Our Excessive Military Budget Builds U.S. Empire, Not God’s Kingdom (2023)

Last month Congress approved an annual military budget of $858 billion, a staggering new record.

To put that sum into perspective, national security expert William D. Hartung estimates that “the $80 billion increase from the fiscal year 2022 to 2023 alone is higher than the entire military budget of every nation in the world but China.” The Pentagon itself reported that Congress had addedmore than $58 billion in funding to the Defense Department beyond what the department had even requested. These are astronomical, nearly incomprehensible numbers, yet there is little discussion on Capitol Hill over the magnitude of our government’s military spending: The Senate passed the most recent Pentagon budget by an overwhelming bipartisan vote of 83-11.

(Video) Daniel Immerwahr How to Hide an Empire

As followers of Jesus, bringing “good news to the poor” and promoting peace should be at the center of our worldview and vocation. In our advocacy work at Sojourners, we constantly find ourselves trying to convince our country’s decision-makers to prioritize government spending that provides a lifeline to people experiencing poverty. Unfortunately, we have often found that securing adequate resources to help people lift themselves out of poverty is a constant uphill battle. While I believe in the importance of fiscal responsibility, when members of Congress become concerned about the national deficit, the programs that wind up on the chopping block are usually the programs that offer a safety net to those who are most vulnerable — while military spending continues unchecked.

The consequences of our nation’s massive military spending are heartbreaking. After 9/11, military spending increased dramatically to finance the global “war on terror,” which anthropologist David Vine estimates has killed 4.5 million people worldwide. Brown University’s Costs of War project assessesthat these wars have also displaced 38 million people and cost the U.S. $8 trillion. The U.S. maintains an unparalleled military presencearound the world in the form of about 750 military bases in at least 80 countries and colonies. The size and scale of this presence are the hallmarks of empire.

But there are other consequences as well: Excessive military spending places intense downward pressure on the rest of the budget, particularly on programs of social uplift. “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death,” said Rev. Martin Luther King in his 1967 speech “A Time to Break the Silence.” “America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic, destructive suction tube.”

(Video) How America Could Fall Like Rome

This uphill battle continues, as evidenced though Congress’ failure to renew the expansionof the Child Tax Credit during the pandemic, which lifted millions of children out of poverty.

We should want our government to be good stewards of our tax dollars; it’s good for government programs to be as effective as possible. Yet one central hypocrisy of our nation’s addiction to military spending is the degree to which social programs receive such disproportionate scrutiny and criticism for waste, fraud, and abuse. When we compare Congressional scrutiny of safety net programs to Congressional scrutiny of the Pentagon budget — or rather to the lack thereof — we see an indefensible and morally irreconcilable double standard. The astonishing truth is that unlike every other federal agency, the Defense Department only began conducting comprehensive financial audits in 2017 and has never passed. Its most recent audit, released in November, was its fifth straight failure with the Pentagon only able to accurately account for 39 percent of its $3.5 trillion in assets. Think about that for a moment: The military with the largest budget in the world can only account for less than half of its assets. What would you think if you heard this about another government program? What if you heard this about Russia’s military?

But the problems are bigger than failed bookkeeping: For the last decade, including the most recent budget, private weapons companies have receivedmore than half of all military spending. How do these titanic contracts — which redistribute taxpayer dollars into private hands — keep thriving despite infamous levels of price gougingand cost overrunsin the military sector? The answer, unfortunately, is that the contracts are bought and paid for via campaign contributions and lobbying. Between 2001 and 2020, military contractors gave$283 million in campaign contributions, and the level of contributions tripled from 2002 to 2020. Military contractors also lobby extensively, spending $119 millionlast year, such that four of the top 10 corporate spenders on lobbying last year were military contractors. Another way to think about the impact of military contractor lobbying is that top firms spent $1 billion on lobbying during the Afghan war while receiving more than $2 trillionin federal contracts over the length of the warand achieving 188 percent growth in their federal funding.

(Video) Scott Ritter Extra Ep. 39: Ask the Inspector

This lack of accountability and waste should be of deep concern to all Americans, regardless of your partisan or ideological persuasion. We can all agree that wasteful and unaccountable spending does nothing to keep our nation safer, let alone promote global security. This new, divided Congress can even present some new opportunities to bring together strange bedfellows such as the ultra-conservative Freedom Caucus and the left-wing Progressive Caucus to address shared concerns about unnecessary military spending.

