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For 2022, the Pentagon is slated to receive about $768 billion.
Build Back Better measure costs $3.5 trillion
Spending covers a 10-year period. So, to get to the $350 billion a year figure, lawmaker divided by 10.
Government spending is front and center in Washington D.C., where Congress narrowly averted a government shutdown and lawmakers continue to fight over increasing the nation’s debt ceiling and haggle over spending on infrastructure and the rest of President Joe Biden’s agenda.
While the numbers are massive -- a trillion here, a trillion there -- U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, a Madison Democrat, tried to put some perspective on it all with this Oct. 3, 2021 tweet:
"The annual Pentagon budget hovers over $750 billion annually, twice that of the much debated Build Back Better Act that costs about $350 billion annually as currently proposed. And the Build Back Better Act is PAID for, unlike the Pentagon’s budget (which we don’t even audit!)."
For the purpose of this fact check, we’re going to focus on the first part of the claim.
Is the Pentagon’s budget really around $750 billion annually? And what would the proposed Build Back Better Act cost each year?
First, let’s dig into the Pentagon budget.
When asked for backup, Pocan’s office sent us the House of Representatives summary of the National Defense Authorization Act for 2022, the most recent Pentagon funding approved. According to the document, for 2022, the Pentagon is slated to receive about $768 billion. His office also provided a link to the Senate-passed National Defense Authorization Act for 2022, which had a topline of nearly $778 billion.
So Pocan is on target on the military spending.
There is some confusion about the many packages and measures at play in Washington, as Democrats -- who very narrowly control the House and Senate -- try to sort out what they can pass, and how to proceed.
Build Back Better, of course, sometimes refers to Biden’s overall agenda.
But in this case, Pocan is talking about a specific bill -- the one where Democrats have stitched together a wide range of proposals, from two free years of community college to cutting prescription drug prices, even measures to address climate change. This is sometimes referred to as the "human infrastructure bill."
Its fate is tied to that of a bill for more conventional infrastructure -- roads, bridges and the like -- that has already passed the Senate. There, it won support from 19 Republican senators, including U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, after negotiations to make it a bipartisan effort, according to the New York Times. It carried a price tag of $1 trillion.
Meanwhile, the so-called Build Back Better Act, the one mentioned earlier, carried a price tag of $3.5 trillion at the time of Pocan’s tweet. Since then, Democrats have been whittling the figure down, though it’s unclear precisely where it will land.
But if the measure costs $3.5 trillion, isn’t Pocan way off?
A little-discussed aspect of the plan is that the spending covers a 10-year period. So, to get to the $350 billion a year figure, Pocan is simply dividing by 10.
Of course, because it has not been passed, it is hard to say just how the money will be apportioned -- that is, will it be split evenly year-to-year, or be front-loaded, or take some other format. Regardless, we think the average is a reasonable way to look at it.
Of course, the amount of money the bill adds up to is likely to change, too. The plan is being scaled back again, to a top line of about $2.3 trillion, though that number could get even smaller in the weeks ahead, according to an Oct. 5, 2021 report from the New York Times.
In a tweet, Pocan claimed the Pentagon’s annual budget is twice that of the spending that would be authorized under the Build Back Better Act being hammered out in Congress.
Over the last several years, the Pentagon’s budget has hovered around $750 billion a year, while the piece of spending Pocan referred to -- the so-called "human infrastructure" bill was estimated at about $3.5 trillion at the time of his tweet.
That spending, though, is for a 10-year period. To be sure, we don’t know how that spending would be broken down, year to year. But, when averaged out, it falls to the figure Pocan used.
We rate the claim True.
U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, Twitter, Oct. 3, 2021
House Armed Services Committee, "Summary of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2022," Oct. 5, 2021
Senate Armed Services Committee, "Fiscal year 2022 National Defense Authorization Act," Oct. 6, 2021
House Armed Services Committee, "Summary of the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2021," Oct. 5, 2021
Senate Armed Services Committee, "Fiscal year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act," Oct. 6, 2021
The New York Times, "Biden scales back his agenda in hopes of bringing moderates onboard," Oct. 5, 2021
The New York Times, "Senate passes $1 trillion infrastructure bill, handing Biden a bipartisan win," Oct. 1, 2021
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