There is a paradox underpinning American politics and its society right now. The U.S. must be the only country in the world where even when some wars end—like Afghanistan—government officials still elect to spend more money on the military. Less war, more war spending—a uniquely perplexing American formula as income disparity and homelessness increases.
Congress recently approved a super-sized record “defense” spending bill—known as the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA)—authorizing $768 billion for the Pentagon. This doesn’t include the additional $25 billion Congress added beyond what President Joe Biden‘s team requested. That Donald Trump-exceeding figure surprised even top-tier military leaders—including Chair of the Joint Chiefs Mark Milley.
Overall, this year’s NDAA pushed official defense spending above $750 billion. And that’s typically the number used by both opponents and proponents of the bill. Only the figure is deceptive and wildly inaccurate. When all national security-related spending—including intelligence agencies, Homeland Security, Department of Energy nuclear programs plus health and disability for veterans, the real annual budget hovers around $1.3 trillion. That’s far higher than during the Korean or Vietnam Wars and is roughly three times what China spends on its military.