Joe Biden has requested more than $800 billion in military spending for the coming fiscal year. His spending plan won’t make the world safer, but it will probably funnel more than $400 billion in public money to private sector firms.
For the second year in a row, Joe Biden is planning on increasing the military budget.
The fiscal year (FY) 2023 budget request Biden will send to Congress this month reportedly proposes more than $800 billion in military spending; $773 billion for the Department of Defense (DOD) and most of the rest for nuclear weapons programs in the Department of Energy. Save for the stretch of military budgets between 2007 and 2011 that sponsored back-to-back troop surges — first in Iraq and then in Afghanistan — Biden’s plan would give more money to the Pentagon in FY 2023 than in any year since World War II.
A massive Pentagon budget entails a massive redistribution of wealth, and the primary recipient isn’t “our troops” as US politicians like to say. Instead, most of the DOD budget goes to for-profit companies: 55 percent of the $14.5 trillion Congress gave the Pentagon between FY 2002 and FY 2021 ended up going to private sector firms through contracts.
The portion of annual DOD spending obligated to contracts varied little during this twenty-year span; contract values largely grew and shrunk as overall budgets did. How much federal funding a given Pentagon budget can be expected to privatize, then, can more or less be inferred from its top-line number. This means that a $773 billion DOD budget proposal — as Biden will reportedly offer — is essentially a proposal to privatize $425 billion in public funds.
This doesn’t bode well for the social programs in the FY 2023 budget. The DOD spending bill — despite being just one of twelve appropriations bills that comprise the federal discretionary budget — typically eats up about half of all discretionary funding. Biden’s first budget request looked like this. However, a key difference is that it was proposed soon after the American Rescue Plan passed in Congress and before the collapse of the president’s multitrillion-dollar plan for climate, infrastructure, and health.