Rep. Ilhan Omar's claim that the US spends 57% of the federal budget on defense is wrong.
(too old to reply)
2019-12-16 21:27:35 UTC

The U.S. spends "57 cents on the dollar on defense."
— Ilhan Omar on Sunday, December 1st, 2019 in an interview

Rep. Ilhan Omar's claim that the US spends 57% of the federal budget on
defense is wrong. It's 15%

By Tom Kertscher on Friday, December 13th, 2019 at 1:08 p.m.

Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., speaks as she introduces the Zero Waste Act at
the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, July 25, 2019. (AP Photo/J. Scott
The Progressive, a 110-year-old national magazine based in Madison,
Wis., calls itself "a voice for peace, social justice, and the common

It published an article Dec. 1 about Rep. Ilhan Omar saying the
Democratic Minnesota congresswoman "wants to redefine U.S. foreign
policy as we know it."

Omar elaborated on her philosophy by addressing military spending.

"We can fight to have our Green New Deal. We can certainly get Medicare
for All. We can cancel out student debt. We can certainly pass our
Housing for All bill. We can get a universal school meals program up and
running," she said.

"But in order to do all of those things, we have to stop policing the
world, right? We have to not have over 800 military bases around the
world. We have to not spend 57 cents on the dollar on defense."

Omar’s major claim is wrong.

Defense spending accounts for only 15% of the federal budget.

57% was wrong before
In 2015, we rated as False a claim that 57% of federal spending goes to
the military and just 1% goes to food and agriculture, including food

Rather than being dominated by the military, the budget was actually
dominated by spending on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, we found.

At the time, military spending, including spending on homeland security,
accounted for 54% of discretionary spending — that is, not-mandatory

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But it accounted for only 16% of federal spending overall.

"This is a common mistake," Robert Bixby, executive director of the
centrist Concord Coalition, which works for fiscal responsibility, said
about Omar’s claim.

In fact, a spokesman for the congresswoman said Omar was referring to
discretionary funding. He cited a Washington Post article that says
defense would be 57% of discretionary spending in the 2020 federal
budget request unveiled by President Donald Trump in March 2019.

Defense percentage steady
The percentage of the total federal budget spent on defense has been in
the same range for years.

2007: 19%, FactCheck.org found

2011: About 25%, according to the Washington Post Fact Checker

2017: 15% according to the liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

Currently, about 17% of the federal budget goes toward defense,
according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office — a figure
confirmed to us by Marc Goldwein of the Committee for a Responsible
Federal Budget.

The Peter G. Peterson Foundation puts the figure there, too, at 15%.

As for the dollars, the 2018 federal budget contained, according to a
June 2019 report by the Congressional Budget Office:

• $1.3 trillion went to discretionary spending, including $600 billion
for defense. That would be about 46%.

• Total outlays were $4.1 trillion, with defense getting $623 billion.
That’s 15%.

The 15% figure also holds true for 2019, as well.

Our ruling
Omar said the U.S. spends "57 cents on the dollar on defense."

Overall, defense accounts for about 15% of the federal budget.

Her figure is roughly in the ballpark when considering only
discretionary federal spending, but she did not say that.

We rate Omar’s statement False.
2019-12-17 20:18:46 UTC
Post by a425couple
The U.S. spends "57 cents on the dollar on defense."
— Ilhan Omar on Sunday, December 1st, 2019 in an interview
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America’s Defense Budget Is Bigger Than You Think
Each year, Congress approves hundreds of billions of dollars for the US
defense budget—but the real number exceeds $1 trillion.
By William D. Hartung and Mandy Smithberger MAY 7, 2019
US South Korea
A US Army soldier works on an M1A2 tank during a joint military exercise
between the United States and South Korea in Paju, South Korea. (AP
Photo / Ahn Young-joon)
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In its latest budget request, the Trump administration is asking for a
near-record $750 billion for the Pentagon and related defense
activities—an astonishing figure by any measure. If passed by Congress,
it will be one of the largest military budgets in American history,
topping peak levels reached during the Korean and Vietnam wars. And keep
one thing in mind: That $750 billion represents only part of the actual
annual cost of our national-security state.

