Sep 22, 2021
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) Calls to Cut Pentagon Budget Speech Transcript
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez introduced an amendment to cut the budget of the Pentagon by 10%. Read the transcript of the House floor speech here.
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Speaker 1: (00:00)
Pursuant to a House Resolution, 667, the Gentlewoman from New York, Miss Ocasio- Cortez, and a member of post, each will control five minutes. The chair now recognizes the Gentlewoman from New York.
Representative Ocasio-Cortez: (00:12)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I rise today to offer Amendment 40, to reduce the Pentagon budget by 10%. During a time when our country is withdrawing from foreign wars, when COVID 19 and its fallout is one of the greatest threats that we face, when record levels of unemployment, housing and healthcare crises are among us, the United States should be reducing its military spending by at least 10% and prioritize the very needs of our communities here at home. Today, we can cut the defense authorization by 10%, without any need to deny our service members or their families, any of the support that they need. And in doing so, we can free up to $77 billion to go towards fighting the COVID 19 pandemic and much more. Mr. Speaker, I urge support of this amendment and I reserve the balance of my time.
Speaker 1: (01:09)
The Gentlewoman from New York reserves the balance of her time. For what purpose does the Gentleman seek recognition?
Representative Rogers: (01:16)
Mr. Speaker, I like to yield myself such time as I may consume. I rise in opposition to the bill.
Speaker 1: (01:23)
The Gentleman is recognized for five minutes.
Representative Rogers: (01:26)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. This amendment will strip $79 billion out of the bill. That would have catastrophic effects on our training and readiness. I need to remind y’all, we’ve been at war for two decades. We’ve worn out everything we’ve got. We’ve got to start replacing and modernizing for the future to be able to take on the threats from China and other adversaries. This will set us back on cleanup, environmental remediation of PFAS and other contaminated items. It would put off construction of new military housing, schools and childcare facilities, and the list goes on. I urge all members to oppose this amendment and I reserve the balance of my time.
Speaker 1: (02:05)
Gentleman from Alabama reserves. The Gentlewoman from New York is recognized.
Representative Ocasio-Cortez: (02:09)
Thank you, Mr Speaker.
Representative Ocasio-Cortez: (02:09)
Mr. Speaker. You know, there’s a point brought up that this could potentially threaten our readiness and I would counter that, it is not the readiness that cutting our defense budget threatens. It is the profit margins of defense contractors. In fact, almost every major defense contractor here in the United States has had to pay fines or settlements for fraud or misconduct, all while getting about $1 trillion in public funding in defense contracts. I have seen this personally in my work on the oversight committee where we have encountered contractor after contractor, gouging the public and draining our resources. In fact, the 77 billion is not even that hard to find. The Pentagon could save almost $58 billion by eliminating obsolete weapons. Weapons like cold war era bombers and missiles designed and built in the last century that are completely unsuitable for this one. We could find another 18 billion by simply preventing the end of year spending sprees that lead to contract money being shoveled out the door every September.
Representative Ocasio-Cortez: (03:18)
In fact, the Congressional Research Service has documented these spending spikes and you could set your watch to it each September as offices at the Pentagon go on last minute spending sprees to justify next year budget increases.
Representative Ocasio-Cortez: (03:33)
We have increased our military spending year after year, senselessly and needlessly, and now again, during a time when we have ended an almost two decade war, there is no reason for us to be increasing our military spending and our defense budget when we are not funding childcare, healthcare, housing priorities, and the climate crisis here at home. And I reserve my time.
Speaker 1: (03:57)
Gentlewoman from New York reserves. Gentleman from Alabama’s recognized.
Representative Rogers: (04:02)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. This bill does everything the lady just talked about. We are investing in those items that she just talked about, and we are divesting ourselves to those $78 billion worth of legacy platforms that will not be useful in the future and we’re applying that money toward those future platforms. In any event right now Mr. Speaker, I’d like to yield a minute and a half to my friend and colleague and an outstanding member of the Armed Services Committee, Mr. Desjarlais of Tennessee.
Speaker 1: (04:26)
The Gentleman from Tennessee’s recognized for a minute and a half.
Representative DesJarlais: (04:29)
I thank the ranking member. Mr. Speaker, I rise today in strong opposition to the Pocan amendment. A 10% cut to this budget will leave America vulnerable to our adversaries. The United States is facing daily threats from China, Iran, Russia, North Korea, and a whole host of other bad actors. We must fully fund our military so that the US has every capability necessary to deter those who wish to do us harm. The fiscal year 2022 National Defense Authorization Act has bipartisan support from the House Arm Services Committee already, with the approved budget on the floor today being 23.9 billion more than the bare bones budget that originally came through. There’s a reason why the improved budget was approved in a bipartisan vote of the committee by an overwhelming 57 to 2 margin.
Representative DesJarlais: (05:17)
Modernization is an important part of our military strategy. Our military leaders have spent the past year sounding the alarm and testimony before Congress that our top competitors, Russia and China, are working at a startling pace to close the gap between themselves and the US in areas like nuclear modernization. In other areas like hypersonic capabilities, they may have already surpassed us. This budget is absolutely necessary in order to maintain advantages over our enemies as technology continues to evolve and change rapidly. Now is not the time to recklessly cut what we must spend to protect our country and provide for our men and women in uniform. We must ensure our brave men and women in the armed services have every resource necessary to keep the American people safe. I yield back.
