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An Innermost Look at the United States Department of Defense Funding

By Eman Hamed

Edited by Nikita Shetty

Recently, political education in the United States has tailored itself to a long debated issue: our Department of Defense’s (DOD) funding. The DOD, which consists of the army, navy, marines, air forces, and national security agencies, was created on September 18th, 1947, functioning as part of the executive branch of the federal government. Since the DOD’s foundation, the U.S. government has championed its agenda on building and maintaining a strong, tactical military, one that stands for the values of its people, and asserts dominance on the world stage. In championing this agenda, presidential administrations and congressional committees approved billions of dollars each fiscal year for defense spending.

But that leads us to the question: Is the current Department of Defense spending unreasonable? To answer this inquiry, let’s take a look at how much money is allocated to the department, determine how the money is spent, and conduct impact analysis on the efficacy of the department and its total expenditures.

The Department of Defense accounts for the majority of federal discretionary spending. The Brookings Institute relays that on average, the defense budget is $722 billion. However, for fiscal year 2021, which commences in October of 2020, the allocated military spending is $934 billion. The Congressional Budget Office claims that the budget is divided among the branches of the military (army, navy, air force), national security infrastructure and technology, cultural advisers, vast medical units, some veteran affairs, paychecks and pensions, and more. Specifically, the army, navy, and air force spending can be further diluted to weaponry, vehicles and transportation, and training and education, to name a few.

All of these factors within the defense department are necessary and integral. But, the New York Times states that even if the United States cuts defense funding by 40%, it would still be #1 in military spending, and grant more money to defense than all nations combined. What makes the U.S. military particularly unique is our priority for defense and our dedication to making our military branches robust, but can we uphold this elite status and balance budgets better?

The money from the Defense budget is divided among the branches of the military.

Proponents of cutting defense spending say it can be better used for education, healthcare, and more endeavors in the public sector. Opponents of this idea, those who wish to keep defense spending as is, say the money is well spent. There should be no consideration to defund our national security, jeopardize the safety of all citizens, or to equip our service members with fewer resources.

So are proponents right? The Charles Koch Institute shows that while defense spending gradually ameliorates each fiscal year, that money can be better put to use for welfare programs. The institute makes a point that the United States does not have viable threats at its doorstep to warrant such high spending. The U.S. Department of Defense can learn to maintain its superiority while its funding can be cut to redistribute to other sectors. Business Insider claims that slashing military spending by just $60 billion can match the Department of Education’s (DOE) funding for 1 year. In addition to doubling the DOE’s budget, the Washington Post argues that $300 billion cuts can fund free healthcare for all for a year.

As Americans struggle to attain quality healthcare, quality education, and quality welfare that helps them keep food on the table and clothes on their backs, they question the military necessity the government has dedicated hundreds of billions of dollars to. In an age where the United States possesses international dominance and has extensive defense infrastructure and planning, it is important that lawmakers reassess the need for this kind of money, and that those in power allocate money reasonably.

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