- President Joe Biden requested $US715 ($AU970) billion in military spending for 2022.
- But the Senate endorsed spending $US740 ($AU1,004) billion.
- The House Armed Services Committee agreed to match that on Wednesday.
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The United States has withdrawn from Afghanistan, ending what President Joe Biden has described as “an era of major military operations to remake other countries.” But that does not mean it will spend less money on defense.
By a 42-17 vote on Wednesday, 14 Democrats joined with Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee to add nearly $US25 ($AU34) billion to the 2022 defense budget, Politico’s Connor O’Brien reported. That brings the total in Pentagon spending to $US740 ($AU1,004) billion, up from the $US715 ($AU970) billion that had been requested by the White House.
“I think in one word we can sum up the ‘why,’ and that’s China,” Rep. Elaine Luria, a Democrat from Virginia, said Wednesday. “Right now there are malign actors who seek to attack us and do us harm, whether that’s through provocative and illegal maritime claims in the South China Sea, devastating cyber attacks, or confrontations with our allies, such as Israel,” she said.
President Biden’s requested budget would have increased total military spending by about 2%, which roughly tracked with the annual rate of inflation. That proposal angered Senate progressives, such as Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who argued the budget should be cut and money redirected to social programs.
But it also upset more hawkish members of both parties. In July, the Senate Appropriations Committee easily passed its version of the National Defense Authorization Act, adding $US25 ($AU34) billion to the Defense Department’s budget.
Including spending on nuclear weapons, a program overseen by the Department of Energy, 2022 military spending is on track to be around $US778 ($AU1,056) million, $US37 ($AU50) billion more than the year before and roughly the same amount spent in the 2020 fiscal year.
Rep. Ro Khanna, a Democrat from California, argued that is too much to spend at a time when there are many other competing priorities, such as providing for refugees from Afghanistan.
“Why not spend the money on resettling them or helping with their evacuation?” he asked before Wednesday’s vote. “I don’t understand why we need, at a time when we’re withdrawing from Afghanistan, when we have been withdrawing from Iraq, a budget that is higher than at the height of the Cold War,” he said.
Military spending steadily increased under former President Donald Trump following years of modest declines following the withdrawal of most US forces from Iraq. In 2020, the US accounted for 39% of global military expenditures, per the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute;
The vote to increase the military budget comes after the defense industry spent $US57 ($AU77) million on lobbying members of Congress in the first half of 2021, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Rep. Mike Rogers, a Republican from Alabama who proposed the increase in an amendment, said in a statement that the increase was required to “keep pace with a rising China and a re-emerging Russia.”
“I hope this bipartisan, and now bicameral, move is understood by the Biden-Harris administration,” he said.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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