The Most Bloated Military Budget in U.S. History and the Oklahoma’s Mega Hawk

by Jeremy Kuzmarov, published on Covert Action, August 11, 2022

2023 NDAA represents swan song in Senate of a long-time stalwart of the radical right

The ghosts of Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan must be looking down with pride on their devoted acolyte, Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma, known as “the hawk’s hawk.” He recently succeeded in pushing through a $45 billion addition to the latest military budget that brings its total to a staggering $850 billion.

Inhofe has been in the Senate for 28 years, 27 of which he spent on the Senate Armed Services Committee, where he was able to thank the weapons manufacturers who donated millions to his political campaigns by stuffing their pockets with billions of dollars in military weapons contracts.

But Inhofe is now retiring, and to honor him, and his success in pushing the size of America’s defense budget into Guinness World Records territory, his colleagues on the Armed Services Committee unanimously voted to name the new military budget The James M. Inhofe National Defense Authorization Act of Fiscal Year 2023.

The NDAA includes $30 billion to develop new nuclear weapons to destroy humankind and for the Pentagon to acquire more of Lockheed Martin’s F-35s, Joint Strike Fighter jets designed to carry both conventional and nuclear weapons.

The NDAA also includes $6 billion—a $1 billion increase from last year—for the Pacific Deterrence Initiative (PDI) to threaten China with armed ground-based cruise, ballistic, and hypersonic missiles—hastening the prospects of World War III.

Inhofe’s Baby

Considered a successful mayor of Tulsa (1978-1984), who ran a bond campaign to finance the damming of the Arkansas River, Inhofe first entered state government in 1967 when he took up the seat in the Oklahoma legislature replacing Dewey Bartlett Sr., an oilman and ally of Richard Nixon.[1]

Popular among his constituents because of his conservative positions on God, guns, and gays.” Inhofe said he was most inspired by Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan, heroes of the New Right, who sought to cut government social programs while ramping up military spending in the Cold War (both Goldwater and Reagan were superhawks on Vietnam).

Inhofe himself served in the U.S. Army in the 1950s before the Vietnam War broke out. In the last five years alone, he has received more than half a million dollars in campaign contributions from the defense, aerospace and oil and gas industries, which profit from high military budgets.

Oklahoma has six military bases, and the Department of Defense is the state’s largest employer.

In 2018, Inhofe was found to have purchased tens of thousands of dollars in Raytheon stock just a week after he lobbied the Trump administration to increase military spending to record levels.

Inhofe claims that $850 billion is needed in the NDAA to counter the “Chinese Communist Party accelerating the already historic modernization of its military,” and “Russia continuing to destabilize security in Europe,” along with “record-high inflation jeopardizing our buying power.”

According to Inhofe, “Congress must do everything we can to give our military every advantage on the battlefield.”

It is not clear, however, what battlefield Inhofe is talking about—except future ones the U.S. intends to establish by encircling China and Russia militarily and provoking them into unnecessary wars.

Further Militarizing Foreign Policy

Ilhan Omar (D-MN), one of 101 House members to vote against the NDAA, said that at a time Americans are “struggling with the soaring cost of basic items like food and housing, when Republicans are blocking investments in basic needs like health care, we should not be voting on a defense bill that doles out a record-shattering $800+ billion to the Pentagon.”

Omar added that “this bill will only further militarize foreign policy, lining the pockets of defense contractors while inevitably costing the lives of innocent people around the world. Despite an amendment I introduced, it blocks humanitarian aid to the Afghan people, further militarizes the Middle East and Indo-Pacific, and continues weapons sales to some of the most heinous human rights abusers in the world.”

Lowlights

Chillingly, the NDAA includes a provision from Rep. Jason Crow (D-CO) that would establish a National Space Guard—a further step in the militarization of Outer Space.

$800 million is budgeted for security assistance to Ukraine, including $100 million for training Ukrainian pilots and ground crews so they become familiarized with American aircraft.

Additional lowlights of the NDAA include:

Hypersonic missile. [Source: defence-blog.com]
Colombians march against Plan Colombia. [Source: theguardian.com]

[Source: pinterest.com]
Warped Priorities—and a Lack of Pushback

While the U.S. Senate was putting the final touches on the 2023 NDAA, teachers in Little Rock, Arkansas, rallied in front of their State Capitol building demanding a living wage.

Arkansas educators gather at state capitol, plea for better pay | thv11.com
Arkansas teachers rally for better salaries at State Capitol building. [Source: thv11.com]
The average teacher’s salary in Arkansas is a paltry $36,000, which is only slightly above Inhofe’s home state of Oklahoma.

The latter figures underscore Ilhan Omar’s point about warped spending priorities, which has been a hallmark of James Inhofe’s political career and the New Right movement from which he came.

*Featured Image: General Stephen Townsend giving speech in front of AFRICOM headquarters in Germany. He has more to be smiling about with the new NDAA.  Source: africa.cgtn.com


  1. Inhofe worked in aviation and became President of Quaker Life Insurance. When he ran for public office, he claimed to have graduated from the University of Tulsa in 1959 but actually only received his degree in 1973—before he ran for governor—when he did some independent studies. A professor in the sociology department at the University of Tulsa in the 1950s who was friendly with Inhofe’s sister told me that Inhofe was a poor student who came from a prominent family; he could not pass her class.

Jeremy Kuzmarov is the author of four books on U.S. foreign policy, including Obama’s Unending Wars (Clarity Press, 2019) and The Russians Are Coming, Again, with John Marciano (Monthly Review Press, 2018).  He can be reached at: .

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