New CBO Analysis of Defense Spending

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Hot new numbers from the Congressional Budget Office on the long-term implications of the FY2010 budget request:

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In CBO’s estimation, carrying out the Department of Defense’s (DoD’s) 2009 plans for 2010 and beyond—excluding overseas contingency operations (the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and some much smaller military actions elsewhere)—would require defense resources averaging at least $573 billion annually (in 2010 dollars) from 2011 to 2028. That amount, CBO’s base projection, is about 7 percent more than the $534 billion in total obligational authority the Administration requested in its regular 2010 budget, again excluding overseas contingency operations. The projection also exceeds the peak of about $500 billion (in 2010 dollars) during the height of the Reagan Administration’s military buildup in the mid-1980s. During that period, for example, DoD was pursuing a Navy fleet of 600 battle force ships, more than twice the size of the current fleet of 287.

From one point of view, it’s not a surprise that real defense spending is higher than during the Reagan years. The economy is much larger and the real cost of certain kinds of thing increases. On the other hand, I think you’d have to conclude that the combined budgets of Iran, North Korea, and al-Qaeda are a lot lower than the budget of the Soviet Union was in the 1980s. Considering how much time is chewed up by deficit-talk these days, I think there’s surprisingly little scrutiny of these figures.