Nearly two dozen liberal groups on Thursday wrote to all 2020 Democratic presidential candidates, pushing them to support massive cuts to the defense budget.
The progressive groups urged the candidates to back cutting $200 billion or more from the Pentagon's annual budget, which exceeded $700 billion for the current fiscal year, the Associated Press reported.
The left-wing effort, called "Put People Over the Pentagon," seeks to make defense spending a prominent issue in the presidential race."
"Hundreds of billions of dollars annually should be shifted away from the Pentagon and to pressing needs from education to averting catastrophic climate change," Robert Weissman, president of the watchdog nonprofit Public Citizen, told the AP. "America needs leaders who will speak plain truths about Pentagon excesses and waste."
Multiple White House hopefuls, including Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.), have criticized defense spending levels as too high, arguing that much of the money should be directed elsewhere.
"At the exact same time as [President Donald Trump] and many of my Republican colleagues want to substantially increase military spending, they want to throw 32 million Americans off of the health insurance they currently have because, supposedly, they are worried about the budget deficit," Sanders said during a major speech on foreign policy in 2017. "While greatly increasing military spending they also want to cut education, environmental protection, and the needs of children and seniors."
The progressive push to slash the Pentagon's budget comes as defense analysts are calling on the U.S. government to increase defense spending, to be able to counter Chinese and Russian aggression while simultaneously maintaining sufficient military assets in the Middle East. Last year, in a major assessment of American military power, the Heritage Foundation found that the United States is capable of fighting a single major regional conflict "while also attending to various presence and engagement activities," but would be "ill-equipped" to fight two such conflicts simultaneously.
"The Active Component of the U.S. military is two-thirds the size it should be, operates equipment that is older than should be the case, and is burdened by readiness levels that are problematic," stated the report, which rated the country's military posture as "marginal."