August 28, 2023

The Honorable Jack Reed
The Senate Committee on Armed Services
Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Roger Wicker
Ranking Member
The Senate Committee on Armed Services
Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Mike Rogers
The House Committee on Armed Services
Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable Adam Smith
Ranking Member
The House Committee on Armed Services
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Chairmen Reed and Rogers and Ranking Members Smith and Wicker:

We, the undersigned organizations, urge you to maintain in the final National Defense Authorization Act of 2024 the provisions of Rep. Jamaal Bowman’s amendment, passed by the House of Representatives, which requires public disclosure about the cost of the U.S.’ overseas military footprint and gives the American people greater transparency on military spending.

This amendment builds on the monumental work of the late civil rights activist and former U.S. Representative John Lewis’ Cost of War Act of 2015. This requires the Department of Defense to post on their public website the cost to each U.S. taxpayer of the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. His prescience and wherewithal in passing this legislation has paved the way for new members to continue this fight and help taxpayers understand how their money is being used to project U.S. military power and wage wars abroad.

Last year, his successor in Congress, Rep. Nikema Williams, carried forward this legacy by introducing new Cost of War legislation expanding the scope of John Lewis’ work to include the cost to U.S. taxpayers for any overseas contingency operations. It passed the House of Representatives with bipartisan support, and was maintained in the final NDAA that was signed into law by President Biden. The bipartisan backing for rapid passage of Rep. Williams’ legislation demonstrates the broad-based support for accountability and transparency around U.S. defense spending, regardless of one’s view on the appropriate balance between military spending and domestic spending.

In 2023, Rep. Bowman introduced this identical amendment as the latest update to John Lewis’ Cost of War legislation, which passed the House last year but was not maintained in the final bill. Rep. Bowman’s amendment requires reporting on a wider range of costs to fully encompass the U.S. military footprint abroad that is not covered by the former two pieces of legislation. This includes the price of training and assisting partner forces, maintaining overseas bases, paying contractors who provide goods and services in support of operations, and all overseas military operations, including operations conducted by U.S. Armed Forces using unmanned weapons systems and covert operations, among other calculations. In 2023, this amendment was again deemed to be non-controversial and passed the House of Representatives without any discernible opposition.

This amendment is crucial as taxpayers and other citizens remain concerned — and inadequately informed — about the cost to U.S. taxpayers of the wide range of U.S. military activities abroad, including those that fall short of active military missions such as wars or contingency operations. According to the Costs of War project at Brown University, “almost half of the U.S. federal discretionary

budget is allocated to the Department of Defense (DoD) ($849 billion out of $1.82 trillion in FY2023).” Many Americans want greater public scrutiny and debate about the balance our nation strikes between spending on our military presence abroad and spending on other domestic priorities. This includes spending on healthcare, education, and infrastructure, as well as concerns about the rate of taxation or national debt required to sustain the U.S. overseas presence.

These debates will only become more relevant as our military budget approaches the $1 trillion mark, and it is important that the American people have the necessary transparency and data about these costs to engage in our nation’s democratic decision-making process around such questions. Accordingly, we urge you to do everything within your power to ensure that Rep. Bowman’s common sense, non-controversial, House-passed amendment is maintained in the final version of the NDAA that reaches the President’s desk.


American Friends Service Committee
Amnesty International USA
Demand Progress Action
Friends Committee on National Legislation
Government Information Watch
Just Foreign Policy
Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns
National Taxpayers Union
Overseas Base Realignment and Closure Coalition
Peace Action
Project On Government Oversight
Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft
R Street Institute
ReThinking Foreign Policy
Taxpayers for Common Sense
Taxpayers Protection Alliance
United Church of Christ, Justice and Local Church Ministries
Veterans For Peace
Win Without War