There are at least 10 separate pots of money dedicated to fighting wars,
preparing for yet more wars, and dealing with the consequences of wars
already fought. So the next time a president, a general, a secretary of
defense, or a hawkish member of Congress insists that the US military is
woefully underfunded, think twice. A careful look at US defense
expenditures offers a healthy corrective to such wildly inaccurate claims.

Now, let’s take a brief dollar-by-dollar tour of the US
national-security state of 2019, tallying the sums as we go, and see
just where we finally land (or perhaps the word should be “soar”),
financially speaking.

Democrats Aren’t Forcing Jeff Van Drew
to Join the GOP

The Pentagon’s base budget: The Pentagon’s regular, or base, budget is
slated to be $544.5 billion in fiscal year 2020—a healthy sum but only a
modest down payment on total military spending.

As you might imagine, that base budget provides basic operating funds
for the Department of Defense, much of which will be squandered on
preparations for ongoing wars never authorized by Congress, overpriced
weapons systems that aren’t actually needed, or outright waste, an
expansive category that includes everything from cost overruns to
unnecessary bureaucracy. That $544.5 billion is the amount publicly
reported by the Pentagon for its essential expenses and includes $9.6
billion in mandatory spending that goes toward items like military

Among those basic expenses, let’s start with waste, a category even the
biggest boosters of Pentagon spending can’t defend. The Pentagon’s own
Defense Business Board found that cutting unnecessary overhead,
including a bloated bureaucracy and a startlingly large shadow workforce
of private contractors, would save $125 billion over five years. Perhaps
you won’t be surprised to learn that the board’s proposal has done
little to quiet calls for more money. Instead, from the highest reaches
of the Pentagon (and the president himself) came a proposal to create a
Space Force, a sixth military service that’s all but guaranteed to
further bloat its bureaucracy and duplicate work being done by the other
services. Even Pentagon planners estimate that the future Space Force
will cost $13 billion over the next five years (and that’s undoubtedly a
low-ball figure).

In addition, the Defense Department employs an army of private
contractors—more than 600,000 of them—many doing jobs that could be done
far more cheaply by civilian government employees. Cutting the
private-contractor workforce by 15 percent to a mere half-million people
would promptly save more than $20 billion per year. And don’t forget the
cost overruns on major weapons programs like the Ground-Based Strategic
Deterrent—the Pentagon’s unwieldy name for the Air Force’s new
intercontinental ballistic missile—and routine overpayments for even
minor spare parts (like $8,000 for a helicopter gear worth less than
$500—a markup of 1,500 percent).


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Then there are the overpriced weapons systems the military can’t even
afford to operate, like a $13 billion aircraft carrier, 200 nuclear
bombers at $564 million a pop, and the F-35 combat aircraft, the most
expensive weapons system in history, at a price tag of at least $1.4
trillion over the lifetime of the program. The Project on Government
Oversight has found—and the Government Accountability Office recently
substantiated—that, despite years of work and staggering costs, the F-35
may never perform as advertised.

And don’t forget the Pentagon’s recent push for long-range strike
weapons and new reconnaissance systems designed for future wars with a
nuclear-armed Russia or China, the kind of conflicts that could easily
escalate into World War III, in which such weaponry would be beside the
point. Imagine if any of that money were devoted to figuring out how to
prevent such conflicts rather than hatching yet more schemes for how to
fight them.

The war budget: As if its regular budget weren’t enough, the Pentagon
also maintains its very own slush fund, formally known as the Overseas
Contingency Operations account, or OCO. In theory, the fund is meant to
pay for the War on Terror—that is, the US wars in Afghanistan, Iraq,
Somalia, Syria, and elsewhere across the Middle East and Africa. In
practice, it does that and so much more.

