Biden FY 2023 budget puts war before human needs

March 28, 2022

President Biden’s FY 2023 budget request once again prioritizes violence, the military and war over peace and human needs. But more spending on militarism can’t address the nation’s or the world’s problems.

At $813 billion, the President’s request for the Pentagon exceeds even the $782 billion budget that Congress just passed by $31 billion. The increase alone is twice the amount that Congress refused for ongoing COVID aid for antivirals, vaccines and tests, after nearly one million Americans have died of the virus. 

The U.S. military budget is already more than the next 11 countries combined, 12 times more than Russia’s, and higher than at the peak of the Vietnam War or the Cold War. If more militarism were the key to a stable and secure world, we would already be there.

Domestically, the U.S. has deported more than five million people over the last 20 years. The president’s budget request also continues the precedent of militarizing immigration policy, so that immigrants are met with violence, detention and surveillance. It maintains or slightly increases funding for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the agencies responsible for family separations and abusive detention conditions for immigrants.

There are some bright spots. The request cuts the number of beds dedicated to detention of immigrants, an inhumane policy that has subjected immigrants to abusive and dangerous conditions. It also cuts the request for the troubled F-35 jet fighter by one third, slowing the flow of money to a behemoth weapons system that has failed to meet the Pentagon’s standards. These cuts show some willingness to break with policy that is immoral and doesn’t work. Congress should maintain both of these cuts. 

Military intervention can’t fix the world’s problems, but that won’t stop contractors and hawks from calling for more military spending. Half of Pentagon funding in a typical year goes to for-profit contractors. Stock prices for weapons contractors have soared since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and weapons company leaders have spoken of the invasion as an “opportunity.” 

The U.S. has relied for far too long on a false equation of military might and higher military spending with security. U.S. military spending is already 12 times as high as Russia’s, but that did not prevent the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Instead of doubling down on this broken model, the U.S. should reinvest in diplomacy and humanitarian aid, and recognize increasing militarization as the escalating factor it too often is.

As a candidate and as President, President Biden has called for a diplomacy-first foreign policy, a more humane immigration policy, more investment in public health, child care, elder care, clean energy, ending poverty, higher education, and more. Americans support those priorities. Unfortunately, this budget does not deliver.