December 27th, 2022
On Wednesday, December 28th, from 10 AM to 11 AM, a coalition of Maryland peace and environmental advocates will lead a separate peace parade immediately following the scheduled parade for the Military Bowl in Annapolis. The group plans to follow the same parade route hoping to bring visibility to the $858 billion spending budget recently allocated for the US military while many domestic, social safety net, and environmental programs continue to remain underfunded or have been cut.
The peace parade route will begin at the Market Space in Downtown Annapolis, then up along Main Street and Rowe Boulevard before ending at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, the site of the college football game between University of Central Florida and Duke University later in the day. The centerpiece of the coalition’s parade flotilla will be a “Peace Tank”, a large art-build that resembles a tank painted with peace messages and banners. Participants will distribute information on the costs of war and programs not supported by national spending.
The Peace Tank will be decorated with banners highlighting the domestic priorities that could have been funded with the dollars that were allocated instead to the US Military budget. The signs also will identify the US military as one of the largest sources of fossil fuel pollution in the world. The coalition anticipates a contingent of 14 -20 marchers to accompany the Peace Tank. The literature they will hand out will cite sources on the issues presented on the banners on the float. The group’s objective for the day is to engage with those assembled in the hopes of getting them to think more critically about the roughly 50% of the US Federal Government discretionary budget that is dedicated to military spending and whether its size can continue to be justified when other critical public needs remain unmet.1 The pamphlets will include information on how military spending regularly accounts for 11% of total annual expenditures.
The coalition includes members from Maryland Peace Action, Veterans For Peace, Code Pink, and Backbone Campaign as well as local activists from environmental, police reform, and racial justice. Some of the unseen costs include underfunding for needed repairs to civic infrastructure, veterans programs, education, and access to affordable healthcare. They point to the $21 trillion the US government has spent on foreign and domestic militarization over the 20 years since the events of September 11th, 2001.2
In 2021 the budget allocated to the Pentagon was approximately $741 billion, which averaged out to the US spending $1.4 million per minute for its military. The US spends massively more on its military than any other nation. China is the next highest nation in total annual military spending at $237 billion, though being a country of similar geographical size and supporting a population that is 433% larger than the US’, it still only allocates 32% of what the US does towards its military. Additionally, the $741 billion military budget of the US in 2021 exceeded by $200 billion the combined budgets of the next 12 highest nations on that list, which only totaled $543.35 billion between them.3
The Department of Defense’s regular justification for these large budgets is to “support service members and their families, recognizing that our people are our most valuable resource.”4 Repeated studies have brought to light substandard services extended to those in their employ. A 2019 investigation by Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, while on the Senate Arms Committee, revealed that military families were placed into substandard housing. The investigation revealed “a complicated web of subcontractors and subsidiaries” making large profits and receiving incentive fees with little accountability to families and military departments.5
Additionally contributing to this bloated budget are the runaway costs within US military spending in the form of “cost plus” and non-competitive contracts.
The group also is concerned about underfunding veteran programs, which is included separately from money for the Pentagon in the US budget. VA facilities across the country are understaffed by almost 65,000 personnel.6
In the $21 trillion the US government has spent on foreign and domestic militarization since September 11th, 2001 cited earlier, $7.2 trillion went to military contracts.7 These contracts include services provided to US troops, and the cost of building military equipment. Just last month, The Hill reported that a review conducted by Pentagon Comptroller Mike McCord and 1,600 government auditors of the Department of Defense’s $3.5 trillion in assets and $3.7 trillion in liabilities found that the department couldn’t account for about 61 percent of its assets.8
This is prime evidence confirming the famous warning that former President Dwight D. Eisenhower made in his prescient farewell address in 1961. Eisenhower, a former 5 star Army General, warned about the unwarranted influence of the military-industrial (Congressional) complex: “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.”9
The group hopes that the presence of the Peace Tank will help those gathered reach a better understanding of the unseen programs the US says “no” to by saying “yes” to all of its military spending. If 10% of the military budget was instead allocated to housing programs, homelessness in the country could be severely diminished by providing funds for 8.42 million public housing units for one year. Further, 1.897 billion vaccines for Coronavirus could be provided for with the same amount. $200 billion diverted from the military budget could guarantee free preschool for every 3-and-4-year old over the next ten years as well as raise teacher pay. If $4.5 trillion of the $21 trillion spent on the military over the past twenty years had instead been spent on upgrading the US electric grid, the goal of fully decarbonizing it could have been achieved.10
The group also points out that the US military is one of the world’s largest users of fossil fuels and producers of pollution. The Pentagon is the world’s largest consumer of oil and, as a result, emits more greenhouse gas pollution than 140 individual nations.11
The urgency for this discussion became more prescient given the recent approval by Congress to increase the military budget to $858 billion in 2023, was $45 billion more than both the Biden administration and the Pentagon requested.12, 13, 14 This follows the Defense Authorization Act passed in 2021 where Congress had authorized a record $768 billion for dedicated military spending in 2022, which again was $24 billion more than was requested by the executive branch.15
Fearing that awareness of this essential and urgent discussion on the runaway costs of the US military and the future of the country, especially in the face of near trillion dollar annual deficits, would be lost in the pomp and patriotic fervor surrounding the ceremony of the Military Bowl, action for them is necessary.
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Citations and additional information:
1 National Priorities Project (n.d.). Federal Spending: Where Does the Money Go. (Retrieved December 20, 2021) from https://www.
2 Johnson, Jake (2021, September 1). Since 9/11, US Has Spent $21 Trillion on Militarism at Home and Abroad. Common Dreams. https://www.commondreams.org/
3 World Population Review. (n.d.) Military Spending by Country 2021. (Retrieved December 20, 2021) from https://worldpopulationreview.
4 US Department of Defense. (2020, February 01). DOD Releases Fiscal Year 2021 Budget Proposal.
5Office of Senator Elizabeth Warren. (2019, May 01) Senator Warren Releases Her Investigation of the Pentagon’s Substandard Military Base Housing Program. Warren.senate.gov. https://www.warren.senate.gov/
6 American Federation of Government Employees (2022, August 29) New VA Employee Survey reveals Severe Understaffing at VA Facilities. (Retrieved December 27, 2022) from https://www.afge.org/article/
7 Johnson, Jake (2021, September 1). Since 9/11, US Has Spent $21 Trillion on Militarism at Home and Abroad. Common Dreams. https://www.commondreams.org/
8 Mitchell, Ellen (2022, November 17). Defense Department fails another audit, but makes progress. The Hill. https://thehill.com/policy/
9 Dwight. D Eisenhower “The Chance for Peace” Address Delivered Before the American Society of Newspaper Editors, April 16th, 1953
10 National Priorities Project (n.d.). Trade-Offs: Your Money, Your Choices. (Retrieved December 20, 2021) from https://www.
11 Crawford, Neta C. (2019, June 12). Pentagon Fuel Use, Climate Change, and the Costs of War. Watson Institute of International Public Affairs, Brown University. https://watson.brown.edu/
12 US House of Representatives. H.R.7900 – National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2023 (Retrieved December 20, 2022) from https://www.congress.gov
13US Senate. S.4543 – James M. Inhofe National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2023 (Retrieved December 20, 2022) from https://www.congress.gov
14Demirjian, Karoun. (2022, December 15). Senate passes defense bill that arms U.S. allies, ends vaccine mandate. The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.
15Edmondson, Catie. (2021, December 7). House Passes $768 Billion Defense Policy Bill. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/