Democrats Look to Slash Defense Budget in 2021

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October 29, 2020

The far-left wing of the Democratic Party hopes to slash the U.S. defense budget in the event of a Democratic sweep on Election Day, Politico reported Wednesday.

The party's progressives reportedly want to cut the defense budget to compensate for an increase in domestic spending on issues like the environment and health care. Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chairman Mark Pocan (D., Wis.) said Democrats should take a "critical look" at the defense budget. "It's a real unique opportunity to be able to both support funding for things that we think more directly support people in the country," said Pocan. "At the same time, we can have a critical look at defense spending, which rarely gets any kind of critical look whatsoever."

Pocan's comments come amid an emerging fight between centrist Democrats and the party's left-wing lawmakers. Last week, Rep. Adam Smith (D., Wash.), a center-left Democrat who chairs the House Armed Services Committee, said he expects a "big fight coming" between the two groups over the nature and size of the defense budget.

Far-left Democratic candidates who have made explicit calls to "defund the Pentagon" could join the fight as soon as next year. "If you're having a bad day, just think of all the social services we're going to fund after we defund the Pentagon," Missouri Democrat Cori Bush tweeted last week.

Some defense planners believe a robust defense budget is more important now than ever before. As the looming great power competition with China emerges as a central priority of American foreign policy, the Pentagon has made new demands for both high-tech and conventional weaponry. Earlier this month, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper called for the creation of a 500-ship navy by 2045 in an effort to outpace China and retain maritime supremacy. The effort would require significant funding, especially as the Navy already occupies the largest portion of the defense budget, netting 34 percent of overall defense spending. 

Published under: Defense Budget , Democrats