The US Military May Dodge Significant Budget Cuts, to the Ire of Progressives

24 Feb 2021 | By Steve Beynon

Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., arrives for the second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump in the Senate, at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2021. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Progressives have geared up for a funding battle to gut the Defense Department, but the Senate Armed Services Committee’s new chairman doesn’t expect any big moves in the next budget.

Sen. Jack Reed, the Rhode Island Democrat who leads the panel, said he expects “tighter budgets going forward, more flat than rising.”

The government must juggle a DoD modernization effort to compete with near-peer threats by boosting cyber warfare and space capabilities after unprecedented spending for economic recovery efforts amid the pandemic.

“I think there’s going to be budget pressure on all budgets,” Reed said in a call with reporters Wednesday. “We’re gonna deal with a tighter budget; we need to make judicious calls on what’s worthwhile.”

A lack of big surprises in the next budget potentially sets up a fight between Democrats on Capitol Hill. Progressives have pounced on the opportunity to scale back military spending in favor of investing in other parts of the government and curtailing the economic devastation caused by the pandemic.

“After the past year … spending $740 billion a year on this one piece of the federal budget is unconscionable,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat who serves on the Armed Services Committee, said at a hearing earlier this month. “We continue to overinvest in defense while underinvesting in public health and so much more that would keep us safe and save lives.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, who chairs the Senate Budget Committee, vowed to combat fraud and waste in the DoD and has long sought to cut its budget by 10 percent.

“Military spending, now higher than the next 11 nations combined, represents more than half of all federal discretionary spending,” Sanders said in a statement last year. “If the horrific pandemic we are now experiencing has taught us anything, it is that national security means a lot more than building bombs, missiles, jet fighters, tanks, submarines, nuclear warheads and other weapons of mass destruction.”

President Joe Biden said he doesn’t foresee any major cuts to the Pentagon, telling Stars and Stripes in September that, if anything, there could be a slight increase in funding for emerging warfighting domains such as cyber.

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