Federal Budget Priorities

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The single most important—necessary if not sufficient—way to move our country in the direction of a less militarized economy is by changing the balance of our federal budget priorities.  The post-9-11 surge in U.S. military spending created incentives for hundreds of communities and businesses to join the military economy.  Reverse that trend—shift those incentives toward the civilian economy—and hundreds of communities and businesses will follow.

It is important to emphasize: cutting military spending is not enough.  We need to reinvest the savings from ending our wars to create new, alternative  economic activity—to replace jobs making weapon systems we don’t need with jobs making things we do need.

This is one lesson from the post-cold war period.  Military spending was cut by a third.  But while some of it was reinvested in the civilian side of the budget, most of it was not.  Without strong new sources of economic activity in the civilian sector, the pressure to restore the military economy with a new surge of military spending was too great—even before 9-11 swept away all restraint on the Pentagon’s budget.  This outcome is what we have to work to avoid, this time around.

The Peace Economy Transitions makes the case for this shift in federal budget priorities in reports, articles, webinars, public events and in the media.

The “Military v. Climate Security” report series

After the Cold War ended, many advocates for a peace economy said:  We need a big new national mission to take the place of winning the Cold War—a new focus for investments to create the jobs base of a demilitarized future.  We had one in mind: The task of creating an environmentally sustainable economy.

The case for this mission has, needless to say, strengthened since then, as climate change has come to loom ever larger as an existential threat to the planet and its people.

The U.S. military itself has identified climate change as a major security threat.  What our national security establishment hasn’t done is argue for a shift of resources from traditional tools of military force to intensified investments in measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions drastically—ounces of prevention rather than pounds of military cure.

This series of reports makes the case for that shift, analyzing the disparity between the budgets for traditional military tools and for climate change mitigation and adaptation.

“A Unified Security Budget for the United States” report series

In 2004 IPS formed a task force of experts in a variety of security fields, including military forces, homeland security, nuclear nonproliferation, development assistance and climate change.  Drawing together the work of the task force, and working with institutional partners including the Center for Defense Information and the Center for American Progress, between 2004 and 2012 IPS produced a series  of annual reports comparing federal security spending on offense (military forces) defense (homeland security) and prevention (non-military international engagement), and recommending specific funding shifts to achieve a better balance among these budgets.

Other reports and books

  • Budget comparison between export  subsidies for weapons and environmental technologies

Selected articles, opeds and media appearances

Selected Resources from other sources

The Center for Effective Government summarizes U.S. Defense Spending in Eight Charts.

The National Priorities Project’s mission is to make the federal budget accessible and understandable to citizens, so that they can take action on behalf of their own priorities. The website’s interactive tools allow users to focus on specific localities and customize the data to highlight his/her own interests.

Peace Action’s Move the Money site provides resources and trainings for budget priorities work.