Note: We have not updated this bibliography since the original research was done on this topic. You should also consult the Essay on Blake arguments for additional citations.
Modest v. a Significant Increase
America’s awesome military. Written by Michael O’Hanlon and David Petraeus, this paper argues that military spending should be increased but only modestly, not “significantly.”
We disagree with those who counsel further cuts, and we strongly resist a return to sequestration-level spending (as could still happen, since the chief villain and cause of sequestration, the 2011 Budget Control Act, remains the law of the land). There are good reasons why the United States needs to spend as much as it does on defense: because it has such a broad range of global responsibilities, because asymmetric foreign capabilities (such as Chinese precision-guided missiles and Russian advanced air defenses) can require large investments to counter convincingly, and, most important, because it should aim to deter conflicts rather than simply prevail in them. To be sure, many U.S. allies are wealthy enough to contribute substantially to their own defense and should certainly do more in that regard. But engaging in a game of chicken to try to persuade them to live up to their commitments would be a dangerous mistake. Having reached nearly five percent of GDP in the later Bush and early Obama years, U.S. defense spending is now down to about three percent. That is not an undue burden on the U.S. economy and is in fact a bargain given the peace, security, and international stability that it underwrites. There is no need to return to significantly higher levels, such as the four percent of GDP that some have proposed. But nor would it be prudent to drop below three percent. That translates into perhaps $625 billion to $650 billion a year in constant dollars over the next few years for the overall national defense budget, including war costs (assuming they remain at roughly current amounts). That level is sensible and affordable, and what the next president should work with Congress to provide. With that sort of support, there is every reason to believe that the country’s fortunate military position can be sustained for many years to come.
In his 2016 book, O’Hanlon calls for a modest increase in defense spending to protect 3% of GDP spending:
Today the United States budgets just over $ 600 billion a year for its national defense. That is a great deal of money. It is roughly the right amount, however. And in fact, it should increase modestly under the next president— with budget authority totaling about $ 650 billion, and outlays or spending remaining near 3 percent of GDP. (By way of comparison, in 2016, national defense spending represents 3.2 percent of GDP and in 2017 it is projected to total 3.1 percent, but under President Obama’s 2017 budget request it would drop to 2.7 percent in 2020 and 2.6 percent in 2021). 1 O’Hanlon, Michael E.. The $650 Billion Bargain: The Case for Modest Growth in America’s Defense Budget (The Marshall Papers) (p. ix). Brookings Institution Press. Kindle Edition.
Other sources support a modest increase:
Why America must overhaul its military . With reforms, readiness can be protected by a modest increase in defense spending:
The Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments recently hosted a Strategic Choices Exercise, where defense analysts from a number of think tanks took turns designing their optimum future force. The Center for a New American Security team, composed of Jerry Hendrix, Paul Scharre, and Elbridge Colby (CNAS does not take institutional positions), adopted a strategy of maintaining readiness for today’s threats while modernizing the force for emerging challenges. Both today and in the future, this force is prepared to defend the homeland against terrorist, missile, and cyber attacks; project power globally into anti-access areas; deter and defeat regional aggression; maintain a stabilizing presence abroad; and sustain our nuclear deterrent. By investing in a diverse high-low mix of forces for the range of missions DOD faces rather than attempting to field a one-size-fits-all “utility infielder” force, we modernized the force while maintaining capacity. We grew the total number of ships in the fleet; increased tactical fighter aircraft and stealthy bombers; preserved Army active duty end-strength while modernizing Army capabilities; modernized all three legs of the nuclear triad and associated infrastructure such as command and control; increased investments in critical R&D areas; and preserved special operations forces and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance assets for counterterrorism. We did this within a modest 2% increase in defense spending above PB17 levels – a realistic level given the political dynamics in the United States. We were able to afford these investments by making hard choices in efficiencies and cuts to legacy forces that are of declining utility.
