Warren Delivers Floor Speech in Opposition to the National Defense Authorization Act
Defense Bill Spends Nearly Five Times the Amount of Biden’s Build Back Better Agenda
“This bill is another example of Congress granting the Pentagon virtually unlimited resources while...pinching pennies on things that will make the American economy work for our children and our seniors, for workers and students and retirees, for everyone who isn’t part of a tiny slice at the top”
Washington, D.C. - Today, United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, took to the Senate floor to speak in opposition to the National Defense Authorization Act. Senator Warren calls on Congress to take a close look at the Pentagon’s budget and ensure it aligns with the threats we actually face—like COVID-19 and the climate crisis—which this bill fails to do.
Senator Warren’s remarks as prepared for delivery:
Mr. President, I rise to speak in opposition to the National Defense Authorization Act.
As written, this legislation authorizes $778 billion dollars in defense spending next year alone. That’s more money than we spent on defense during the Korean or Vietnam Wars; it’s even more than we spent at the height of the extraordinary Reagan defense buildup in the 1980s.
Congress is set to pass this bill with virtually no debate or and with virtually no discussion about how much money we’re spending. Congress keeps the spigot of cash wide open so long as it’s for defense. And please note that not one single dollar of this huge defense budget will be offset either with new taxes or with new spending cuts elsewhere.
Meanwhile, do you know how much money the President’s Build Back Better plan will cost on average each year if Congress passes it? $175 billion. That’s about one-fifth of the size of this defense bill. And unlike the defense bill, every single dollar of the President’s plan will be offset with new revenue or savings.
And remember that original request for Build Back Better—the $6 trillion dollar package? Even that bill would have been substantially less money than this defense bill will authorize.
But here’s the thing: when we want to invest $175 billion a year for childcare, paid family leave, and fighting the climate crisis, and when we’re going to offset every single dollar for those new expenses, everybody suddenly becomes so very concerned about spending. When we want to make investments that directly benefit taxpayers across this country, we’re told, “that costs too much,” or “that’s socialism.” But when we spend nearly five times that amount in the defense bill, it’s just a shrug of the shoulders. This place is empty.
And let’s be clear about where most of this defense money is going. It’s largely going to the defense industry. The Pentagon will take this money and give approximately $400 billion to contractors. And nearly 40% of that will go to a small handful of giant contractors.
This is a huge amount of money in an ordinary year, but two years into a global pandemic that’s killed 765,000 Americans, it’s irresponsible to spend this much money on stuff that isn’t saving Americans from what is actually killing them.
America’s spending priorities are completely misaligned with the threats Americans are actually facing, the things are quite literally endangering their lives—like COVID-19 and the climate crisis.
Let me be clear: We can spend far less money on defense and still protect Americans and American interests. And you don’t have to take my word for it. The Congressional Budget Office recently published a report outlining three different avenues for cutting $1 trillion in defense spending over the next decade. None of the three proposals were close to radical. And, by the way, none of them achieved any savings from nuclear modernization, contract spending, and closing bases.
And before somebody cranks up the outrage machine, let me say that I do not believe we should spend nothing on defense. There are real threats to our nation and real interests we must defend. There are some situations that may require military solutions. But this defense bill goes far beyond that threshold. Instead, this bill continues to feed into the wrong-headed idea that America’s strength can only be measured by our military domination.
This bill is another example of Congress granting the Pentagon virtually unlimited resources while, at the exact same moment, pinching pennies on things that will make the American economy work for our children and our seniors, for workers and students and retirees, for everyone who isn’t part of a tiny slice at the top. These misplaced priorities chip away at the strength of our nation, and, ironically, they undermine the foundation upon which our military is built. If we don’t come to recognize that soon, all this money will have been wasted and the world’s most powerful military will rest on a foundation of sand.
There are important and valuable provisions in this defense bill. There are even places where we should spend more money, like on cyber defense. But it is long past time for us to rationalize the Pentagon’s budget and align it with the threats we actually face. And this defense bill, like many before it, fails miserably to do that. For that reason I will vote against it.
Thank you, Mr. President, I yield the floor.
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