Last Updated on January 11, 2021.

Retired generals and admirals warn that cutting America’s diplomatic capacity undermines national security. “We know from our service in uniform that many of the crises our nation faces do not have military solutions alone – from confronting violent extremist groups like ISIS in the Middle East and North Africa to preventing pandemics like Ebola and stabilizing weak and fragile states that can lead to greater instability. There are 65 million displaced people today, the most since World War II, with consequences including refugee flows that are threatening America’s strategic allies in Israel, Jordan, Turkey, and Europe. The State Department, USAID, Millennium Challenge Corporation, Peace Corps and other development agencies are critical to preventing conflict and reducing the need to put our men and women in uniform in harm’s way. As Secretary James Mattis said while Commander of U.S. Central Command, ‘If you don’t fully fund the State Department, then I need to buy more ammunition.’” [Officers’ Letter, 2/27/17]

More than 220 business leaders say State Dept. funding creates jobs. CNN reports: “With the Trump budget about to drop, business leaders have a message for Secretary of State Rex Tillerson: State Department funding equals jobs. A letter sent to Tillerson on Monday that signed by 225 executives argues that a robust budget for the State Department and U.S. development agencies helps American companies who do business abroad and supports jobs back home. Companies that signed on to the letter include Walmart (WMT), Pfizer (PFE), Coca-Cola (KO), DuPont, Mars, Procter & Gamble (PG) and Nike (NKE).” [CNN, 5/22/17]

More than 100 organizations urged Congress to fully fund the United Nations. “As civil society organizations committed to multilateral cooperation as a means to creating a better, safer world, we urge you to support strong U.S. leadership at the United Nations, including by fully meeting our nation’s financial obligations to the organization. Continued engagement with the UN is critical to advancing a number of core U.S. foreign policy objectives, including securing recent gains in international development, delivering lifesaving humanitarian assistance, combating terrorism, encouraging the peaceful resolution of conflict, and promoting universal human rights.” [Letter, 2/28/17]

More than 100 Christian leaders tell Congress to protect foreign aid. From the USGLC: “More than 100 Christian leaders from across the United States are calling on Congress to avoid disproportionate cuts to America’s foreign assistance programs that make up less than 1% of the federal budget. In a letter to the House and Senate leadership, the signers write: ‘It is our moral responsibility to urge you to support and protect the International Affairs Budget’ noting ‘we cannot turn our back on those in desperate need.’” [USGLC, 3/16/17]

USAID plays a key role in stabilizing areas liberated from the Islamic State. Said General Joseph Votel, Commander of U.S. Central Command: “The military can help to create the necessary conditions; however, there must be concomitant progress in other complementary areas (e.g., reconstruction, humanitarian aid, stabilization, political reconciliation). There are a variety of interagency programs and efforts underway that are essential to translating military gains into actual achievement of stated goals and objectives. Support for these endeavors is vital to our success.” Said a former USAID official: “This is where USAID and its partners come in. Beyond providing critically needed humanitarian assistance and insuring access to essential services such as water, electricity, and health care, U.S. assistance helps strengthen local governance and ideally will facilitate the sustainable return of those who have been displaced from their homes. Successful stabilization of these areas will help prevent the emergence of dangerous power vacuums that can lead to renewed conflict, vastly diminishing the prospects that the United States will need to return to battle the Islamic State 2.0.” [Foreign Policy, 3/10/17]

Americans want the U.S. to play a major role in world affairs. A recent Gallup poll found that 72 percent of Americans said the United States should play a leading or major role in international affairs. Says Gallup, “Combined support for the leading or a major role has generally been consistent since 2001 at about three-quarters of Americans.” [Gallup, 3/6/17]

Withholding UN funds will limit US ability and influence to steer international agenda. According to the Better World Campaign: “Members of Congress and the incoming Administration have an opportunity to work with the new Secretary-General to achieve real reforms that will strengthen the United Nations’ ability to carry out its life-saving work around the world. Withholding funding for the UN will significantly jeopardize America’s influence and ability to steer the international agenda – potentially allowing other nations to take the reins.” [Better World Campaign, 1/12/17]

Americans want US involvement in the UN. A recent poll found that “88% of Americans support active engagement at the UN. The vast majority – 81% – also support the U.S. working with major allies to solve global challenges rather than acting alone.” [UN Foundation, 1/05/17]

