Defense Spending And The Federal Deficit

January 26, 2010 by Douglas A. McIntyre

The Administration will propose a three-year freeze on domestic spending programs that make up 17% of the federal budget. The White House estimate of the benefits is $250 billion over the period through 2020. The government is expected to create deficits of $9 trillion during that same time-frame.

The Administration will keep “hands off” of a number of the largest parts of federal spending including Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and Defense.

The Defense budget for 2010 is $533 billion. In addition, there are provisions for  “overseas contingency operations” that bring the number to $664 billion. That puts the cost of the Defense Department at 21% of overall federal spending, about the same as the amount spent on Social Security.

There are large portions of the Defense budget that are discretionary and may not be absolute requirements for guaranteeing the safety of the nation. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan would be on that list. So would other large costs like aircraft carrier replacement and finishing the “Virginia class” submarine. These projects might not be eliminated, but some of the costs could be deferred.

The odds against bringing down the deficit without touching defense costs are nil. That is particularly true of politicians are unwilling to face the firestorm of dropping Social Security and government paid medical programs.

Nine trillion deficits cannot effectively be address in steps that yield little more than an average annual savings of $25 billion

Douglas A. McIntyre