Other sources do call for a significant increase, potentially $500 billion to $1 trillion:
Charles Tiefer, November 9, 2016, Forbes, President Trump is likely to boost US military spending by $500 billion, http://www.forbes.com/sites/charlestiefer/2016/11/09/president-trump-is-likely-to-boost-u-s-military-spending-by-500-billion-to-1-trillion/#488d8f484108
In his campaign, Trump called for 90,000 more Army soldiers, a 350-ship Navy, 100 more fighters, and strengthened nuclear and missile defenses. That sounds like detail, but it leaves out quite a bit. The best pre-election analysis of the expected Trump budget came from William Hartung, a veteran and insightful analyst, who is at the Center for International Policy, drawing on Ross Harrison of the Center for Strategic and International Studies: What we do know is that Trump has been drawing many of his defense proposals from the National Defense Panel and the Heritage Foundation. Both of these organizations have advocated for returning the defense budget to the levels proposed in the FY 2012 budget request (the so-called Gates budget). Without any other details from the Trump campaign, I think this is a good ballpark estimate for what Trump is aiming for in terms of the defense budget. The FY 2012 request is about $800-900B higher over ten years than the most recent president’s budget request.” The call for a 350-ship Navy gives a concrete clue. Cost figures on such a naval buildup are elusive. However, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) has compiled studies of the different kinds of ships in a 350-ship navy. They don’t come cheap. There would be increased spending on aircraft carriers and a big increase in attack submarines. In December 2008, the Navy signed a $14 billion contract with General Dynamics and Northrop Grumman to supply eight Virginia-class attack submarines. In round figures they might cost, in years to come, at least $2 billion apiece. The CRS study said that going to a 350-ship navy would mean 11 more of these. That’s $22 billion just on these subs. Congressional hawks – numerous and powerful – will pressure Trump to go that way….Buckle your belts for a steep climb of defense spending. My rough estimate is it means an additional $500 billion to $1 trillion.
Status Quo — Current Spending and Projections Under Trump
Trump wants to revolutionize the military. Will Washington let him?. This article argues that even though Trump wants to increase military spending, the Republican Freedom Caucas in the House and the Democrats in the Senate will block efforts to increase spending.
President Trump is likely to boost military spending by $500 Billion. In contrast to the previous article, this article contends: Congress will be filling out, not cutting back, the Trump defense budget. Obama used his veto to balance defense and domestic spending. That balance is dead. Moreover, there is bipartisan support for big defense spending. So in the Senate, while there might be a unified Democratic filibuster on some kinds of extreme domestic legislation, there would not be one in opposition to defense spending. The Armed Services Committees basically will have freedom for a massive spending spree. Buckle your belts for a steep climb of defense spending. My rough estimate is it means an additional $500 billion to $1 trillion. (Forbes)
Should Increase Military Spending
Ensuring a Strong US Defense For the Future. This is the National Defense Panel’s report on the 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review that argues that the US needs to significantly increase military spending in order to sustain US global leadership and deter conflicts:
National Defense Panel, 2014, National Defense Panel Review of the 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review, Ensuring a Strong US Defense for the Future, William Perry, John Abizaid, Co-Chairs, http://www.usip.org/publications/national-defense-panel-releases-assessment-of-2014-quadrennial-defense-review
In the first half of the 20th century alone, the world experienced two devastating world wars, the rise of the Soviet Union as a totalitarian menace, and the advent of the nuclear age. This grim history and the threats to America and her interests following World War II prompted America’s leaders to employ our extraordinary economic, diplomatic, and military power to establish and support the current rules-based international order that has greatly furthered global peace and prosperity and ushered in an era of post- war affluence for the American people. This order is not self-sustaining; it requires active, robust American engagement and sustained contributions by our allies. To be sure, other nations have benifited and will continue to benefit. But make no mistake, America provides this international leadership because it greatly enhances America’s own security and prosperity. (3)1 There is clearly a cost to this kind of leadership, but nowhere near what America paid in the first half of the 20th century when con ict was allowed to fester and grow until it rose to the level of general war. Indeed, our policy of active global engagement has been so beneficial and is so ingrained that those who would retreat from it have a heavy burden of proof to present an alternative that would better serve the security interests and well-being of the United States of America. Since World War II, no matter which party has controlled the White House or Congress, America’s global military capability and commitment has been the strategic foundation undergirding our global leadership. Given that reality, the defense budget cuts mandated by the Budget Control Act (BCA) of 2011, coupled with the additional cuts and constraints on defense management under the law’s sequestration provision, constitute a serious strategic misstep on the part of the United