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CODEPINK's Guide to Pentagon Cuts

The 2021 budget for the Pentagon and related agencies is $741 billion, larger than the next eight countries combined, 11 times greater than Russia’s military budget and four times the size of China’s military expenditures. This year Congress voted to increase the military budget by $30 billion, an amount that exceeds the entire budget of the Environmental Protection Agency.

We are invested in a death economy, wasting billions on weapons and war, while failing to eradicate violent extremism and ignoring urgent human needs at home.

In 2021 we will spend over $2 billion a day on the U.S. military, more than a million dollars every minute.

By cutting even a portion of the Pentagon budget, we could:

Eradicate homelessness in the United States ($20 billion annually)
Eradicate hunger in the United States ($26 billion annually)
Create 160,000 new clean energy jobs ($12 billion annually)
Guarantee tuition-free education ($70 billion annually)
Transition to a Medicare for All System ($300 billion annually)

We must reduce the Pentagon budget to invest in what really makes us safe: Medicare for All; a Green New Deal; housing for all; full employment; great public education and much more. The need for global diplomacy and cooperation in the face of an existential climate crisis is more urgent now than ever. Below is a list of opportunities for savings that could significantly reduce spending by $541 billion. All numbers listed represent one-year savings:

  • Eliminate the Overseas Contingency Operations “slush fund” Account — Save $174 billion.² There is bipartisan consensus that the overseas contingency operations account has become a slush fund for Pentagon programs that have no connection to emergencies or contingencies. Eliminating this fund would reduce waste and improve future planning.
  • Eliminate the Space Force — Save $2.6 billion.² The Air Force estimates that creating a new Space Force will increase costs by $13 billion over the next five years. Additionally, the Space Force will escalate the arms race as other countries compete to weaponize the heavens.
  • End Foreign Military Financing Program — Save $14 billion.³ End military foreign aid that enables authoritarian governments to commit human rights abuses and violently crack down on dissent. Instead invest in diplomacy and economic and humanitarian aid.
  • Close unneeded domestic bases — Save $2 billion.³ The Pentagon has requested a process to close domestic bases it says it doesn’t need. Closing unneeded domestic bases could save $2 billion per year.
  • Close 60% of foreign bases — Save $90 billion.³ The U.S. operates 800 bases in 90 countries, ten times more than the rest of the world combined. Close 60% of those (roughly 480 bases) and allow corresponding troop reductions primarily through attrition and retirement. (This excludes combat troops).
  • End use-it-or-lose-it contract spending — Save $18 billion.² In fiscal year 2016, contract obligations for the Defense Department averaged $25 billion per month, except in the last month of the fiscal year when they surpassed $43 billion. Capping the amount the Department could spend in this last month at their average levels would improve budget discipline, strengthen management, and reduce waste.
  • Dismantle nuclear weapons — Save $42.9 billion.³ The U.N. ban on nuclear weapons has now entered into force, making nuclear weapons illegal under international law. Develop new treaties for complete nuclear disarmament, destroy U.S. nuclear stockpiles (includes a $4 billion annual budget for implementation), cancel nuclear delivery systems (bombers, submarines), and cancel planned nuclear upgrades.
  • Convert Military Health System into a universal health system — Save $33.3 billion.³ A system of universal health care in the United States would provide medical care to troops and their families and allow separate funding for military health care to be funneled into that system.
  • End wars and war funding — Save $66 billion.³ End wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, and elsewhere, and bring our troops home.
  • Cut unnecessary weapons — Save $57.9 billion.³ Cancel new Intercontinental Ballistic missile production and unnecessary procurement, and reduce use of weapons systems that are obsolete, ineffective, or in excess of reasonable security needs.
  • Cut overhead by 10% — Save $27 billion.³ Military overhead increased from $57,400 per active duty service member in 1980 to $152,300 in 2015 (in 2015 dollars). A 10% reduction could be achieved primarily through reduced reliance on for-profit contractors and reduced use of fossil fuels.
  • Reduce research and development (R&D) by 10% — Save $10.4 billion.³ The 2018 military research and development budget increased by 11% since 2015 (adjusting for inflation). This reduction brings R&D back to roughly the 2015 level and reflects the fact that a smaller military would also need less R&D.
  • Replace military personnel in support positions with civilians — Save $3 billion.³ Transition up to 80,000 military positions providing support and administrative functions to civilian employment.

TOTAL Potential Savings: $541 Billion or a 73% reduction


  1. Sustainable Defense: More Security, Less Spending
  2. People Over Pentagon Guide to Cuts
  3. Poor People’s Moral Budget