Progressives certainly haven’t had a whole lot to celebrate lately — most urgently, a possible military intervention in Iraq is on the horizon — but on the defense front there’s at least something worth a sip of champagne:
Cong. Keith Ellison (D-MN), co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, recently introduced an amendment to the House defense appropriations bill to take $10 million from the Pentagon’s general operating account. The $10 million would be redirected to the Pentagon’s Office of Economic Adjustment, an agency whose sole purpose is to help communities facing military base closures and Pentagon contract cancellations plan for themselves a future that is not dependent on a militarized economy.
Perhaps most surprisingly, the House of Representatives — the very same body that has blocked immigration reform, climate change legislation, and cut the food stamp program all while adopting an all-of-the-above approach to weapons procurement — actually voted in favor of Ellison’s amendment.
It was quite a monumental moment. With Cong. Ellison’s leadership, a fractured Congress finally acted, even in a small way, together, providing us with the best chance since the end of the Cold War to achieve a less militarized economy.
I recently co-authored an op-ed on this very subject with William Hartung, Director of the Common Defense Campaign at the Center for International Policy, that Cong. Ellison later asked to be included in the Congressional Record. The op-ed, “Don’t Cut Programs that Help Communities Adjust to Pentagon Spending Reductions,” argued that transition money is needed if we are to help communities dependent on the Pentagon’s inflated post-9/11 budget transition to a civilian economy as our defense spending ramps down.
Now that we are finally seeing the beginning of a modest defense downsizing, to keep the momentum going we’ll need to help these defense-dependent communities, workers, and, businesses in their transition — and most importantly, ensure that funds are well spent in building a foundation for the peace economy our country needs and deserves.