Military spending increase looms

After ending America’s longest war, which began shortly after the conclusion of the Cold War, Russian aggression in Eastern Europe is being vaunted as a new reason why the Pentagon requires a boost in funding but some progressive Democrats feel the real motive is greed.

President Joe Biden has signed into law a $778 billion military budget after Congress overwhelmingly passed the bill despite protests from progressives and anti-war groups who had advocated for cutting military spending.

Those groups say the United States needs to cut military spending in order to shift money to two pressing threats: pandemics and climate change.

Federal Election Commission data shows that in the first six months of this year, the 14 Democrats collectively received at least $135,000 from PACs representing the country’s top 10 defense vendors: Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, General Dynamics, L3Harris, Huntington Ingalls Industries, Leidos, Honeywell, and Booz Allen Hamilton.

Just two days after the U.S. ended its 20-year war in Afghanistan, more than a dozen Democrats with strong ties to the military establishment defied President Joe Biden and voted to add nearly $24 billion to the defense budget for fiscal year 2022.

Rep. Mikie Sherrill of New Jersey was one of 14 Democrats who joined 28 Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee to adopt an amendment that boosted Biden’s $715 billion the fiscal year 2022 defense authorization bill to instead spend $738.9 billion.

After voting for the $24 billion spending increase, Sherrill issued a press release touting that she secured tens of millions of dollars in additional funding for the Army’s Picatinny Arsenal, the largest employer in her district.

Sherrill’s campaign organization received at least $11,000 from top defense contractors in the first half of 2021, including $3,000 from Huntington Ingalls’s PAC and $2,500 from L3Harris’s PAC.

According to the data released by the Federal Election Commission and analyzed by OpenSecrets, individuals employed by the defense industry and associated PACs have already contributed $11 million to federal political campaigns for 2022.

In 2020, those military industry groups gave federal candidates $49,550,117 and in 2018, the contributed $32,685,548.

Only two New Jersey representatives voted against the final spending plan, both Democrats, Reps. Frank Pallone, Jr. and Bonnie Watson Coleman.

“It’s shameful how both parties fight tooth + nail to defend their ability to pump endless public money into militarization,” said Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

“The Biden administration had an opportunity to redirect the United States’ path away from endless war and all but limitless spending on the Defense Department,” said Mandy Smithberger, director of the Center for Defense Information at the Project On Government Oversight. “That path could and should have centered on the most imminent threats to our security: climate change and potentially pandemic infectious diseases.”

“But you wouldn’t recognize those as America’s top threats by looking at its spending priorities, which continue to prioritize the best interests of defense contractors over protecting the true national security,” said Smithberger.

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