How to talk about cutting military spending

Use these tips to build support for divesting from weapons and war—and investing in our communities.

By Tori Bateman

This year, Congress is poised to spend over $768 billion on weapons and war. With that money, we could have paid 9.5 million elementary school teachers for a year or provided public housing for more than 87 million families.

If you’re appalled by how much money we spend on the military, you’re not alone. A majority of people in the U.S. want to move money out of weapons and war and into programs that benefit our communities. That includes housing, health care, and education. 

In fact, AFSC recently conducted a public opinion poll on the subject. We found that once people learned more about the wasteful and harmful military spending, 60% supported cuts to the Pentagon budget!

To keep building momentum, we must talk about the harms of U.S. militarism and why we need to cut Pentagon spending. 

Here are some tips on how you can talk about the importance of cutting U.S. spending on weapons and war: 

1. Remind people that war is a way to divide us—and that we must reject false divisions along lines of race and class. 

The United States should be a place where everyone can thrive. That means we cannot let politicians divide us based on what we look like, where we come from, or how much money we have. 

And yet, when the U.S. bombs communities abroad, buys weapons instead of paying for health care, and invests in military contractors instead of sustainable jobs, that’s exactly what they’re doing–dividing us. 

When you’re talking with others about Pentagon spending, remind them that war is the product of artificial division. It's up to us to recognize the dignity of each human being, no matter what. Once we do that, we can all work together to make life better for everyone.

2. Remind people that when we work together, big changes are possible.

Going up against Congress and special interests feels intimidating, but we’ve done it before! When people have joined together across divisions, we’ve won big changes like civil rights and higher wages. 

Today individuals, community groups, and organizations are collaborating to reduce military spending. Last year, 26,000 people signed AFSC’s petition calling for cuts to the Pentagon budget. And over 30 faith groups signed our letter to President Biden asking that his budget include less money for the military. 

By coming together, we can demand our leaders deliver better health care, schools, and jobs—instead of more money for weapons, war, and defense contractors. 

3. Share the truth about how this money is spent.

The Pentagon’s bloated budget is more than a number. It represents massive human suffering, corporate and political corruption, and a waste of taxpayer dollars. 

Since 9/11, more than 929,000 people have died due to global military conflict, and 38 million more have been displaced. The human suffering caused by war is compounded by militarism's contribution to climate change. The U.S. military is one of the world’s top producers of greenhouse gasses and the largest institutional consumer of oil.

Corruption runs rampant in the war machine. Each year, about half of the money spent on the Pentagon goes to private defense contractors that build weapons, surveillance systems, and other tools of war. These defense contractors spend millions of dollars each year lobbying the government to make decisions that are good for their bottom line—not for our communities. 

Despite the massive amount of spending each year on the military, the Pentagon has never passed an audit. Waste, fraud, and abuse run rampant within the department.

4. Remind people about what’s important—things like health care, economic opportunity, and housing.  

True safety for our communities happens when we invest in health care, economic opportunity, and housing. When we ensure people have the resources they need to thrive, we can create safer, healthier communities for all. 

If Congress had chosen to spend money on our communities instead of weapons and war this year, we could have paid for over 21 million four-year university scholarships or created over 10 million clean energy jobs!

So the next time you’re talking about Pentagon spending, say something like: 

“Our strength comes from our ability to work together—bringing together people from different places and different races. For the U.S. to be a place where everyone can thrive, we cannot let the 1% and the politicians they pay for divide us against each other based on what someone looks like, where they come from, or how much money they have. We need to join together to build a better and more peaceful future, just like we’ve won civil rights and higher wages in the past. By coming together, we can demand our leaders deliver better health care, schools, and jobs, not more money for weapons, war, and corporate defense contractors.”