 million unemployed Americans.

  10. Face Masks: Purchase enough N95 face masks for all of the 55 million essential workers to use one a day for more than a year.

A $74 billion cut is a strong step toward better spending priorities, and could make a tremendous difference in other programs ranging from health care and education to job creation at a time when it is desperately needed.

Lindsay Koshgarian directs the National Priorities Project at the Institute for Policy Studies. Ashik Siddique is an NPP researcher.