READ: Nuclear Weapons Disarmament Is a Pro-Life Issue

(Video) Best Bannerlord Governor Builds & More!

To be clear: Wanting to rein in military spending isn't the same thing as being anti-military. But we should also recognize that we serve the Prince of Peace, not the Prince of War, and the way of Jesus is one that must also seek nonviolent resolutions amid the inevitability of human conflict.

In the face of these stark choices, we must heed the words of the prophet Micah, who proclaims God’s promise that there will be peace among nations and everyone will live without fear.

“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the temple of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths. The law will go out from Zion, the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He will judge between many peoples and will settle disputes for strong nations far and wide. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.
Everyone will sit under their own vine and under their own fig tree, and no one will make them afraid” (Micah 4:2-4).

(Video) How America became a superpower

Echoing Micah’s prophetic words, we must cast a new vision of U.S. and global security that rejects the dangers of imperialism and the primacy of military might alone. We must raise the hard questions around what actually makes us safer in an increasingly multipolar and interdependent world? As Micah reminds us, our security is inextricably linked to people’s dignity, to people having their own fig tree, or in contemporary terms, to sustainable development. What would happen if we used some of the money currently funding weapons and bases and invested it in efforts to promote peacebuilding, diplomacy, and sustainable development? Imagine if Congress allocated one-tenth of military spending to fighting poverty and enhancing nonviolent responses to conflict by investing in just peace diplomacy, nonviolent tactics and strategy, unarmed civilian protection, social cohesion trainings, and other effective non-militarized approaches to making peace.

At the end of the day, it is not possible to be serious about ending poverty in the U.S. or around the world without simultaneously working to power down the “destructive suction tube” of wasteful military spending. While many faith and anti-poverty leaders have long been aware and concerned about the pernicious impact of excessive military spending, they have often remained far too quiet. Now is the time to loudly proclaim the imperative to redirect unnecessary military spending to the most effective programs of social uplift, even as we work to spark a long overdue dialogue around what investments and kind of military will bring us the greatest and most sustainable security.


Why does the US spend so much money on the military? ›

Proponents of maintained or higher spending often focus on a rising threat from China and Russia and see maintaining a military superiority as a buttress against global authoritarian powers. Through the maintenance of a military advantage, they argue the U.S. can deter aggression, or win a conflict if required.

Is the US military budget necessary? ›

It is critical because in defense, dollars are policy. The country cannot provide for its security in a cost-effective manner unless it funds the right amount of personnel and weapons to implement its National Security Strategy.

How much more does the US spend on military? ›

The United States still makes up the lion's share, with its $801 billion in 2021 representing 39 percent of the world's military spending.

Does America spend too much on its military? ›

military spending is too high. Over the past two decades, the United States has designated $6.4 trillion toward military operations. This year alone, the Pentagon's budget totaled more than $760 billion. America's defense budget is more than those of the next 11 countries combined.

Why is military spending a problem? ›

First, when the government allocates money to defence at the expense of infrastructure, that may undermine long-run growth prospects, since America has a pressing need for better roads, ports and more. Second, defence spending contributes to the public-debt load.

What country has the best military? ›

With military bases in many parts of the world, the US armed forces remain the most powerful of any on the globe.

Why decreasing military spending is good? ›

Indeed, reducing military spending would allow these countries “to replace military imports with imports of machines and other equipment, which would directly encourage economic growth”.

What percent of US taxes go to military? ›

Defense. Approximately 20 percent of the federal budget is spent on defense and security. Most of that 20 percent is for the Department of Defense, which covers the cost of military operations, troop training, equipment, and weapons research.

Can the military kick you out for having too much money? ›

There's nothing in an enlistment contract that says you have to leave the military if you come into a large sum of money, but there is a clause that allows for service members to request a discharge under "unique circumstances."

What country is number one in military spending? ›

The United States

How can we reduce military spending? ›

Reducing defense budgets requires some combination of cutting the size of the force, purchasing fewer or less expensive weapons, and reducing the cost to operate and maintain the forces and equipment that remain in service.

