The well-being of America will not improve through increases in military spending and canceling hundreds of programs that benefit the American people and economy.

Military expenditures are more than half the federal discretionary budget (approximately $600 billion). The U.S. spends more than the next eight countries combined, suggesting waste and overbilling, but not greater security. Spending is nearly three times the amount China budgets and nearly six times what Russia spends.

The only federal agency that hasn’t been properly audited, the Pentagon needs accountability. A limited internal evaluation recently found waste equaling $125 billion.

The Defense Department employs about 1 million civilians, or, as military expert William D. Hartung put it, “nearly one bureaucrat for every member of the active duty military.” The department also employs over 600,000 private contractors, many who duplicate the work of government employees. A recent issue of Fortune Magazine reports bureaucratic interference that prevents considerable savings and efficiencies.

The Pentagon estimates it has 22 percent excess infrastructure in the form of military bases that serve no strategic purpose. In the past, billions of dollars have been saved by military base closings.

The budget includes spending on costly weapons we don’t need, such as over 2,000 F-35 planes that cost nearly $400 billion but may never be ready for combat. There are already more nuclear weapons than needed, but a procurement program prepares to spend $1 trillion for more.

Our country needs a budget that addresses the well-being of people and programs, not excess military.

To improve global security, the U.S. should restore budgets for diplomacy and foreign aid. Bill Gates recently wrote in Time magazine that foreign aid for health and development programs keeps Americans safe by promoting security and economic opportunity, thus stabilizing vulnerable parts of the world. It’s more than just humanitarian accomplishment, he said: It’s “visible proof of America’s global leadership.”

Grace Braley

Portland