What We Spend on the EPA Compared to Pentagon Contractors

by Kufre McIver

Bar graph showing annual spending on the EPA vs. Pentagon contractors from FY 2013 to FY 2023 

This month marked a year since the train derailment and contamination of air and water in East Palestine, Ohio, and in that time, the number of train derailments has actually increased.

Instead of spending enough on the agency that could protect us from these events we instead pour money into corporate military contractors.

Each year Congress gives more than 50% of its discretionary budget to the Pentagon. and one of the most wasteful uses of this money is on contract spending. Since the early 2000’s the Pentagon has contracted work out to the private sector to an ever growing expense. Over the decade from 2013 to 2023, the Pentagon’s contract expenditures ballooned to more than $450 billion. More than half of their annual budget is for work they do not even do themselves. 

With such astronomical figures being given away, and no seeming end in sight, it's important to put these numbers in perspective. In the 10 years between 2013 and 2023, the Environmental Protection Agency’s average annual spending was 40 times less than the Pentagon’s, with their budget only growing by 8.7% compared to the pentagon’s near 25% growth in that time. 

This comes at a time when the U.S. military has been known for years as one of the worst emitters of greenhouse gasses on the planet, and climate change continues to be one of the most important issues for us to address on a global scale. With such high stakes for the wellbeing of our most vulnerable populations and limited resources to address these issues, it's important to understand where our priorities currently lie and where they should be for a healthier, more equitable society. We have the resources to prevent and reverse many ecological disasters like the one experienced in East Palestine, it's only a matter of summoning the political will to do it.

Kufre McIver is the New Mexico Fellow with the Institute for Policy Studies.