The Pentagon could stave off calls from Democrats to slash defense spending by developing innovative climate technology such as energy-storing batteries, House Armed Services Chairman Adam Smith said.
The Defense Department “is investing a ton of money in new battery technology for one thing, storage capacity, all that,” Smith (D-Wash.) said Monday during a virtual event at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation think tank.
“There is room to build a new bipartisan consensus on this issue to fight back against some of the anti-defense stuff that is going on,” he added.
A group of 50 House Democrats led by Barbara Lee (Calif.) and Mark Pocan (Wis.) asked President Joe Biden on March 16 to slash the defense budget, saying cuts of 10% would still leave the U.S. spending more than the next 10 largest militaries in the world.
“Hundreds of billions of dollars now directed to the military would have greater return if invested in diplomacy, humanitarian aid, global public health, sustainability initiatives, and basic research,” the lawmakers wrote in the letter.
They specifically mentioned reorienting the defense budget toward fighting climate change.
Biden called for climate change to be an essential consideration in national security and foreign policy in a January executive order, a dramatic shift from the Trump administration shunning the issue.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin created a Pentagon climate working group on March 9 following Biden’s order. It will coordinate climate and energy-related directives, Austin said in a memo to the department.
Smith said Democratic critics of defense spending aren’t largely focused on the department’s technological innovation and climate change initiatives.
Many believe the U.S. has relied too much on the military for foreign policy following the Iraq war, and that money spent on defense means domestic priorities such as education and health care get shortchanged, he said.
“That has led a lot of people to say, ‘let’s just cut defense, we don’t believe in what they’re doing,’” Smith said. “One of the big places we can bridge that gap is on climate change.”
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