After a fight over shutting down the government led to the formation of
a bipartisan commission on deficit reduction—known as Simpson-Bowles
after its co-chairs, former Clinton chief of staff Erskine Bowles and
former Republican senator Alan Simpson—Congress passed the Budget
Control Act of 2011. It put caps on both military and domestic spending
that were supposed to save a total of $2 trillion over 10 years. Half
that figure was to come from the Pentagon, as well as from
nuclear-weapons spending at the Department of Energy. As it happened,
though, there was a huge loophole: The war budget was exempt from the
caps. The Pentagon promptly began to put tens of billions of dollars
into it for pet projects that had nothing whatsoever to do with current
wars (and the process has not stopped). The level of abuse of this fund
remained largely secret for years, with the Pentagon admitting only in
2016 that just half the money in the OCO went to actual wars, prompting
critics and numerous members of Congress—including then-Representative
Mick Mulvaney, now President Donald Trump’s latest chief of staff—to dub
it a “slush fund.”

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This year’s budget proposal supersizes the slush in that fund to a
figure that would likely be considered absurd if it weren’t part of the
Pentagon budget. Of the nearly $174 billion proposed for the war budget
and “emergency” funding, only a little more than $25 billion is meant to
directly pay for the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. The rest
will be set aside for what’s termed enduring activities that would
continue even if those wars ended or for routine Pentagon activities
that couldn’t be funded within the constraints of the budget caps. The
Democratic-controlled House of Representatives is expected to work to
alter this arrangement. Even if the House leadership has its way,
however, most of its reductions in the war budget would be offset by
lifting caps on the regular Pentagon budget by corresponding amounts.
(It’s worth noting that Trump’s budget calls for someday eliminating the
slush fund.)

The 2020 OCO also includes $9.2 billion in “emergency” spending for
building Trump’s beloved wall on the US-Mexico border, among other
things. Talk about a slush fund! There is no emergency, of course. The
executive branch is just seizing taxpayer dollars that Congress refused
to provide. Even supporters of the president’s wall should be troubled
by this money grab. As 36 former Republican members of Congress recently
argued, “What powers are ceded to a president whose policies you support
may also be used by presidents whose policies you abhor.” Of all of
Trump’s “security”-related proposals, this is undoubtedly the most
likely to be eliminated or at least scaled back, given the congressional
Democrats against it.

Running tally: $727.9 billion

The Department of Energy/nuclear budget: It may surprise you to know
that work on the deadliest weapons in the US arsenal, nuclear warheads,
is housed in the Department of Energy, not the Pentagon. The DOE’s
National Nuclear Security Administration runs a nationwide research,
development, and production network for nuclear warheads and naval
nuclear reactors that stretches from Livermore, California, to
Albuquerque and Los Alamos, New Mexico, to Kansas City, Missouri, to Oak
Ridge, Tennessee, to Savannah River, South Carolina. Its laboratories
also have a long history of program mismanagement, with some projects
coming in at nearly eight times their initial estimates.

Running tally: $752.7 billion

Defense-related activities: This category covers the $9 billion that
annually goes to agencies other than the Pentagon—the bulk of it to the
FBI for homeland-security-related activities.

Running tally: $761.7 billion

The five categories above make up the budget of what’s officially known
as national defense. Under the Budget Control Act, this spending should
have been capped at $630 billion. The $761.7 billion proposed for the
2020 budget is, however, only the beginning of the story.

The Veterans Affairs budget: The wars of this century have resulted in a
new generation of veterans. In all, over 2.7 million US military
personnel have cycled through the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan
since 2001. Many of them remain in need of substantial support to deal
with the physical and mental wounds of war. As a result, the budget for
the Department of Veterans Affairs has gone through the roof, more than
tripling in this century to a proposed $216 billion. And this massive
figure may not even be enough to provide the necessary services.

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More than 6,900 US military personnel have died in Washington’s
post-9/11 wars, with more than 30,000 wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan
alone. These casualties are, however, just the tip of the iceberg.
Hundreds of thousands of returning troops suffer from post-traumatic
stress disorder, illnesses created by exposure to toxic burn pits, or
traumatic brain injuries. The US government is committed to providing
care for these veterans for the rest of their lives. An analysis by the
Costs of War Project at Brown University determined that obligations to
veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars will total more than $1
trillion in the years to come. This cost of war is rarely considered
when leaders in Washington decide to send US troops into combat.

