The military budget has been a significant drag on the American economy since shortly after World War II. As the many writings of Seymour Melman have shown, the role of the Pentagon in the economy has been very negative, because the nation's skilled workers, engineers and scientists have been diverted from working in the civilian economy, the money that has been spent on the Pentagon could have been spent on building the civilian part of the society, and the incredible inefficiencies of military production have warped the entire manufacturing sector, causing much of the damage to manufacturing that has led to its decline in the last 50 years.

The national security problems of the United States, and indeed for most of the rest of the planet, have nothing to do with military problems. Climate change, ecosystem destruction and depletion, and out-of-control income and wealth inequality are much more important for the continuing wealth and health of the United States and other nations as well. It is therefore imperative to redirect as much of the military budget as possible towards a Green New Deal. Indeed, we find in the following that cutting the military budget by even 75% would not impact the military defense of the country.

According to the final report of the Sustainable Defense Task Force of The Center for International Policy, in 2019 dollars, the 2000 Department of Defense budget was $425 billion, while for 2019 the budget is $750 billion. The 2019 figure includes about $200 billion for the various wars, particularly in Afghanistan, that we can safely assume should come to an end. But let's suppose that the $425 billion spent in 2000, before the military escalation that started after 9/11, was already a very bloated budget, full of unnecessary and much too costly programs. That would mean that we could safely take $325 billion out of the current military budget, just for starters.

Trying to figure out what the Pentagon spends money on is an extremely difficult thing to do, partly because the Pentagon likes it that way, but partly because of the sprawling nature of the U.S. military establishment. However, Lynn Petrovich calculated that the hundreds of overseas bases probably cost in the neighborhood of $50 billion per year. But that is just the expense of having people on the bases. According to David Vine, who wrote a book about overseas bases, if you include the expense of moving people and material around, including all the exercises, the cost is $85 billion per year -- conservatively, he says, and that's not including the bases in Afghanistan and Iraq. So let's say $100 billion is a conservative figure for the cost of maintaining American military overseas bases.

Let's assume that we close all those bases -- and perhaps get something back by selling them, as their assets are worth about $1 trillion, according to Petrovich, and we can save an extra $100 billion. So now we are up to $425 billion in savings, fully 50%, but now we turn to all the weapons systems that are not necessary and could easily be stopped.

According to Defense News, the Pentagon will spend $143 billion next year in procurement, much of which is for new, unnecessary military systems, and about $100 billion for research, development and testing, again, mostly for unnecessary systems. Out of this approximately $250 billion, let's be nice and only cut $150 billion, and now we have $575 billion in savings. But wait -- it turns out the back office operations of the Pentagon are incredibly inefficient (who knew?).

According to the Washington Post, one the authors being none other than Bob Woodward, the Pentagon could save at least $25 billion per year just rationalizing their back office. The entire back office operation costs $134 billion per year, of which $23 billion is for 'property management', meaning taking care of bases, which we would close altogether, saving many more billions. According to the figures they provide, the Army, Navy and Air Force together spend about $100 billion per year just on full-time outside contractors -- not even people employed by the government.

Taken together, and even assuming some overlap in savings that have been shown, it should be straightforward, with no impact on national security, to cut the military budget by 75% or by about $550 billion per year. Here again are the savings:

$200 billion: cutting out all foreign wars and current operations (OCO expenditures, the 'off the books' part of the pentagon budget).
$100 billion: closing all overseas bases, not including money made from selling $1 trillion in assets
$150 billion: cutting 60% of procurement/r&d/testing budget
$100 billion: cutting waste in operations

While there might be some overlap here, remember that even simply getting back to the bloated year 2000 budget would cut $325 billion, so there is probably enough waste to negate the overlap.

It could take several years to ramp down this spending, because we might want to provide an easy path for military employees into the new Federal infrastructure programs, which will take a few years to ramp up, but this will require more advanced planning. Thus, just as in the case of fossil fuel workers, military workers would have an opportunity to land an equivalent, socially useful job. In fact, since much of the engineering and scientific skill of the nation is being wasted in the military sector, and since we may have a deficit of such skill when it comes to building a green economy, it may be crucial to use these personnel in civilian industries, as Brian D'Agostino points out in his article, Demilitarization and the Green New Deal

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