foreign policy

Do you support cutting the defense budget from its current levels?

Yes

Yes

Michael Bennet (Dropped out)

U.S. senator, Colorado

Bennet is no longer running for president. Bennet supports cutting the defense budget from its current levels, a spokesperson told The Post. He “believes there is waste and inefficiency within the Pentagon that can and should be addressed, including by reducing bureaucracy and streamlining our acquisition process,” a Bennet spokesperson said, adding that the United States must make "hard decisions about our presence in places like Afghanistan. [Bennet] believes that our nation's security comes from more than the size of our military, and that we must invest in the other elements of American security, like our intelligence capabilities, and our diplomatic and economic power.”

Candidate positions highlighted
Michael Bennet
Bennet

Cory Booker (Dropped out)

U.S. senator, New Jersey

Booker is no longer running for president. “Over the course of the past two decades, defense spending has spiralled out of control. We need to make sure that we have a military that’s well-resourced and prepared, but right now, we spend nearly as much on defense as the next eight countries combined. We need to get our troops out of Afghanistan and reduce defense spending to appropriate levels,” Booker told The Post.

Candidate positions highlighted
Cory Booker
Booker

Julian Castro (Dropped out)

Former mayor, San Antonio

Castro is no longer running for president. “Our nation’s defense budget is the largest in the world. The United States also has the largest economy in the world and is at the nexus of a global system of alliances and relationships. Yet there is no question that we can allocate these extraordinary resources more prudently,” Castro told the Military Times. “Since 9/11, we have committed almost 6 trillion dollars to wars in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia, Niger, and other countries; ending or reducing combat operations in these countries alone would bring significant savings to our government, reduce yearly military spending, and free up resources for much needed investments at home.”

Candidate positions highlighted
Julian Castro
Castro

Tulsi Gabbard (Dropped out)

U.S. representative, Hawaii

Gabbard is no longer running for president. “Yes. The defense budget has spiraled out of control,” Gabbard told The Post. “I will end wasteful regime change wars that cost taxpayers billions of dollars every month & work to end the new cold war & arms race. I will invest in our national security, take care of our troops, ensuring their readiness. I will maintain our strong military, national security, & make significant cuts so we can redirect those dollars to serve the needs of our people here at home.”

Candidate positions highlighted
Tulsi Gabbard
Gabbard

Amy Klobuchar (Dropped out)

U.S. senator, Minnesota

Klobuchar is no longer running for president. Klobuchar supports cutting the defense budget from its current levels, her campaign told The Post.

Candidate positions highlighted
Amy Klobuchar
Klobuchar

Tim Ryan (Dropped out)

U.S. representative, Ohio

Ryan is no longer running for president. Ryan supports cutting the defense budget, he told The Post. “America can actually build a better military, that is more suited to today’s threats, with less money and a systematic effort to [get rid of] Defense Department overspending and waste. ... I would like to see the money allocated to economic stimulus, reducing our national debt, and given back to the states for investments in public schools, infrastructure and job training programs. Making the U.S. stronger at home makes us stronger abroad.”

Candidate positions highlighted
Tim Ryan
Ryan

Bernie Sanders (Dropped out)

U.S. senator, Vermont

Sanders is no longer running for president. “Yes. In my view we should not be spending more on the military than the next 10 nations combined. We should not be engaged in endless wars. The Pentagon is the only federal agency that cannot pass an independent audit, virtually every major defense contractor has been found guilty of fraud and the Defense Department tried to bury a report highlighting $125 billion in bureaucratic waste at the Pentagon,” Sanders told The Post. Sanders said that he believes in a strong military, but that “we cannot continue to give the Pentagon and defense contractors a blank check. It is time that we as a nation get our priorities straight.” He detailed his plan to cut military spending to Vox.

Candidate positions highlighted
Bernie Sanders
Sanders

Joe Sestak (Dropped out)

Former U.S. representative, Pennsylvania

Sestak is no longer running for president. “Yes, I favor reassessing combat readiness based on force posture, not force structure, meaning I believe we need to measure capability, not just capacity,” Sestak told The Post. “This means investing more in cyberspace and other high technology (including sensors, drones, surveillance equipment, etc), and less in bloated programs and weapons designed for a type of warfare we are unlikely to find ourselves involved in again. This will create a military that is more effective at less cost.”

Candidate positions highlighted
Joe Sestak
Sestak

Tom Steyer (Dropped out)

Billionaire activist

Steyer is no longer running for president. Steyer supports cutting the defense budget from its current levels, he told The Post.

Candidate positions highlighted
Tom Steyer
Steyer

Elizabeth Warren (Dropped out)

U.S. senator, Massachusetts

Warren is no longer running for president. “Yes. The United States will spend more than $700 billion on defense this year alone. If more money for the Pentagon could solve our security challenges, we would have solved them by now,” Warren told The Post. “It’s past time to identify which programs actually benefit American security and support our troops and their families, and which programs merely line the pockets of defense contractors -- then pull out a sharp knife and make some cuts.”

