WASHINGTON – Citing an urgent need for painful cuts to reduce the deficit, Democrats and Republicans agreed last Friday to slash spending on programs related to education, health care, environmental protection and scientific research, among others.
Yet they hiked defense spending by $5 billion.
The bipartisan deal to fund the government through September, which brought the U.S. to the brink of a shutdown, was to cut $39 billion in federal spending from existing levels -- both sides hailed it as the highest year-to-year level of reduction in U.S. history.
Among the casualties were the Environmental Protection Agency, which took a $1.6 billion hit. Spending on health care was also slashed, including over $1 billion from funds to combat HIV/AIDS, and $600 million for community health centers. Hundreds of millions were cut from a range of education programs, and hundreds of millions more from research on science and energy.
Despite the urgent need for these dramatic cuts, defense spending rose to $513 billion, up from $508 billion in fiscal 2010, according to a summary (PDF) of the measure released by the House of Representatives and confirmed by Senate Democrats.
The quiet hike in military funding, which was hardly mentioned during the debate over fiscal 2011 funding, underscores complaints from progressives (and some conservatives) that the large defense budget, a significant chunk of annual spending, is unnecessarily off-limits.
According to Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY), "The bill also includes an additional $157.8 billion for overseas contingency operations (emergency funding) to advance our missions abroad."
U.S. military spending has risen 81 percent since 2001, according to a new study by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.