A Militarized Budget: 50 Years On from MLK's "Beyond Vietnam" Address

Apr 4, 2017

Credit (donald trump)
  Commentary: On the fiftieth anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s "Beyond Vietnam" speech, which condemned and drew links between U.S. militarism and racism, National Priorities Project has released its first analysis of the U.S. "militarized" budget.

The United States is the single biggest military spender in the world. The report from National Priorities Project takes note of that fact, and ties U.S. military spending – which is primarily focused on current and potential conflicts abroad – to its analog here at home: spending on veterans of foreign wars, incarceration, immigration enforcement, and the war on drugs. 

In 2016, the militarized budget was $741 billion, amounting to 64 percent of discretionary spending, including:

  • U.S. Customs and Border Protection, $11.7 billion
  • Immigration and Customs Enforcement, $6.0 billion
  • Aid to foreign militaries, $13.3 billion
  • Federal prison system, $7.3 billion
  • Federal drug control programs, $289 million

 "Each of these dollars represents a choice that we are collectively making to solve our problems through armed conflict, incarceration and deportations. We need to have serious conversations about alternate solutions and how we can end our dependence on force to solve all of our problems," said Lindsay Koshgarian, Research Director.

Budget proposals put forth by President Trump to increase spending on the military, immigration enforcement and drug enforcement would double down on these approaches. 

"Americans are showing that they've had enough of constant war and one of the highest incarceration rates in the world," said Koshgarian. According to a recent poll from the University of Maryland, a majority of Americans across the political spectrum do not support President Trump's proposals for increased spending on militarization.

"The tide may be turning," said Koshgarian.  

    Access the report at # #
    National Priorities Project (NPP) inspires individuals and movements to take action so our federal resources prioritize peace, shared prosperity, and economic security for all. In 2014, NPP was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of our pioneering work to track federal spending on the military and promote a U.S. federal budget that represents Americans' priorities. Learn more at