Defense Discretionary Spending

Source:  Congressional Budget Office

Defense Discretionary Spending: $601 billion in FY 2017 outlays; 15% of Federal Outlays

  • Defense Discretionary Spending:  (Almost all defense spending is categorized as discretionary, i.e., Congress decides each year how much to appropriate for each of the programs, projects and activities in the defense budget.
  • Total Appropriations for Defense consists of:
    (1) Amounts appropriated under the statutory Defense/Security Cap of the Budget Control Act of 2011 (and later modified by the Bipartisan Budget Acts of 2013 and 2015); and
    (2) additional amounts appropriated “outside” the caps for “Overseas Contingency Operations.”  See the “Budget Overview” page for an explanation of the Budget Control Act and Spending Caps.   CRS: Defense Spending and the Budget Control Act Limits
  • Overseas Contingency Operations:  The $601 billion amount includes $59 billion in appropriations designated for “Overseas Contingency Operations” (OCO), which are appropriations for “war-related” activities that are not subject to the statutory spending cap on security/defense spending set by the Budget Control Act of 2011 (and later modified by the Bipartisan Budget Acts of 2013 and 2015).   Although OCO funding is intended to be war-related (hence the exemption from the annual spending caps), the funding provided for OCO includes some amounts intended to be used for regular activities of the Defense Department.
  • U.S. currently spends more on defense than the next eight countries combined (China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, India, France, UK, Japan, Germany).  Source: PGPF
  • Defense Spending as a Share of GDP:
    CBO: Growth in DOD’s Budget From 2000 to 2014

Background on Current Topics:

Budget Function
(Category of Spending)
Defense Program or Categories of Spending

Click on program titles for nonpartisan CRS background reports

FY 2017
(baseline projections)
(rounded to nearest billion)
National Defense (Budget Function 050)
Military Personnel
CBO: Replacing Military Personnel with Civilians
$143 billion
Operation and Maintenance
GAO Report on O&M  CBO Report on O&M
$254 billion
Procurement $104 billion
Research, Development, Testing and Evaluation $70 billion
Military Construction $8 billion
Family Housing $1 billion
Atomic Energy Defense Activities (Dept. of Energy) $20 billion
FBI Defense Related Activities $5.3 billion