States. Not only have they caused signi cant investment shortfalls in U.S. military readiness and both present and future capabilities, they have prompted our current and potential allies and adversaries to question our commitment and resolve. Unless reversed, these shortfalls will lead to a high risk force in the near future. That in turn will lead to an America that is not only less secure but also far less prosperous. In this sense, these cuts are ultimately self-defeating. The effectiveness of America’s other tools for global influence, such as diplomacy and economic engagement, are critically intertwined with and dependent upon the perceived strength, presence, and commitment of U.S. armed forces. Yet the capabilities and capacities rightly called for in the 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review, hereafter referred to as the QDR, clearly exceed the budget resources made available to the Department. This gap is disturbing if not dangerous in light of the fact that global threats and challenges are rising, including a troubling pattern of territorial assertiveness and regional intimidation on China’s part, the recent aggression of Russia in Ukraine, nuclear proliferation on the part of North Korea and Iran, a serious insurgency in Iraq that both reflects and fuels the broader sectarian conflicts in the region, the civil war in Syria, and civil strife in the larger Middle East and throughout Africa. These are among the trends that mandate increased defense funding. Others include the rapidly expanding availability of lethal technologies to both state and non-state actors; demographic shifts, including increasing urbanization; diffusion of power among many nations, particularly rising economic and military powers in Asia; and heated competition to secure access to scarce natural resources. These and other trends pose serious op-erational challenges to American military forces. (9–11) Conflicts are likely to unfold more rapidly. Battlefields will be more lethal. Operational sanctuary for U.S. forces (rear areas safe from enemy interdiction) will be scarce and often fleeting. Asymmetric conflict will be the norm. (17–19) In this rapidly changing environment, U.S. military superiority is not a given; maintain-ing the operational and technological edge of our armed forces requires sustained and targeted investment.
The $650 billion bargain (book). This book makes a similar argument to the paper listed next — that we need a modest increase in spending to retain military spending at 3% of the GDP. It also have some generally useful cards that articulate why we need to invest in the military:
And that hope for a better future is almost surely more credible with a strong United States. To be sure, there are differences of opinion over how U.S. strategic leadership should be exercised. Some do express concern that specific mistakes in U.S. foreign policy could lead to war. 20 There is also disagreement over whether the concepts of American primacy and exceptionalism are good guides to future U.S. foreign policy. 21 But there is little reason to believe that a truly multipolar world would be safer than, or inherently preferable to, today’s system, or that a different leader besides the United States would do a better job organizing international cooperative behavior among nations. Today, the United States leads a coalition or loose alliance system of some sixty states that together account for some 70 percent of world military spending (and a similar fraction of total world GDP). This is extraordinary in the history of nations, especially by comparison with most of European history of the last several centuries, when variable power balances and shifting alliances were the norm. Even in the absence of a single, clear threat, the NATO alliance, major bilateral East Asian alliances, major Middle Eastern and Persian Gulf security partnerships, and the Rio Pact have endured. To be sure, this Western-led system is under stress and challenge. Yet it remains strong— and at least as appealing to most rising powers as does any alternative political or economic model. What this long discussion is meant to achieve is an analytical rationale for a U.S. military that remains engaged globally in protecting the so-called commons (international air and sea zones, that is), partnering with allies to enhance their security, deterring great-power conflict, and constraining proliferation where possible. Ideally, it would also contribute to urgent humanitarian needs when others cannot provide them alone, such as prevention of genocide or provision of humanitarian relief. In other words, it should continue to uphold the international order, working with allies and employing other elements of national power in the process. Coupled with an economic strategy that has fostered international trade and investment, and a diplomatic strategy that has favored inclusiveness for all nations, such an American foreign policy has since World War II helped facilitate the greatest progress in the well-being of humans in the history of the planet. Correctly applied, it is also the best strategy to prevent the rise of a hostile power and the prospect of a World War III, and to minimize the dangers of nuclear proliferation as well. O’Hanlon, Michael E.. The $650 Billion Bargain: The Case for Modest Growth in America’s Defense Budget (The Marshall Papers) (p. 9). Brookings Institution Press. Kindle Edition.
US defense strategy and the defense budget . In this paper, Michael O’Hanlon explains why a 2-3% increase in defense spending is needed. At one point in the paper, he does discuss US international responsibilities. Note: This article is written by Michael O’Hanlon, who in the above article (written two months after this one, argues for a modest, not significant increase in the defense budget).
