Department of Defense

Department of Defense Spending in Billions of Constant 2014 Dollars

The Department of Defense oversees a vast array of people and assets at home and abroad. We would improve the nation’s security by reducing our global overreach and adopting a more restrained and defensive strategy. We should cut the number of military personnel and reduce overseas deployments to save money and relieve burdens on military families.

The department will spend about $633 billion in fiscal 2013, or $5,200 per U.S. household. It has 1.5 million uniformed employees and about 780,000 civilian employees.


Spending Cuts Summary
Downsize This!
  • Refocusing U.S. Defense Strategy. The department’s budget is built on an excessively ambitious strategy that tries to do too much, but leaves the nation less safe from true threats. Defense is a core federal function, but much of the work of today’s military has little to do with protecting our vital interests.
  • A Plan to Cut Military Spending. U.S. ground forces should be reduced by one-third over time, which is possible without reducing U.S. security. The Navy should be restructured to operate as a surge force, rather than being a permanent global presence. We should also shift more of the burdens of defense to other prosperous democracies.
  • Rightsizing U.S. Ground Forces. Rising personnel costs have pushed up the defense budget. The Army and Marines have grown since 2001, driven by the view that future wars will resemble those in Iraq and Afghanistan. But it is not in our interest to topple regimes and attempt long-term nation building. For combating terrorism, we do not need such a large Army as we have today.
Timeline of Government Growth
Cato Experts


"Our problem is to achieve adequate military strength within the limits of endurable strain upon our economy. To amass military power without regard to our economic capacity would be to defend ourselves against one kind of disaster by inviting another."