Speaker 1: (06:01)
Gentleman yields back. Gentleman from Alabama reserves. Gentlewoman from New York is recognized.
Representative Ocasio-Cortez: (06:06)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The Pentagon is the only federal department that has never passed an audit, despite this requirement being on the books for over 30 years. There are folks who are supporting the current levels, the increase in skyrocketing levels of defense spending, saying we are already meeting all of our needs with this. I don’t think a single American, I don’t know a single member of my district that can say that our childcare needs are being met in this country. That our healthcare needs are being met. That our climate action that is necessary is being met. Our needs are not being met. And despite all of this rhetoric about the deficit and all this fear about government spending, for some reason, our defense budget seems to be exempt from this conversation. And that we ask Americans and people in this country, year after year, to engage in the magical thinking that defense spending comes at no real cost.
Representative Ocasio-Cortez: (07:06)
It does. It comes at the cost of our security. Because when we do not have, and we are not able to go to go to work and count on childcare for our children, it makes us less safe. When we’re not able to go to an emergency room or have our healthcare covered, we are less safe. The degradation and erosion of our social systems here domestically is a threat as well. That is happening because of our explosion in defense spending. The explosion in defense spending is coming at the cost of our domestic development here at home. And I reserve my time.
Speaker 1: (07:47)
Gentlewoman from New York reserves. Gentleman from Alabama’s recognized.
Representative Ocasio-Cortez: (07:51)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I would point out that achieving or meeting the objectives the Gentlelady just outlined and defense are not mutually exclusive. We can do both and should do both. I would point out that the three and a half trillion dollars that your side is proposing doesn’t spend a dime on defense. And also we are in the process of auditing, you’re exactly right. The Defense Department nevers passed an audit. This bill continues the pressure on them to get that complete. We have had many agencies that have passed, not all have have and we’re not going to let up until they pass an audit. This time I’d like to yield a minute and a half to the ranking member of the Military Personnel Subcommittee and Arm Services Committee and outstanding leader in our committee, Gentleman from Wisconsin, Mr. Gallagher, a minute and a half.
Speaker 1: (08:33)
The Gentleman from Wisconsin’s recognized for a minute and a half.
Representative Gallagher: (08:36)
I thank the ranking member. Earlier this year, and I rise an opposition to the amendment, which I think would be very destructive. Earlier this year, the former head of Indo-Pacific command, Admiral Phil Davidson had warned that the Chinese Communist Party could make a move on Taiwan within the next six years. Within the next six years, we could be facing a crisis unlike anything we’ve seen in our lifetimes. This assessment was concurred by the Chief of Naval operations, the Commandant of the Marine Corps. And the idea that we’re going to do an across the board 10% cut, an indiscriminate across the board 10% cut to the Pentagon at a time when we’re facing a serious national crisis, I think makes absolute no sense. The ranking member pointed out the irony and tragedy that the other side is proposing to spend 3.5 trillion on social welfare spending, and then telling us that we have an explosion in defense spending when defense spending as a percentage of GDP is still at lows, relative to what we spent during the cold war.
Representative Gallagher: (09:32)
Does anyone seriously believe that by releasing a press release or engaging in a security partnership with the Taliban, we’ve somehow ended a war. Does anyone seriously believe that the struggle against Salafi Jihadism is somehow over because we’ve surrendered in that struggle? Absolutely not. And the reason and the irony that defense spending has gone up, if you even compare the Obama cut in real terms to the Reagan defense build up, it’s not because of missiles or ships or bombs. It’s because of increasing personnel costs, right? It’s healthcare and retirement costs. So as an empirical matter, what you’re arguing is simply not true. And as for spending too much money on defense, what costs a lot of money is when you stumble into war on someone else’s terms and the best way to do that is to project weakness. Weakness invites, aggression. We can achieve peace only through strength.
Speaker 1: (10:26)
Gentleman’s time has expired. Gentleman from Alabama reserves. Gentlewoman from New York is recognized.
Representative Ocasio-Cortez: (10:32)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Now I think that what we have just experienced and seen in our last two decade war is exemplary of the types of waste that goes on. Where what we see is a lack of oversight. What we see is runaway military contractor spending with little oversight in what is going on. And then folks are caught surprised on the end that all of this investment seems to not have panned out in … It has not been invested in the way that the American public was led to believe all along.
Representative Ocasio-Cortez: (11:08)
Now, not only are these tremendous costs that we had laid out earlier, but also this explosion in spending leaves our public health priorities underfunded and militarizes every problem in our society and turns peaceful protesters into targets of weapons at war. I urge support for this amendment.
Speaker 1: (11:29)
Gentlewoman’s time has expired. Gentleman from Alabama’s recognized.
Representative Rogers: (11:36)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. This amendment guts our bill, which is I’m certain the Gentlelady’s intention. It is recklessly irresponsible. It would harm our service members and their families. I strongly urge all members to oppose it and I yield back the balance of my time.