Defense Spending


Jump to Subjects on this Page:
Growth in Defense Spending
U.S. Defense Spending as % of GDP: 1960 – 2016
U.S. Spends More than Next 8 Countries Combined
Defense: Authorization vs. Appropriations
Defense Budget: Latest Facts and Numbers
Defense Spending: Overview and Breakdown
Defense: Nonpartisan Reports on Major Issues
Defense: Current Spending Table

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Source:  Congressional Budget Office

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U.S. Defense Spending as % of GDP: 1960 – 2016

       (move cursor over the graph for annual data)

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Defense:  Authorization vs. Appropriations

  • The annual National Defense Authorization Act, developed by the House Armed Services Committee and Senate Armed Services Committee establish programs, policies, and spending limits for programs of the Department of Defense (DOD) and defense-related nuclear energy programs of the Department of Energy.
  • Actual funding (known as “budget authority”) for each program, project, and activity are provided (“appropriated”) in the in the annual Department of Defense Appropriations Act developed by the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee and the Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee.
  • Not surprisingly, there are sometimes vigorous policy and funding disagreements between the defense authorizing and appropriations committees, which sometimes are settled only by which bill — the authorizing bill or the appropriations bill — is enacted later in time.
  • While this division of effort between the authorizing committees and the appropriations committees may seem like inefficient duplication, the underlying logic is that the authorizers design  programs and propose or (“authorize”) levels of funding that would be “ideal” to fully fund each program, while the appropriators have the task of prioritizing and allocating limited funding among the many worthy programs, projects, and activities.
  • “Full funding”:  It misunderstands the function of the authorizing committees to assert that “fully funding defense” requires funding each program at authorized levels.

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Defense Budget:  Latest Facts and Numbers

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Defense Discretionary Spending: Overview and Breakdown

  • 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

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Defense: Nonpartisan Reports on Major Issues


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Defense:  Current Spending

Budget Function
(Category of Spending)
Defense Program or Categories of Spending FY 2017
(enacted,
(rounded to nearest billion)
Military Personnel
CBO: Replacing Military Personnel with Civilians
$136 billion
Operation and Maintenance
GAO Report on O&M  CBO Report on O&M
$168 billion
Procurement $108 billion
Research, Development, Testing and Evaluation $72 billion
Military Construction/Family Housing $8 billion
Other (health, drug interdiction, munitions destr, OIG) $37 billion
Subtotal, DOD Military Base Budget (net) $525 billion
Overseas Contingency Operations (Afghan, Iraq, Other) $77 billion
  Total Defense Discretionary Budget Authority $602 billion

source:  Congressional Research Service

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