This Week in Congress: Update on Spending

President Trump has issued a veto threat to the National Defense Authorization Act because it only authorizes $733 billion instead of the President’s full amount of $750 billion. Of course, both bills spend too much, but the smaller amount is preferable.

You can see Ron Paul and Daniel McAdams discuss the NDAA here.

Here is a letter Campaign for Liberty co-signed in support of the lower spending limit:

Dear Senator:

As organizations representing Americans across the ideological spectrum, we are writing to urge you to ​vote “no” ​on any version of S. 1790, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year (FY) 2020, that provides for Pentagon spending of ​$750 billion​.

Current national defense spending is ​not driven by necessity​. Indeed, the ever-changing budget levels that emerged from the Trump administration demonstrated that politics guide the President’s budget requests. Less than eight months ago, the Pentagon and Pentagon boosters in Congress were calling for a $733 billion topline, as President Trump pushed for $700 billion. ​ The President’s formal request for $750 billion has been reported to have been an arbitrary “round number” and a “negotiating tactic" to ensure the most Pentagon spending. This level of Pentagon increase remains unacceptable and unwise — even, to borrow the President’s words, ​“crazy.

Recent ​polling​ suggests a majority of the public does not want defense spending increased, and in fact, may prefer substantial reductions.​ ​29 percent of Americans say the current level of Pentagon spending is too high while 43 percent (the highest in 15 years) believe the country is spending roughly the right amount already. That means that nearly three-quarters of Americans would not support more of their tax dollars going to the Pentagon, as S. 1790 would.​ Citizens are paying attention to policy changes in this area and are increasingly acting on their preferences.​

Furthermore, there have been growing calls for substantial reductions from groups and experts across the ideological spectrum and across issue areas nearly all of which seek ​elimination, reform, or reduction​ of the ​Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) account​, the deeply troubled and costly ​F-35 program​, ​U.S. force structure plans including expanded ​Navy shipbuilding​, the ​U.S. nuclear arsenal​, the establishment of a ​Space Force​, and ​costly inefficiencies​ including excess or duplicative personnel, contractors and property.

Many of the aforementioned recommendations draw heavily from the findings of government agencies like the Congressional Budget Office, Government Accountability Office, and the Pentagon itself.​ ​ There have similarly been calls for Congress to reject as too high Pentagon spending levels of $750 billion from women ​state legislators from 29 states​, a former high-ranking ​Reagan administration Defense Department official​, as well as by coalitions of ​left- and right-leaning groups​ (including many of the under-signed).

S. 1790 as reported by the Committee on Armed Services expands on last year’s already excessive use of ​Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) ​funding to escape budget limits Congress agreed to impose on itself and the Pentagon nine years ago. ​​The Government Accountability Office (GAO) ​and two former Pentagon Comptrollers ​who served in Republican and Democratic administrations are part of the growing chorus calling on Congress to rein in OCO to ensure better use and accounting of taxpayer dollars, especially those used ostensibly for war-making. Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney previously has decried the use of OCO dollars as a ​“slushfund.” ​ThePentagon has acknowledged that tens of billions of these OCO dollars supplement “base” budget spending on non-war programs. These abuses should be met by significant reductions, not increases, in the use of OCO funding.

In late 2018, the Department of Defense finally completed—and ​failed—a first-ever full financial audit​ that every other major federal agency has passed. ​No business or private sector employee would expect to see such a failure rewarded with a massive increase in financing or salary. Instead of rewarding the Pentagon with still more of the taxpayers’ billions, the Senate should insist that the Pentagon decrease waste, improve accountability, and prioritize missions.

We urge you to oppose an FY 2020 National Defense Authorization Act that provides three-quarters of a trillion dollars for the Pentagon.


Campaign for Liberty

Center for International Policy

Coalition to Reduce Spending


DownsizeDC.org, Inc.


Friends Committee on National Legislation

Just Foreign Policy

National Priorities Project at the Institute for Policy Studies National Taxpayers Union

Peace Action

Project On Government Oversight

Taxpayers for Common Sense

Taxpayers Protection Alliance

The United Methodist Church-General Board of Church and Society

Truth in Accounting

Win Without War

Women’s Action for New Directions

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