Speed Reads

Playing politics

Congress adds $20 billion in random earmarks to huge military budget

Congress has added more than 300 expensive, unrelated earmarks to the current defense spending bill, tacking on some $20 billion in costs for projects like cancer research at historically black colleges and making sure troops are aware of the location of the gym on their military bases.

These earmarks were not requested by the Pentagon, but Congress has a long and complicated record of insisting that the military buy planes, weapons, ships, and more that the military does not want, whether because they are outdated, dangerous, or otherwise unneeded.

In 2013, American military spending totaled about $718 billion, and the U.S. spends more on war and defense than the next eight nations combined, easily dwarfing the military budgets of countries like China and Russia. Military spending is also the third-largest contributor to the $17 trillion national debt, which breaks down to about $55,000 per citizen.