On March 13th, the Pentagon rolled out its proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2024. The results were — or at least should have been — stunning, even by the standards of a department that’s used to getting what it wants when it wants it.
The new Pentagon budget would come in at $842 billion. That’s the highest level requested since World War II, except for the peak moment of the Afghan and Iraq wars, when the United States had nearly 200,000 troops deployed in those two countries.
$1 Trillion for the Pentagon?
It’s important to note that the $842 billion proposed price tag for the Pentagon next year will only be the beginning of what taxpayers will be asked to shell out in the name of “defense.” If you add in nuclear weapons work at the Department of Energy and small amounts of military spending spread across other agencies, you’re already at a total military budget of $886 billion. And if last year is any guide, Congress will add tens of billions of dollars extra to that sum, while yet more billions will go for emergency aid to Ukraine to help it fend off Russia’s brutal invasion. In short, we’re talking about possible total spending of well over $950 billion on war and preparations for more of it — within striking distance, in other words, of the $1 trillion mark that hawkish officials and pundits could only dream about a few short years ago.
The ultimate driver of that enormous spending spree is a seldom-commented-upon strategy of global military overreach, including 750 U.S. military bases scattered on every continent except Antarctica, 170,000 troops stationed overseas, and counterterror operations in at least 85 — no, that is not a typo — countries (a count offered by Brown University’s Costs of War Project). Worse yet, the Biden administration only seems to be preparing for more of the same. Its National Defense Strategy, released late last year, manages to find the potential for conflict virtually everywhere on the planet and calls for preparations to win a war with Russia and/or China, fight Iran and North Korea, and continue to wage a global war on terror, which, in recent times, has been redubbed “countering violent extremism.” Think of such a strategic view of the world as the exact opposite of the “diplomacy first” approach touted by President Joe Biden and his team during his early months in office. Worse yet, it’s more likely to serve as a recipe for conflict than a blueprint for peace and security.