Which country gets the most military aid from US? ›

The Top Five Recipients of US Aid
  1. Afghanistan. Military Aid Received: $2.765 billion. Economic Aid Received: $1.185 billion. ...
  2. Israel. Military Aid Received: $3.31 billion. Economic Aid Received: $0. ...
  3. Jordan. Military Aid Received: $0.492 billion. ...
  4. Egypt. Military Aid Received: $1.31 billion. ...
  5. Ethiopia. Military Aid Received: $0.
Oct 20, 2022

Which states benefit most from military spending? ›

DoD contract obligations and payroll spending in the 50 states and the District of Columbia totaled $559 billion, which is 2.3 percent of the country's gross domestic product (GDP).
Copy Link.
RankStateDefense Spending (billions)
4New York$30.9
6 more rows
Oct 20, 2022

Does the US military need more soldiers? ›

The U.S. Army is struggling to find the recruits its needs to win the fight over the future. The U.S. Army. fell short of its 2022 recruitment goal by 25%, and recently cut its projection for its total force for this year by 10,000.

Does military spending hurt the economy? ›

The economic cost of defense spending shows up in the national debt and in a dislocation of potential jobs from the private sector to the public. There is an economic distortion of any industry that the military relies on as resources are diverted to produce better fighter planes and weapons.

Why government spending is a problem? ›

Too much government spending harms society and individuals in several ways. First, it increases the cost of living via subsidies that drive inflation. Government subsidies artificially increase demand. The result is higher prices that disproportionately harm the working poor and middle class.

How much is the US in debt? ›

The U.S. national debt was more than $31.42 trillion in December 2022. The debt-to-GDP ratio gives insight into whether the U.S. has the ability to cover all of its debt. Recessions, defense budget growth, and tax cuts have all caused the national debt-to-GDP ratio to rise to record levels.

Who is stronger America or Russia? ›

Ranked 73rd. In short, Russia is ranked 2nd out of 140 in military strength while the US is ranked 1st. As per the army population, Russia has 142,320,790 soldiers while The US has 334,998,398 soldiers. The available manpower is 69,737,187 with Russia and 147,399,295 with the United States.

Who has the best trained army in the world? ›

1. The US Navy SEALs is arguably the top special operations force. Created in 1962, the Sea-Air-Land operators go through years of training and, especially after 9/11, endure an incredible operation tempo. Many foreign militaries base their special ops on the SEALs.

What country has the toughest soldiers? ›

  • Russia. #1 in Strong military. #36 in Best Countries Overall. ...
  • United States. #2 in Strong military. #4 in Best Countries Overall. ...
  • China. #3 in Strong military. ...
  • Israel. #4 in Strong military. ...
  • South Korea. #5 in Strong military. ...
  • Iran. #6 in Strong military. ...
  • United Kingdom. #7 in Strong military. ...
  • Ukraine. #8 in Strong military.

Is the US military budget the highest in the world? ›

The United States still makes up the lion's share, with its $801 billion in 2021 representing 39% of the world's military spending.

How much does the US spend on military compared to the rest of the world? ›

The U.S. outpaces all other nations in military expenditures. World military spending totaled more than $1.6 trillion in 2015. The U.S. accounted for 37 percent of the total. U.S. military expenditures are roughly the size of the next seven largest military budgets around the world, combined.


1. 🇺🇸 The decline of the American empire | Empire
(Al Jazeera English)
2. The Ottonian Empire - in a nutshell
3. Principles for Dealing with the Changing World Order by Ray Dalio
(Principles by Ray Dalio)
4. The Collapse of the American Empire - Lecture Featuring Chris Hedges
(Centre for International Governance Innovation)
5. HoI4 Guide - UK: Imperial Federation achievement by 1940! - La Résistance
6. People with Extraordinarily Rare Body Parts
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Rueben Jacobs

Last Updated: 11/02/2022

Views: 6612

Rating: 4.7 / 5 (57 voted)

Reviews: 88% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Rueben Jacobs

Birthday: 1999-03-14

Address: 951 Caterina Walk, Schambergerside, CA 67667-0896

Phone: +6881806848632

Job: Internal Education Planner

Hobby: Candle making, Cabaret, Poi, Gambling, Rock climbing, Wood carving, Computer programming

Introduction: My name is Rueben Jacobs, I am a cooperative, beautiful, kind, comfortable, glamorous, open, magnificent person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.