A pair of progressive lawmakers on Wednesday reintroduced a bill that aims to cut defense spending by $100 billion and reallocate the savings to other funding priorities.

The bill from Reps. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) and Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) is likely to face bipartisan opposition, but arrives as House GOP leadership has also proposed a reported plan to cap discretionary spending in fiscal year 2024 at FY ‘22 enacted levels.

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.)

“Year after year, this country pours billions into our already-astronomical defense budget without stopping to question whether the additional funding is actually making us safer. We know that a large portion of these taxpayer dollars are used to pad the pockets of the military industrial complex, fund outdated technology, or are simply mismanaged,” Lee said in a statement. “As Rep. Pocan and I reintroduce the People Over Pentagon Act to make this cut a reality, I encourage my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to ask themselves what would truly provide more benefit to the people of this country: another outdated weapons system, or greater access to basic needs in our communities.”

Lee and Pocan, co-chairs of the Defense Spending Reduction Caucus, have led similar efforts in recent years, to include an amendment to cut the FY ‘23 National Defense Authorization Act topline by $100 billion that the House voted  down 78 to 350 last year (Defense Daily, July 14). 

Four conservative groups, which included the National Taxpayers Union, R Street Institute, Taxpayers for Common Sense, Taxpayers Protection Alliance, offered their support for Lee and Pocan’s push to cut defense spending ahead of that vote (Defense Daily, July 13).

The newly-reintroduced bill to cut defense spending by $100 billion has its largest number of cosponsors to date, Lee and Pocan noted, to include Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), Cori Bush (D-Mo.), Chuy Garcia (D-Ill.), Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) and Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.).

“By cutting $100 billion from the defense budget, this bill prioritizes urgent needs like healthcare, education, and infrastructure over padding the pockets of defense contractors,” Pocan said in a statement. “More defense spending does not guarantee safety, but it does guarantee that the military-industrial complex will continue to get richer. We can no longer afford to put these corporate interests over the needs of the American people. It’s time to invest in our communities and make meaningful change that reflects our nation’s priorities.”

The Pentagon’s Defense Health Program, military personnel accounts and accounts “providing for pay and benefits for persons appointed into the civil service” would be exempt from the $100 billion in cuts, according to the bill text. 

Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.), the new chair of the House Armed Services Committee and a vocal proponent of increasing defense spending, has said continued military modernization will “cost a lot of money,” while noting a focus of the FY ‘24 NDAA markup process will look at finding savings at the Pentagon (Defense Daily, Feb. 2). 

“As we build the FY ‘24 NDAA, we will be laser-focused on the threats we face and the capabilities we need to defeat them. We will closely examine programs to determine if they actually provide the capabilities that we need to defeat threats we face. If they don’t, they will be cut,” Rogers said during opening remarks at HASC’s organizational meeting earlier this month. “At the end of the day, I expect we will find a lot of savings at the Pentagon. But I want to be clear about this, modernizing our military will cost a lot of money. And we cannot shy away from that investment.”

Rogers’ comments arrived as House Republican leaders downplayed the potential for billions of dollars in defense spending cuts as part of a reported plan detailed during a closed-door GOP Conference meeting to limit discretionary spending in FY ‘24 at FY ‘22 enacted levels (Defense Daily, Jan. 10).

A group of 12 members from the Blue Dog coalition of moderate Democrats last month expressed “significant concern” with the reported spending proposal, urging Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) to reconsider the plan that they said could lead to a $75 billion cut to the defense budget (Defense Daily, January 13). 

Lee, who is a member of the House Appropriations Committee along with Pocan, officially announced her plans on Tuesday to run for California’s open Senate seat in 2024 following the retirement of Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.).