Representatives Lee and Pocan Introduce Defense Spending Cuts Legislation

Earlier this week, Defense Spending Reduction Caucus Co-Chairs Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Congressman Mark Pocan (D-WI) introduced the People Over Pentagon Act of 2022, a bill that would reduce the defense budget by $100 billion for Fiscal Year (FY) 2023.

The bill stipulates that the amount appropriated for defense in FY 2023 should be approximately $682 billion, or $100 billion less than the amount appropriated in FY 2022. Furthermore, the bill protects certain areas of the defense budget – the Defense Health Program, personnel accounts, and accounts for providing pay and benefits to civil service employees – from cuts by directing appropriators to maintain FY 2022 funding levels for those accounts. Based on the Congressional Budget Office’s (CBO) estimating methodology, such a reduction in budget authority for FY 2023 would create a new baseline for defense spending over the coming decade, ultimately reducing defense spending by approximately $1.3 trillion.

According to Congresswoman Lee, the bill is intended to “realign our priorities to reflect the urgent needs of communities across this country that are healing from a pandemic, ongoing economic insecurity, and an international energy crisis—none of which will be resolved through greater military spending.” 

The bill comes at the same time the Senate Armed Services Committee approved an FY 2023 National Defense Authorization Act that authorizes $817 billion for the Department of Defense, a $44 billion increase over President Biden's request and a 10 percent boost over FY2022 levels. While the bill does not specify how or where the decrease in defense spending should be reallocated, it does suggest appropriators take into account recommendations included in a CBO report from October 2020, titled “Illustrative Options for National Defense Under a Smaller Defense Budget.”

With the national debt as large as the economy and headed towards record levels, policymakers should keep all options on the table to find savings, including in the defense budget. As the appropriations process begins and policymakers assemble the FY 2023 defense budget, they should keep in mind the tradeoffs that come with budgeting and set responsible levels of defense spending.