Skip to content
Ralph Nader > In the Public Interest > $ Spent on Military Arms

Each day, say the grim statisticians, 40,000 little children die from poverty and disease in the world, while the nations’ spend $4 billion on military arms. Each day! Such comparisons were used by the famed builder-architect, Buckminster Fuller, to demonstrate that a fraction of the world’s military spending could abolish poverty and reduce disease.
As the arms race between the superpowers grew after World War II, some Americans whose thoughts were inclined toward permanent peace and disarmament, began to wonder. There were military universities such as West Point and the Naval Academy; why was there no Peace Academy? Peace specialists were at least as important as war specialists, they observed, and so were peace studies and peace degrees.

In 1975 Senators Vance Hartke (D-IN) and Mark Hatfield (R-OR) introduced legislation to establish a George Washington Peace Academy. After nearly ten years of hearings and manueverings, Senator Hatfield, having despaired of any likelihood of persuading President Reagan, added an amendment to create the United States Institute of Peace to a major military authorization bill. Mr. Reagan signed the bill into law along with the amendment he could not veto.

The Institute is a shadow of the original Peace Academy construct. The Institute is not a university. It has no central facility and could not grant any degrees. Four of the fifteen Board members are ex-officio members: The Secretaries of State and Defense, the Director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency and the president of the National Defense University.

Given such a restricted and indentured structure to begin with, the Reaganites are making sure that the Institute becomes a mere grantmaking shell to innocuous or partisan recipients. First, Mr. Reagan consumed a year of no activity by delaying the submission of nominees for Senate confirmation. The first board meeting of the Institute was not held until February 25, 1986. The nominees were all white males and mostly conservatives. None had any expertise in conflict resolution.

The man who in four years doubled the Pentagon budget and the national debt became suddenly very frugal when it came to the tiny Peace Institute’s budget. Congress authorized $16 million over two years (1985 and 1986); this amounts to about half an hour’s expenditure by the Department of Defense on a 24 hour scale. Of this $16 million authorized, only four million was actually allocated and only $500,000 was spent.

Ten grants were announced in December 1986 for a total of $337,304. Four of these grants, using over two-thirds of this sum, went to much larger government agencies, such as the State Department, whose officials are on the Institute’s Board. Others went also to right-wing foundations whose reputations are more hawkish than peace oriented.

The law creating the Peace Institute assigned other duties to it beyond making grants. It is supposed to “conduct research and make studies into the causes of war and other international conflicts…” Nothing yet. The Institute was supposed to “utilize to the maximum extent possible United States Government documents and classified materials from the Department of State, the Department of Defense, the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, and the intelligence community.” Bob Turner, the Institute’s president, says no use has been made or is likely to be made in the future of classified documents to conduct its mission.

Mr. Turner also acknowledged that the statutory mandate to “conduct training, symposia, and continuing education programs for practitioners, policymakers…citizens…in international peace and conflict resolution” is not on the agenda.

With this flurry of inactivity, the Institute has still managed to miss its deadline of January 1987 for submission of its annual report to Congress.

Perhaps more disturbing about this sad story of all deliberate neglect is the lack of persistent Congressional oversight and prodding. The supporters of the Peace Institute seem to have given up any hope of any productivity until Mr. Reagan retires to California.

Over twenty five years ago, Warren Wells, an investment adviser, coined the phrase “waging peace”. Hear that, Capitol Hill lawmakers.