Running tally: $977.7 billion

The Homeland Security budget: The Department of Homeland Security is a
mega-agency created after the 9/11 attacks. At the time, it swallowed 22
existing government organizations, creating a massive department that
currently has nearly a quarter of a million employees. Agencies that are
now part of the DHS include the Coast Guard, the Federal Emergency
Management Agency, Customs and Border Protection, Immigration and
Customs Enforcement, Citizenship and Immigration Services, the Secret
Service, the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, the Domestic
Nuclear Detection Office, and the Office of Intelligence and Analysis.

While some of the DHS’s activities—such as airport security and defense
against the smuggling of a nuclear weapon or dirty bomb into our
midst—have a clear security rationale, many others do not. ICE—America’s
deportation force—has done far more to cause suffering among innocent
people than to thwart criminals or terrorists. Other questionable DHS
activities include grants to local law-enforcement agencies to help them
buy military-grade equipment.

Running tally: $1.0469 trillion

The international-affairs budget: This includes the budgets of the State
Department and the US Agency for International Development. Diplomacy is
one of the most effective ways to make the United States and the world
more secure, but it has been under assault in the Trump years. The
fiscal year 2020 budget calls for a one-third cut in
international-affairs spending, leaving it at about one-fifteenth of the
amount allocated for the Pentagon and related agencies grouped under the
category of national defense. And that doesn’t even account for the fact
that more than 10 percent of the international-affairs budget supports
military-aid efforts, most notably the $5.4 billion Foreign Military
Financing program. The bulk of FMF goes to Israel and Egypt, but more
than a dozen countries receive funding under it, including Jordan,
Lebanon, Djibouti, Tunisia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Ukraine,
Georgia, the Philippines, and Vietnam.

Running tally: $1.0979 trillion

The intelligence budget: The United States has 17 intelligence agencies.
In addition to the DHS Office of Intelligence and Analysis and the FBI,
mentioned above, they are the CIA, the National Security Agency, the
Defense Intelligence Agency, the State Department’s Bureau of
Intelligence and Research, the Drug Enforcement Agency’s Office of
National Security Intelligence, the Treasury Department’s Office of
Intelligence and Analysis, the Department of Energy’s Office of
Intelligence and Counterintelligence, the National Reconnaissance
Office, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, the Army’s
Intelligence and Security Command, the Office of Naval Intelligence,
Marine Corps Intelligence, Coast Guard Intelligence, and Air Force
Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance. And then there’s the 17th
one, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, set up to
coordinate the activities of the other 16.

We know remarkably little about the nature of the nation’s intelligence
spending, other than its supposed total, released in a report every
year. By now, it’s more than $80 billion. The bulk of this funding,
including for the CIA and NSA, is believed to be hidden under obscure
line items in the Pentagon budget. Since intelligence spending is not a
separate funding stream, it’s not counted in our tally below (though,
for all we know, some of it should be).

Running tally: $1.0979 trillion

Defense share of interest on the national debt: The interest on the
national debt is well on its way to becoming one of the most expensive
items in the federal budget. Within a decade, it is projected to exceed
the Pentagon’s regular budget in size. For now, of the more than $500
billion in interest taxpayers fork over to service the government’s debt
each year, about $156 billion can be attributed to Pentagon spending.

Final tally: $1.2542 trillion

So our final annual tally for war, preparations for war, and the impact
of war comes to more than $1.25 trillion, more than double the
Pentagon’s base budget. If the average taxpayer were aware that this
amount was being spent in the name of national defense—with much of it
wasted, misguided, or simply counterproductive—it might be far harder
for the national-security state to consume ever-growing sums with
minimal public pushback. For now, however, the gravy train is running
full speed ahead, and its main beneficiaries—Lockheed Martin, Boeing,
Northrop Grumman, and their cohort—are laughing all the way to the bank.