Just How Big Is The Defense Budget?

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Numbers have a precision to them that isn’t always warranted.

Take your very own U.S. defense budget, for example. Even after you’ve learned the difference among then-year, current-year and constant-year dollars, there can still be hundreds of billions of dollars on the Pentagon’s books that, for lack of a better term, can be said to be missing in action.

That’s why, in a pair of articles Monday and Tuesday, noted defense-budget nag Winslow Wheeler is going to lay out this iceberg-like nature of military spending.

In The Defense Budget Is Even Larger than You Think,  Wheeler, of the Straus Military Reform Project at the non-profit Project On Government Oversight, explains how premium-spending advocates and even the Department of Defense itself (hard to believe, we know) harness data as an ally to push to continue military-spending levels well in excess of what it took to tame the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

Wheeler argues they misuse and manipulate Pentagon budget data to alter public and congressional perceptions of the current, historic size of the defense budget. Then they use the resulting misimpression they’ve created as a lever to pry more money out of a distracted Congress and an unwary public.

The independently-derived data Wheeler has gathered from the Office of Management and Budget puts the current defense-budget debate — and assertions that Pentagon spending is shrinking to “dangerously low” levels — in a rarely-seen, albeit more accurate, light.

Part 1: Cooked books tell tall tales

Part 2: Correcting the Pentagon’s distorted budget history