Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget
Other Spending_Pentagon

Are We Spending Billions of Dollars More on the Military?

Aug 23, 2017 | Other Spending

During his speech detailing his new strategy for Afghanistan, President Trump said, "Under my administration, many billions of dollars more is being spent on our military. And this includes vast amounts being spent on our nuclear arsenal and missile defense." This statement is largely true. Defense spending increased between 2016 and 2017 and the defense budget increased from when the President took office to now.

There are two different ways to measure defense spending, both of which have increased this year. Budget authority, which measures the amount of money budgeted each year, increased from $607 billion in 2016 to $634 billion in 2017. The vast majority of that increase (about 90 percent) came from Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO), a category intended to fund the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. However, much of the increase in OCO was due to lawmakers shifting other defense spending, which is subject to spending caps, into OCO to circumvent the caps.

The second measure, outlays, is the amount of money the government actually sends out the door each year. They differ from budget authority because not all money is spent in the year it's allocated; some is spent years later on multi-year projects. Outlays are expected to increase from $585 billion in 2016 to $589 billion in 2017.

Another way to look at spending is to compare current 2017 spending to what was expected before the President's term. CBO's January 2017 budget projections, published shortly after the inauguration, expected $589 billion in outlays this year, the same as it currently projects, but it expected $613 billion in budget authority, $21 billion below the current amount. The entire increase since then occurred in OCO spending, which was increased in the FY 2017 omnibus appropriations bill.

Going forward, the Trump Administration proposes to further increase defense spending by repealing the sequester on defense spending. This will increase defense budget authority from $634 billion in 2017 to $668 billion in 2018 and result in outlays increasing from $589 billion to about $628 billion. Defense spending would continue to increase in later years.

These numbers cover the "defense" category, which as the President said, covers more than just the military, but also nuclear programs at the Department of Energy, the FBI's counter-terrorism budget, and smaller parts of other agencies' budgets, such as the Department of Homeland Security.

President Trump claimed that his Administration was spending billions more on the military. We find this statement to be largely true.

Our Rating: Largely True