Defense Budget

Our Issues

Defense Budget

In the current competition between democracies and authoritarian regimes, sustaining our national security requires investing in both our military capabilities and the diverse tools of statecraft for managing our international interests consistent with our national security strategy.   

The U.S. military must ensure that, consistent with our National Security Strategy, it has the necessary capabilities to deter aggression, defend our vital national security interests, and, in close cooperation with our allies and partners, protect our shared democratic values. Two decades of counterterrorism operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere diverted resources away from investing in new and joint capabilities. Meanwhile, rivals like Russia and China studied how the U.S. military operates and have been modernizing their forces to challenge U.S. global leadership and the rules-based international order.    

Our military must transform itself to prevail in the 21st century. This will require making tough choices on spending priorities and investments, not using continually increasing topline defense spending as a proxy for assessing defense needs. In addition, reducing waste in the budget process requires that the Department adopt acquisition reforms for rapidly allocating appropriated resources to meet national security goals, and that Congress seek to mitigate the harmful impacts of continuing resolutions. While recent defense budgets have reduced some spending on wasteful and outdated legacy systems in favor of modernization, a broader rebalancing is needed.    

 Defense spending is one of a range of tools the United States needs to meet its national security requirements. In the current competition between democracies and authoritarian regimes, protecting our national security requires investing not only in our military capabilities but also in the diverse tools of statecraft for managing our international interests, and a renewed focus on the foundations of our strength here at home.  The last decade has seen significant percentage increases in defense spending, while investments to build capacity in diplomacy, development, military personnel, and other programs for meeting transnational security challenges have not kept pace. Meanwhile, annual appropriations to address the existential threat of the climate crisis at home and abroad continue to fall short. Department of Defense spending must not crowd out these other investments in the U.S. toolkit for carrying out our national security strategy.   

What You Can Do

Ask Congress to authorize funding for the Department of Defense that prioritizes investment in the capabilities our Armed Forces need for competition and deterrence in the 21st century, while avoiding wasteful spending and divesting of unneeded legacy systems. At the same time, Congress needs to ensure that authorized and appropriated levels of spending across the U.S. Government align with our National Security Strategy and provide the full range of capabilities that the United States needs in its toolkit to compete effectively with near-peer rivals seeking to undermine the rules-based order or engage in regional instability.

Learn More