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What is the spending on Defense?

In FY 2016 the federal government spent $815.1 billion on Defense.

That includes $595.3 billion on the military, $174.5 billion on veterans, and $45.3 billion on foreign aid.

Defense Spending Analysis

This page shows the current trends in defense spending. See here for a general history of US defense spending.

Recent Defense Spending

Chart S.41t: Recent Defense Spending

Chart S.42t: Recent Defense Spend as Pct GDP

The decade of the 2000s was the decade of the War on Terror, with Pentagon spending going from $294 billion in 2000 to $705 billion in 2011. Veterans spending increased from $47 billion in 2000 to $109 billion in 2010 and $175 billion in 2016. Foreign aid has increased from $17 billion to $45 billion a year.

Viewed from a GDP perspective, overall defense spending increased from about 3.5 percent GDP in 2000 to 5.7 percent of GDP in 2010-11. Since then defense spending has declined to 4.4 percent GDP. During this period veterans spending has grown from 0.46 percent GDP to 0.95 percent GDP.

US Defense Spending Since 1965

Defense has declined by over 50 percent since the peak during the Vietnam war.

Chart S.43t: Defense Spending since 1965

At the peak of the Vietnam war defense spending, including military, veterans, State Department, and foreign aid spending, hit 10 percent of GDP. But then it began a decline, down to 5.5 percent GDP in 1979.

In the Reagan administration defense spending was substantially increased, up to 6.8 percent GDP per year by 1986.

Starting in the late 1980s, even before the end of the Soviet Union, defense spending began a 15 year decline, down to 3.45 percent of GDP in 2001. That ended with the terrorist attack on 9/11 in 2001.

In the War on Terror, defense spending rose to 4.5 percent GDP with the invasion of Iraq, and then rose to 5.7 percent GDP with the anti-insurgent “surge” in Iraq. With the withdrawal from Iraq, defense spending has declined to 4.4 percent GDP.

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Spending Data Sources

Spending data is from official government sources.

Gross Domestic Product data comes from US Bureau of Economic Analysis and measuringworth.com.

Detailed table of spending data sources here.

Federal spending data begins in 1792.

State and local spending data begins in 1890.

State and local spending data for individual states begins in 1957.

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Next Data Update

> Federal Budget FY18

> data update schedule.

Data Sources for 2012_2021:

Sources for 2012:

GDP, GO: GDP, GO Sources
Federal: Fed. Budget: Hist. Tables 3.2, 5.1, 7.1
State and Local: State and Local Gov. Finances
'Guesstimated' by projecting the latest change in reported spending forward to future years

Sources for 2021:

GDP, GO: GDP, GO Sources
Federal: Fed. Budget: Hist. Tables 3.2, 5.1, 7.1
State and Local: State and Local Gov. Finances
'Guesstimated' by projecting the latest change in reported spending forward to future years

> data sources for other years
> data update schedule.

FY18 Budget Blueprint Released

On March 16, 2018 the Trump administration issued a Budget Blueprint outlining proposed changes to "discretionary" spending for Fiscal Year 2018. The following table shows the major changes to Budget Authority in excess of $2 billion per agency.

AgencyFY18 Change
in $ billion
Agriculture-4.7
Defense+52.4
Education-9.2
Health and
Human Services
-12.6
Homeland
Security
+2.8
HUD-6.2
Justice-4.0
Labor-2.5
State and Intl Aid-10.9
Veterans+4.4
EPA-2.6

Because usgovernmentspending spending data is based on Historical Table 3.2, it shows spending by function rather than by agency. Until Table 3.2 is published in the final version of the FY18 budget we cannot exactly predict how the Table 3.2 numbers will change at the subfunction level.

But we have applied the Budget Blueprint budget authority changes into the budgeted FY18 outlays by guessing the application of agency level changes to subfunction changes to give a rough feeling of what the Trump changes look like. You can check out what is going on here or here.

The numbers will change when the final FY18 federal budget numbers come out.

Spend links

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