Posted by CODEPINK Staff
When Congress floats a defense spending bill for fiscal year 2014 that authorizes $598.1 billion in spending, we know that some of that money will be spent for drones that kill and terrorize civilians around the globe. Much of it will go to the manufacturers of weapon systems, or to private contractors who build facilities like the enormous base in Helmand, Afghanistan with the $34 million price tag, still empty and likely to be demolished.
Less well known is the fact that some of this funding will flow to the National Security Administration, the now notorious NSA, which uses it to spy on us all. Yes, the NSA is a Department of Defense program; it does not fall under Homeland Security, which is separately funded. Shocking revelations from whistleblower Edward Snowden let us know that the NSA spends our tax dollars to collect and store data on communications from all U.S. citizens and people around the globe, the vast majority of whom are no threat to security, and none of whom have been officially notified that their privacy is thus violated. In fact, Homeland Security employees were recently warned that they would face disciplinary measures if they viewed a Washington Post article reporting on the NSA spying – on them, their families, and their neighbors.
The defense budget gobbles up more than half of the portion of the federal budget which is under the discretion of Congress to spend each year. (The non-discretionary budget contains two big programs – Social Security and Medicare – with their own dedicated sources of payroll tax revenue.) In fiscal year 2013, the Pentagon has recieved 57%, an enormous slice of the pie that dwarfs the slices for programs folks in the U.S. say they care most about: education, health care, jobs, environmental protection, and renewable energy. The President's proposed budget for fiscal year 2014 stays the course, again allocating 57% -- but the eventual size of the pie slice depends on Congress.
Really, the slice is even bigger than 57%. Nuclear weapons development falls largely under the Department of Energy's budget, Veterans Administration costs are separately funded, and the NSA may very well have secret budgets for its projects that are so secret even Congress does not get to know about them.
One project we do know about: an NSA facility in Utah being constructed to hold vast amounts of surveilled data will cost taxpayers $2 billion to build, with $12 million allocated just for the infrastructure for 1.7 million gallons of water a day to cool down all those computers.
At what point will the U.S. taxpayers stand up and say enough? Sequester cuts are shutting down Head Start programs, cancer clinics for low-income people, and Meals on Wheels for elders. Schools are closing, student loan rates are doubling, and cities are going bankrupt.
Congress is supposed to represent the people. Your member of Congress needs to hear from you about your priorities for federal spending as he or she decides whether to vote for yet another gargantuan spending bill, HR 2937 Defense Appropriations of $598.1 billion. Call the Congressional switchboard at 202-224-3121 today and tell your representative to bring our war dollars home and spend them on people's real needs instead of drones, nukes, and unconstitutional NSA spying.