Obama plans to spend as much on defense as Bush did.

Military analysis.
Feb. 26 2009 7:03 PM

The New Pentagon Budget—So New?

Obama plans to spend as much on defense as Bush did.

President Obama Introduces FY2010 Federal Budget. Click image to expand.
President Barack Obama delivers remarks about his proposed financial year 2010 federal budget outline 

Much remains unknown about the shape of President Barack Obama's debut defense budget. Details won't be announced—several key decisions won't be made—until April. But from the broad numbers released this morning, two things seem clear:

First, it is larger than it appears to be at first glance.

Second, not counting the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which are projected to decline significantly—in other words, looking just at the Defense Department's base-line budget for weapons production, research and development, uniformed personnel, and so forth—Obama's estimates for military spending over the next few years are roughly the same as George W. Bush's.

If huge change is in the works at the Pentagon, it will come in the form of budgets reshuffled, not reduced.


And yet, there are signs—they can be gleaned from the numbers—that serious changes are in the offing, that some lumbering weapons programs will be slashed, perhaps canceled, though it's probably also the case that other programs will be boosted or accelerated to compensate.

The basic outlines are these. The Obama administration is requesting $533.7 billion for the Defense Department in fiscal year 2010—a $20.4 billion, or 4 percent, increase over its budget this year, the last budget passed by the Bush administration.

In addition, Obama is requesting $130 billion as a "best guess" of what continued operations in Iraq and Afghanistan will cost next year. This constitutes a breakthrough in honesty; Bush stuffed all war costs into midyear "supplemental" requests, toted and considered apart from the budget, subject to no scrutiny at all.

So, with these war costs added to the total, we're up to $663.7 billion.

Even so, this omits defense-related items in other parts of the federal government—mainly the maintenance of nuclear weapons in the Department of Energy—which, last year, amounted to $25.8 billion. The budget document doesn't say how much Obama will request for these items. Assuming it's nearly the same, this brings us to just less than $690 billion.

Finally, in the back pages of this budget (Table S-7 on Page 131), we find an additional $7.4 billion to be allocated to the Defense Department from money allocated for the Recovery Act. (However, a Pentagon report notes that this money will be used to build military housing and hospitals, not as a backdoor way to fund weapons programs.)

So, the actual total isn't $533.7 billion but rather nearly $700 billion. Plus there's another $75.5 billion to fund operations in Iraq and Afghanistan for the rest of fiscal year 2009.

But let's return to that $533.7 billion, the Defense Department base line. Some conservatives are depicting this sum as a cut in military spending, not an increase.

They base this judgment on a report that, late last year, the Joint Chiefs put together an internal draft budget assuming that certain line items, which Bush had tucked away in the wartime supplemental, were suddenly made a part of the base-line budget. These included programs to enlarge the ranks of the Army and the Marines, to beef up security against roadside bombs, and to improve emergency medical care for the war-wounded. The Chiefs calculated that this more forthright budget, for FY 2010, would total $580 billion.



More Than Scottish Pride

Scotland’s referendum isn’t about nationalism. It’s about a system that failed, and a new generation looking to take a chance on itself. 

What Charles Barkley Gets Wrong About Corporal Punishment and Black Culture

Why Greenland’s “Dark Snow” Should Worry You

Three Talented Actresses in Three Terrible New Shows

Why Do Some People See the Virgin Mary in Grilled Cheese?

The science that explains the human need to find meaning in coincidences.


Happy Constitution Day!

Too bad it’s almost certainly unconstitutional.

Is It Worth Paying Full Price for the iPhone 6 to Keep Your Unlimited Data Plan? We Crunch the Numbers.

What to Do if You Literally Get a Bug in Your Ear

  News & Politics
Sept. 16 2014 7:03 PM Kansas Secretary of State Loses Battle to Protect Senator From Tough Race
Sept. 16 2014 4:16 PM The iPhone 6 Marks a Fresh Chance for Wireless Carriers to Kill Your Unlimited Data
The Eye
Sept. 16 2014 12:20 PM These Outdoor Cat Shelters Have More Style Than the Average Home
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 15 2014 3:31 PM My Year As an Abortion Doula
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus Video
Sept. 16 2014 2:06 PM A Farewell From Emily Bazelon The former senior editor talks about her very first Slate pitch and says goodbye to the magazine.
Brow Beat
Sept. 16 2014 8:43 PM This 17-Minute Tribute to David Fincher Is the Perfect Preparation for Gone Girl
Future Tense
Sept. 16 2014 6:40 PM This iPhone 6 Feature Will Change Weather Forecasting
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 16 2014 11:46 PM The Scariest Campfire Story More horrifying than bears, snakes, or hook-handed killers.
Sports Nut
Sept. 15 2014 9:05 PM Giving Up on Goodell How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.