Candidate positions highlighted
Elizabeth Warren
Warren

Marianne Williamson (Dropped out)

Author

Williamson is no longer running for president. “Yes. We can cut the defense budget significantly without jeopardizing our security,” Williamson told The Post. “Too much of the defense budget is oriented more toward corporate profits than actual national defense.”

Candidate positions highlighted
Marianne Williamson
Williamson

We should re-assess it

We should re-assess it

Joe Biden

Former vice president

“We can maintain a strong defense and protect our safety and security for less,” Biden told The Post. “The real question is not how much we invest — it’s how we invest. We have to make smart investments in technologies and innovations — including in cyber, space, unmanned systems and artificial intelligence — that will be necessary to meet the threats of the future. We have to move away from investments in legacy systems that won't be relevant for tomorrow's wars, and we have to rethink the contributions we and our allies make to our collective security. We also have to invest in our other elements of national power.”

Candidate positions highlighted
Joe Biden
Biden

Mike Bloomberg (Dropped out)

Former New York mayor

Bloomberg is no longer running for president. The U.S. should re-assess defense spending levels, Bloomberg told The Post.

Candidate positions highlighted
Mike Bloomberg
Bloomberg

Steve Bullock (Dropped out)

Governor, Montana

Bullock is no longer running for president. “I’m committed to ensuring our service members have everything they need to secure our nation. Our commander in chief must ensure that if America has to fight, we will win. We also have to ensure our long-term financial security,” Bullock told The Post. “With our national debt surpassing $22 trillion, and the Defense Department accounting for over half of our yearly discretionary spending, we must ensure we are budgeting for our long-term security and scrapping obsolete and ineffective programs.”

Candidate positions highlighted
Steve Bullock
Bullock

Pete Buttigieg (Dropped out)

Former mayor, South Bend, Ind.

Buttigieg is no longer running for president. “Those who have served understand the importance of a strong military. But to adequately prepare for our evolving security challenges, we need to look not only at how much we spend on our military, but what we are prioritizing,” Buttigieg told The Post. “The key is to re-prioritize our military investments by ending endless wars and strategically focus security operations in Afghanistan and the Middle East; curtailing an expensive weapons program designed for a former era; and building a better prepared, more modern and more technologically advanced force that can meet both troop and military family needs and future security challenges.”

Candidate positions highlighted
Pete Buttigieg
Buttigieg

Beto O'Rourke (Dropped out)

Former U.S. representative, Texas

O'Rourke is no longer running for president. “As President, [O'Rourke] will go line by line to ensure spending is necessary and, more important, to ensure we are adequately preparing for current and future threats to our national security (e.g., cybersecurity). He will also make ending the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq top priorities, investing those resources saved in those who have served.”

Candidate positions highlighted
Beto O'Rourke
O'Rourke

Deval Patrick (Dropped out)

Former governor, Massachusetts

Patrick is no longer running for president. The U.S. should re-assess defense spending levels, a campaign spokesperson told The Post.

Candidate positions highlighted
Deval Patrick
Patrick

Andrew Yang (Dropped out)

Tech entrepreneur

Yang is no longer running for president. “We should reassess it and refocus it on modern threats,” such as cyberattacks, Yang told The Post. “This will almost certainly result in it being decreased.”

Candidate positions highlighted
Andrew Yang
Yang

No, keep it at current levels

No, keep it at current levels

John Delaney (Dropped out)

Former U.S. representative, Maryland

Delaney is no longer running for president. “I will not seek reductions in defense spending and will work to reposition our military toward the threats of the future,” Delaney said in a May speech.

Candidate positions highlighted
John Delaney
Delaney

Hover for more information

Tap for info

Background President Trump has argued the United States should draw down its foreign conflicts, while simultaneously proposing large military spending increases. House Democrats proposed an increase in line with inflation in April 2019, upsetting liberal lawmakers.

The Post is sending detailed questionnaires to every Democratic candidate asking for their stances on various issues. See all the issues we’ve asked about so far.

See our other questions on foreign policy:

How candidate positions were compiled

The Washington Post sent a detailed questionnaire to every Democratic presidential campaign asking whether it supports various changes to U.S. foreign policy. Candidates with similar stances were organized into groups using a combination of those answers, legislative records, action taken in an executive role, and other public comments, such as policy discussion on campaign websites, social media posts, interviews, town hall meetings and other news reports and surveys. See something we missed? Let us know.

This page will update as we learn more about the candidates’ plans. We also will note if candidates change their position on an issue. At initial publication, this page included major candidates who had announced a run for president. If a candidate dropped out after a question was published here, their stance is included under the "Show former candidates" option. If they dropped out before a question was first published, the Post did not reach out to get their stance.

Curious about where candidates stand on another policy? Fill out this suggestion form.

Candidate illustrations by Ben Kirchner.