The United States leads the world in defense spending, something that Republicans and Democrats alike have contributed to over the years. Just how much does our government spend?
Military spending is projected to come close to $600 billion in the 2015 fiscal year, which is by far the most of any country in the world. The United States spends almost three times more than China, the second-highest military spender, does, and more than the next nine countries combined when ranking military spending in the world. Is this level of spending necessary? Has it achieved what those in power have said it will? Or could this money be better spent elsewhere?
One of the most concerning aspects of the defense budget is not only its largesse, but the amount of money that has gone unaccounted for. Since 1996, the Department of Defense has been unable to account for a staggering $8.5 trillion dollars (1996 was the first year Congress required the Department of Defense to be audited). Were this to happen in any other part of the federal government, Congress would be outraged. Defense spending, however, is another story.
The Department of Defense is under no serious threat to account for that $8.5 trillion because of the lack of political courage on the part of most politicians. Generations of Americans have learned not to question the military, and to regard it as the most sacred part of the U.S. government.
As Anabaptists, the pacifism our theology dictates has removed us from the military for centuries. However, we are called to be peacemakers not just by what we do not do, but also by our actions. Questioning the spending priorities of our government and advocating for better priorities is one example of this.