The GOP’s “strong on defense” brand is mainly a myth. Even before the Vietnam buildup, John Kennedy increased defense spending by 15 percent in real terms over the budget he inherited from Eisenhower. Jimmy Carter increased defense spending by 11 percent over the budget he inherited from the Nixon-Ford administration. Bill Clinton actually spent more on defense than Bush 41 had projected on leaving office. And since the end of the George W. Bush administration, the baseline defense budget has continued to increase in real terms under Obama. For example, in early 2008, the last budget of the Bush administration, former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates projected that for FY 2012, the baseline defense budget would be $544 billion. In FY 2012, Gates, who remained in office under Obama, requested $553 billion.
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