Busting Pentagon Spending Myths


Last Updated on January 11, 2021.

This week, Congress will consider a bill to appropriate nearly three quarters of a trillion dollars for the Pentagon for Fiscal Year 2021. As it does, members of Congress should push back against the following myths about why we can’t reduce the Pentagon’s bloated budget.

Myth: Reducing the Pentagon’s budget will make us less safe.


  • The United States can no longer afford to use 20th-century solutions to address 21st-century problems. The existential threats the United States faces today – the climate crisis, global authoritarianism and nationalism, the misuse of data and technology, and mass inequality – do not have military solutions and cannot be resolved by building more aircraft carriers.
  • Spending an estimated $1.7 trillion on unnecessarily “modernizing” our nuclear arsenal over the next 30 years, or hundreds of billions of dollars on the F-35 that may never be combat ready, does nothing to address the economic insecurity that working people face around this country.
  • Our militarized spending on national security has made people around the world less safe, while further militarizing our own society has increased the lethality of police brutality, as well as mass shootings and attacks by white nationalists across the country.

Myth: Reducing the Pentagon’s budget during this crisis will cause even more job losses.


  • The fact is that spending on the Pentagon is the least effective way to create jobs. For every $1 million spent of taxpayer dollars spent, Pentagon spending only creates 9 jobs, while creating 19.2 jobs in elementary and secondary education, 14.3 jobs in health care, and 9.8 jobs in clean energy that actually serve human needs.
  • Studies by economists at the University of Massachusetts have demonstrated that spending on infrastructure, clean energy, or education would create one and one-half to two times as many jobs per dollar spent than throwing more money at the Pentagon.
  • Subsidizing a bloated, broken bureaucracy, that employs almost 600,000 private contractors doing redundant jobs is not fiscally responsible. By cutting spending on contracting by 15% and replacing the essential roles through good-paying government jobs could result in $262 billion in savings over the next decade alone.

Myth: Reducing the Pentagon’s budget will harm readiness and make our troops less safe.


  • A study from Brown University’s Costs of War projects found that more than half of the Pentagon’s annual budget goes to private defense contractors. It’s the CEOs that make multi-million dollar bonuses that benefit from bloat at the Pentagon, not our troops who face dismal housing conditions and low pay.
  • Measuring military readiness against unrealistic expectations for combat scenarios sets service members up to fail by, more often than not, asking them to solve political problems without clear military solutions.
  • If specific mission sets are prioritized, then the appropriate funding can be allocated for personnel and systems with a clear return on investment, rather than a blank check rife with disparate expectations.


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July 27, 2020