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Will a Biden Administration Mean a Smaller Military Budget?

EDITOR’S NOTE:&nbspThis article originally appeared at TomDispatch.com. To stay on top of important articles like these, sign up to receive the latest updates from TomDispatch.

Now that Joe Biden is slated to take office as the 46th president of the United States, advice on how he should address a wide range of daunting problems is flooding in. Nowhere is there more at stake than when it comes to how he handles this country’s highly militarized foreign policy in general and Pentagon spending in particular.

Defense spending increased sharply in the Trump years and is now substantially higher than it was during the Korean or Vietnam War eras or during the massive military buildup President Ronald Reagan oversaw in the 1980s. Today, it consumes well over half of the nation’s discretionary budget, which just happens to also pay for a wide array of urgently needed priorities ranging from housing, job training, and alternative energy programs to public health and infrastructure building. At a time when pandemics, high unemployment, racial inequality, and climate change pose the greatest threats to our safety and security, this allocation of resources should be considered unsustainable. Unfortunately, the Pentagon and the arms industry have yet to get that memo. Defense company executives recently assured a Washington Post reporter that they are “unconcerned” about or consider unlikely the possibility that a Biden administration would significantly reduce Pentagon spending.

It’s easy enough to understand their confidence. Many of the officials rumored to soon be appointed to lead the Pentagon, including a number of former Obama administration figures, have spent the past few years working, either directly or indirectly, for defense contractors. Not surprisingly, then, their policy prescriptions emphasize some of the most expensive and risky military technologies imaginable like hypersonic weaponry. The expected next secretary of defense, Michèle Flournoy, has already insisted that Washington needs to make “big bets” on unmanned systems and artificial intelligence. Of course, she won’t be the one who will pay the price if they fail—or even if they succeed and take money that might have been used for crucial domestic purposes like health care in a pandemic moment.

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