America has a national security problem. But it goes well beyond the challenges posed by Russia or China. The biggest threat is right here at home: the Pentagon’s stranglehold on our national budget, alongside the woefully inadequate investments in addressing urgent, nonmilitary problems like climate change, pandemics, and racial and economic injustice.
Nowhere are these misplaced priorities more evident than in Congress, where the House and Senate routinely add tens of billions of dollars to the Pentagon budget beyond what the department even asks for, in order to shovel funds to weapons contractors based in their states and districts. This year Congress is poised to push the budget to at least $850 billion. This is far higher than spending at the peak of the Korean or Vietnam Wars or the height of the Cold War.
The choice is clear: continuing to fund weapons companies and arms-related jobs in key states and districts to the exclusion of more important investments in our safety and security, or crafting a plan for defense that is actually grounded in what will make the United States and the world safer.
That’s where Miriam Pemberton’s new book, Six Stops on the National Security Tour: Rethinking Warfare Economies (Routledge, 2022), comes in. Pemberton has spent most of her career doing research and advocacy on how best to reduce America’s economic dependency on Pentagon spending. Her book includes both case studies of communities that have tried to reduce the Pentagon’s grip on their local economies and big-picture policy prescriptions to make a transition to one in which members of Congress feel freer to vote for more rational approaches to defense without paying a political price.
Read the full piece in The Nation.