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Since the tragic events of 9/11, the budget of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) has doubled while the budgets of other departments remain stagnant. Instead of paying Lockheed Martin over $1.5 billion to provide Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates with Patriot missiles, that money could have gone towards improving the failing education system in this country.

In 2001, the base budget for the DoD stood at $287 billion. In less than a decade, the defense budget increased to over $530 billion, which does not even include the primary costs of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. In 2010, the Office of Management and Budget reported the DoD’s federal budget at $530.8 billion. In contrast, the Department of Education only received $64.1 billion, while the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Energy received $27 billion and $26.4 billion respectively.

In 2011, the U.S. was spending 20% of the federal budget on defense and only 2% on education. Three years later, the Office of Management and Budget found that 18% of the budget had been spent on defense with still merely 2% on education.

According to the DoD, the government has spent over $250 billion in defense contracts since the beginning of this year, which does not include any contracts valued at less than $6.5 million. Last month, the DoD paid defense contractors over $38.6 billion, after awarding them another $38.9 billion in August.

Each business day, defense contractors including Bechtel, Boeing, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, Microsoft, and Kellogg Brown and Root, receive exorbitant amounts of money from the federal budget. This pays for jet fuel, missiles, helicopters, food, spare parts, runways, infrastructure repairs, ship maintenance, technical support, construction equipment, etc.

But most Americans don’t realize that their tax dollars also paid Lockheed Martin over $920 million to manufacture and deliver F-35 jets to the governments of Italy, Turkey, Australia, Norway, and Britain. In July, Lockheed Martin was also awarded over $1.5 billion to equip Korea, Qatar, Taiwan, United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia with Patriot missiles.

Marred with a history of rape and forced prostitution, DynCorp received $68.9 million in February for integrated maintenance support services for the Saudi Arabian National Guard Aviation. Responsible for the largest data breach in U.S. history, Booz Allen Hamilton was awarded $12.3 million in July for support services to the Royal Saudi Naval Forces. And in June, L-3 National Security Solutions received $95 million to train Royal Saudi Air Force personnel.

Sprint Communications even received over $10 million in April to provide cell phones to the Army Human Resources Command, while J. Walter Thompson was awarded $770 million for recruitment and advertising for the Marine Corps Recruiting Command. Instead of wasting tax dollars on cell phones and supporting repressive regimes, the American people could have decided to use that money to purchase new text books, update school computers, perform classroom maintenance, raise teacher salaries, or provide free meals to public school children from low-income families.

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Over the past decade, the Missile Defense Agency, an arm of the Pentagon, has wasted nearly $10 billion in failed projects. The ill-fated Sea-Based X-Band Radar (SBX), Airborne Laser, Kinetic Energy Interceptor, and Multiple Kill Vehicle cost the agency $2.2 billion, $5.3 billion, $1.7 billion, and $700 million respectively.

Projected to take nine years and $12 billion to develop, at a cost of $149 million per plane, the F-22 jet actually took 19 years to produce at a cost of $26.3 billion, averaging $412 million per plane. Plagued with safety problems, including at least two fatal crashes and a faulty oxygen-supply system, then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates and then-Air Force Secretary Michael Donley forcefully requested that Congress end production of the F-22 in 2009.

Two years ago, former Booz Allen Hamilton employee Edward Snowden disclosed that the black budget for fiscal year 2013 was $52.6 billion. The classified documents revealed that 16 agencies, including the CIA, NSA, and Justice Department, received the secret funds in order to conduct clandestine operations without public scrutiny or accountability.

In January 2005, American soldiers opened fire on a family inside a car in the northern town of Tal Afar in Iraq. Splattered with the blood of her dead parents, 5-year-old Samar Hassan shrieked in despair and anguish next to an armed U.S. soldier as photojournalist Chris Hondros took a photograph capturing the horrific moment in history.

By paying our income, property, and sales taxes, we contributed to this atrocity and countless others. You and I purchased the bullets that killed this young girl’s parents. We paid those soldiers to take innocent lives.

Without taking personal responsibility for what our tax dollars buy, many Americans remain willfully ignorant of the crimes and incompetence committed in our names. As defense contractors accrue astronomical amounts of our money on a daily basis, they will continue to circumvent weakened campaign finance reform laws in order to purchase pliable candidates willing to keep them in power.

In his farewell address, President Dwight Eisenhower warned the American people over 50 years ago of the rapidly expanding military industrial complex. Unfortunately, we didn't bother to listen.

“In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist,” Eisenhower advised. “We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.”