Center for American Progress

Allow the Defense Budget to Keep Pace with Inflation
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Allow the Defense Budget to Keep Pace with Inflation

Today’s defense baseline budget is higher than it has been in real dollars since the end of the World War II. This sum, if used wisely, is more than enough to ensure American military predominance while recapitalizing equipment lost in Iraq and Afghanistan, and growing and modernizing the force.

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Today’s defense baseline budget is higher than it has been in real dollars since the end of the World War II. This sum, if used wisely, is more than enough to ensure American military predominance while recapitalizing equipment lost in Iraq and Afghanistan, and growing and modernizing the force. The next administration should therefore keep the defense budget flat over the next four years, adjusting for inflation and fluctuations in the U.S. dollar.

The substantial increase in defense spending during the Reagan administration, which saw DOD’s base budget increase by some 53 percent over five years, was followed by a sustained period of budget cuts of about 35 percent between 1985 and 1998. In contrast, the dramatic rise in base defense spending during the Korean War—DOD’s budget nearly quadrupled between 1950 and 1954—was followed by a long period of sustained but modest growth in DOD’s budget at an annual real increase of about 1.5 percent between 1954 and 1980. The latter precedent represents the better model to emulate. However, economic constraints and the almost unprecedented size of the current budget suggest that even small increases in the baseline budget can and should be avoided in the next administration’s first term.

Read more recommendations for defense policy in the next administration:

Building a Military for the 21st Century, by Lawrence J. Korb, Peter Juul, Laura Conley, Major Myles B. Caggins III, Sean Duggan

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