“National Defense” Spending, 1998-2011

I’ve been playing around this morning in the FY 2011 Budget, Historical Tables. This is obviously a sign of my poor mental state and general lack of a life, but I can’t help myself. I keep hearing people say that military spending has been cut, or will soon be cut, or is “near historic lows“.

I hear this, and I’m quite sure that it is incorrect, but sometimes the historian in me decides to actually check the facts.

Enclosed below is what I’ve found.

National Defense outlays, 1998 – 2011
  Nominal Real (FY 2005) % of GDP
1998 $268.1 $346.1 3.1
1999 $274.7 $347.6 3.0
2000 $294.3 $361.3 3.0
2001 $304.0 $363.1 3.0
2002 $348.4 $401.7 3.3
2003 $404.7 $444.6 3.7
2004 $455.0 $480.3 3.9
2005 $495.3 $495.3 4.0
2006 $521.8 $499.3 3.9
2007 $551.0 $509.2 4.0
2008 $616.0 $548.6 4.3
2009 $661.0 $580.2 4.6
2010 (est.) $719.1 $626.0 4.9
2011 (est.) $749.7 $644.0 4.9
Change in real spending, 1998 – 2011 86%
Source: The Budget for Fiscal Year 2011, Historical Tables, Table 6-1 — Composition of Outlays: 1940-2015, pp. 131-132

Now, I ask the reader: how does any one of the columns in this table show a decline in “national defense” spending? 

I understand that statistics can be manipulated, and facts are stubborn things, etc., but hopefully I’ve provided a small public service by actually looking at the tables, and republishing the results here.


Bonus question #1: When the federal government speaks of “national defense”, which “nation(s)” are we defending?

Bonus question #2 (for those who think that the answer to #1 is obvious): Why does the United States have a Department of Defense and a Department of Homeland Security? In any other country, this would be redundant.

9 thoughts on ““National Defense” Spending, 1998-2011

  1. We should do what football teams do: have an offensive coordinator and a defensive coordinator!

  2. Christopher, do these figures include the off-budget spending on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars? Perhaps some journos are mistakenly excluding it.

    1. National defense outlays does include the costs of the wars.

      Some people look at only DoD budget authority, or base budget, and don’t account for the wars. They also tend to ignore other national security spending that falls outside of DoD (e.g. DHS and VA).

      It is especially misleading to criticize Obama for projecting defense cuts into the future. He is also projecting troop reductions in Iraq and Afghanistan. Ergo, the costs of the wars should go way down.

      Whether the wars actually will end is a topic for another discussion. Soon.

  3. And we can’t go back to Department of War since the military does so much other than war (pretending to be a computer anti-virus company, I mean cybersecurity; winning hearts and minds through nation-builiding; diplomacy given that the D of State is MIA; disaster relief; counternarcotics, etc).

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