20 million people around world face famine. “People — mostly children under the age of five years-old — are already starving to death [in Yemen, Somalia and Nigeria]. In all 20 million people are in immediate need of food assistance in these places. If they don’t get that assistance, they will starve to death. … Even small cuts to their budgets have profound implications for the people they serve. A massive cut from the single largest funder could cause a generation-wide catastrophe the likes of which the world has never seen. [UN Dispatch, 3/14/17]

US funding saves millions of lives from disease, conflict and food insecurity. Defunding the UN would result in putting more than 150,000 people at risk of contracting Malaria per day. UN peacekeeping missions help displaced persons return home and are 8 times more cheaper than US forces working alone. Says Better World Campaign President Peter Yeo, “These funds also save millions of lives each year from preventable causes like malnutrition, malaria, and polio, while helping to address global threats such as violent extremism, pandemics, and climate change.” [Better World Campaign, 2/28/173/1/172/28/17; UN Foundation, 3/14/173/14/17]

There is no need to increase Pentagon spending — which is already historically high with tens of billion in waste, sustains the worlds most powerful military, and gets huge boosts from the OCO slush fund.

  • Experts say the supposed Armed Forces readiness crisis is hyped for more Pentagon spending. Most proponents of more Pentagon spending cite a crisis in readiness. But Former Department of Defense Comptroller, Robert Hale, has responded to the current claims of a readiness crisis by saying, “I think we need to be a little skeptical.” “There’s money available right now … This is a time [leading up to budget requests] when the services, if you will, want to put their worst foot forward and make clear all the problems that are there.” David Petraeus and Michael O’Hanlon explain that “America’s fighting forces remain ready for battle. They have extensive combat experience across multiple theaters since 9/11, a tremendous high-tech defense industry supplying advanced weaponry, and support from an extraordinary intelligence community.” While noting some problems with readiness, they add that “Army equipment has, on average, mission-capable rates today exceeding 90%—a historically high level” and “The Air Force is funding its training and readiness programs at 80%-98% of what it considers fully resourced levels.” [ 2/22/17; WSJ, 8/19/16]
  • Current Pentagon spending is already at historically high levels — $100 billion more than we spent on average during the Cold War. A recent report explains that current Pentagon spending of about $600 billion “is up considerably from the $400 billion level at the turn of the century—and even from the $500 billion average of the Cold War decades,” taking into account the costs of war and nuclear costs outside the Department of Defense’s budget. And unlike the Cold War, the United States faces no peer competitor on the world stage that pose potentially existential threats to the nation. [Michael O’Hanlon, 7/16]
  • The Pentagon already uses a “slush-fund” to receive off-the-books appropriations. Unlike domestic spending, the Pentagon skirts the limits on its base budget by spending money in its so-called Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) budget on its programs that is supposed to be spent on combat. Todd Harrison of CSIS explains, “in recent years both Congress and the Obama administration have moved items from the base budget to the OCO budget as a way of circumventing the [Budget Control Act] budget caps. Roughly half of the OCO budget ($30 billion) is now being used for programs and activities that were previously funded in the base budget.” [Todd Harrison, 1/17]
  • The Pentagon should settle its waste, fraud, and abuse issues before it gets any more money. The Pentagon’s Defense Business Board identifies that $125 billion could be saved over five years through reducing overhead and reforming back-office business practices, such as contractor reform and making better use of information technology, and reducing unnecessary staff through attrition. That amount of money could fund 50 Army brigades or 10 deployments of carrier strike groups annually for 5 full years. [Defense Business Board, 1/22/15]

Increasing Pentagon spending is a boon for defense industry executives but a raw deal for workers, where investment in domestic programs creates more job and growth. A study of the job-creating effects of different kinds of government spending by the University of Massachusetts found that: “military spending creates about 11,600 with $1 billion in spending. By a significant amount, this is the fewest number of jobs of any of the alternative uses of funds that we present. Thus, household consumption [that could be given tax breaks] generates about 14,800 jobs, 28 percent more than military spending. Clean energy generates about 17,100 jobs, (48 percent more than military) and healthcare generates about 19,600 jobs (69 percent more than the military). Spending on education is the largest source of job creation by a substantial amount, generating about 29,100 jobs overall through $1 billion in spending, which is 151 percent more than the number of jobs that are generated through $1 billion in military spending.” [Pollin and Garrett-Peltier, 10/09][Editor’s note: This post was updated on 5/23/17 to include a CNN report and the USGLC letter from faith leaders]

March 23, 2018