Research: Publications

Myths vs. Realities of Pentagon Spending

July 17, 2012 | Report

By Stephen Miles, William D. Hartung

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  Myth:  The military has been cut to the bone. Any more cuts would be “doomsday.”

Reality: Nearly all of the purported ‘cuts’ to the Pentagon’s budget are actually reductions in the rate of growth, rather than true cuts in funding levels. In reality, even if sequestration is fully enacted as planned under the 2011 Budget Control Act, the Pentagon’s base budget would only return to 2006 levels (adjusted for inflation), which at the time was among the highest levels of spending since World War II.[1]

The Pentagon has asked for $525 billion in funding for fiscal year 2013 – a reduction of only $6 billion from the current year. The Pentagon budget would then resume its upward climb, rising to $567 billion in 2017. [2] As former Assistant Secretary of Defense Lawrence J. Korb has noted, “even when adjusted for inflation, Panetta’s reductions halt the growth in the Pentagon’s budget, but they… do not bring the budget down much from its current level.”[3] And while Congress has yet to enact funding for fiscal year 2013, it appears ready to increase the Pentagon’s budget, replacing the Defense Department’s extremely modest reductions with another year of growth.

Current reductions must also be measured against the unprecedented growth in Pentagon spending over the past 13 years. Since 1998, the Pentagon’s base budget has grown by 54% (adjusted for inflation).[4] Moreover, with the country turning the page on a long decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, the planned reductions represent a historically small drawdown when compared with those following the end of Korea, Vietnam, and the Cold War.[5]


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