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Surprise! $29.4B in Pentagon Pork Tucked into GOP Relief Bill

Millions in new spending for missile defense and F-35's. How's that related to coronavirus?

Senate Republicans unveiled Monday their $1 trillion coronavirus stimulus package. Tucked inside is a $29.4 billion request for new defense spending, over $8 billion of which is for defense procurement and acquisition.

Critics point out that the bill does not delineate any new or urgent defense threat to justify the $30 billion request over and above the Pentagon’s ask.

Instead, the bill requests millions in new spending for things like missile defense money and F-35’s.

Here’s some of what Congress wants to spend money on:

$1,068,000,000 for additional Boeing P-8A Poseidon aircraft

$720,000,000 for additional Lockheed Martin C–130J aircraft

$686,000,000 for additional Lockheed Martin F–35A aircraft

$650,000,000 for wing replacements to the Boeing A–10

$375,000,000 for General Dynamics Stryker upgrades

$283,000,000 for additional Boeing AH–64 Apache Block IIIB helicopters

$243,270,000 and $76,325,000 for THAAD related items, the anti-ballistic missile defense system designed to shoot down short, medium, and intermediate-range ballistic missiles

$49,100,000 for Sonobuoys, a tactical sonar system for transmitting submarine activity

“As you know, fighter jets are well known for their pandemic fighting abilities,” wrote Stephen Miles, executive director of Win Without War.

In order to claim that each item in the bill is requested in response to the coronavirus, the bill labels them:

  1. “to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus, domestically or internationally, and
  2. “designated by the Congress as being for an emergency requirement pursuant to section 251(b)(2)(A)(i) of the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act of 1985.”

‘But the fact that the Pentagon would have two years to spend these new funds undercuts the argument that this new request is urgent and coronavirus-related.

“The greed is not pretty. The Pentagon has already had $740 billion approved for defense this year, but it and its congressional advocates can’t resist asking for more and funneling more pork to their constituents,” said John Isaacs, senior fellow at Council for a Livable World & Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, in an interview with The American Conservative.

“If Republicans’ sporadic concerns about deficits were real, they would view the $750 defense budget as the first place to look for cuts to partly offset the gigantic sums expended to recover from coronavirus,” said Ben Friedman, policy director of Defense Priorities, to The American Conservative. “Instead, they’re using coronavirus as an excuse to shovel more money to the Pentagon, which already receives more than it did at almost point during the Cold War, for no obvious reason. They do not even bother with a security rationale for the new spending, it’s just seen as inherently good to blow money on new military hardware.”

There are a few items of spending that are coronavirus related: $5,300,000,000 for Coronavirus Defense Production Act purchases, $1,450,000,000 for four expeditionary medical ships, and $705,000,000 for the Defense Health program.

But that is out of an almost $30 billion request.