America’s next army. From the article: “America’s Army is at a crossroads. U.S. troops have transitioned largely to a supporting role in Iraq and Afghanistan, but new challenges loom on the horizon. Russia is increasingly assertive and has modernized its ground forces. U.S. soldiers are training, advising, and assisting partners around the globe. The Army needs to be able to respond to a range of challenges today, while modernizing for future needs. This is not the Army the United States has been building, however. The Army has borne the lion’s share of defense cuts in the recent budget downturn. The result is that while the United States has the most combat-experienced professional Army it has ever seen, readiness is suffering, force structure has been cut to the bone, and much-needed modernization initiatives are not funded. Major investments are needed to prepare the Army for present and future challenges.” There is also considerable evidence in here to support the argument that a stronger army is needed to deter Russia.
The continuing decline of America’s military . As a new presidential administration prepares to take office, the responsibilities it inherits are daunting. Threats to U.S. interests and security around the globe continue to grow and fester. At the same time, budget cuts have forced the Department of Defense into unsustainable practices, foregoing longer-term modernization to service the military’s more immediate needs and ongoing operations. The Heritage Foundation’s third annual Index of U.S. Military Strength, published today, finds that these troubling trends described in the first two editions have only continued. While the military struggles to preserve the status quo, America’s enemies “
How to talk about defense spending and rebuilding the military . This is a brief article that generally makes an argument that defense spending needs to increase in order to support US global power projection and conflict deterrence.
Heritage Foundation Military Power Index. The Index highlights threats from China, Russia, Iran, and terrorism. It then argues that US military power is weakening and needs to be strengthened to respond to these threats.
How Trump can fulfill Reagan’s defense vision. How “topical” this is depends on what it means to “better respond to international conflicts,” but the articles argues for boost phase intercept (BPI) of missiles: “In particular, President-elect Trump should direct the Pentagon to revive SDI plans for destroying ballistic missiles in their boost phase, shortly after launch — when a ballistic missile is most vulnerable and before it releases its nuclear warheads and decoys. We should not continue depending solely on the more expensive midcourse- and terminal-phase intercept capability. The most effective option is a space-based system that can stop missiles beginning in their boost phase, an idea judged technically feasible in 1990 with the technology emerging then. That is, at the very least, we can produce a cost-effective solution based on SDI concepts pioneered a quarter century ago.
Setting up our military for failure. This makes a general argument that military budget cuts have emboldened regional aggressors.
A bigger, badder US army: ” Today, the U.S. military is overextended, underfunded and in danger of being outmatched by rivals such as Russia and China. Unless the new President takes seriously his commitment to make the U.S. military so powerful nobody “will mess with us,” he may find himself facing a worst-case scenario, without leverage and unable to fight back. Although President-elect Trump has spoken about strengthening all branches of the military, he needs to devote special attention to the U.S. Army. A strong, modern Army is an extremely valuable tool with which to pursue foreign and defense policies. A forward deployed Army provides both a psychological and physical deterrent to would-be aggressors.”
America’s military has become too small to succeed. This article makes the standard arguments for a larger military — A2/D2 denial, Russia threat, China threat. The article concludes the US military needs greater technological advancement and a larger army.
Why military transportation is so important . This article is not great in terms of tying military spending to the transportation, but it generally makes the argument that improvements military transportation are needed to support deterrence because threats arise from across the ocean.
The Third Offset
The Third Offset was first articulated in this report from the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessment. The basic approach is take advantage of US technology improvements to offset the growth in our adversary’s anti-access/area-denial (A2/AD) capabilities—particularly their expanding missile inventories: “As a matter of urgency, the U.S. military needs to “offset” the investments that adversaries are making in anti-access/area-denial (A2/AD) capabilities—particularly their expanding missile inventories—by leveraging U.S. advantages in unmanned systems and automation, extended-range and low-observable air operations, undersea warfare, and complex system engineering and integration. Doing so would allow the United States to maintain its ability to project power, albeit in novel forms, despite the possession of A2/AD capabilities by hostile forces…
To cope with this daunting challenge, Secretary Hagel called on the Pentagon to develop a new “game-changing offset strategy” akin to Secretary of Defense Harold Brown’s “Offset Strategy” in the 1970s. Although the 1970s Offset Strategy occurred during a period of reduced defense spending – as is the case today – it was the Soviet Union’s achievement of strategic nuclear parity coupled with the numerical superiority of Warsaw Pact conventional forces that really drove it. A new Offset Strategy must take account of America’s fiscal circumstances but, at its core, it must address the most pressing military challenge that we face: maintaining our ability to project power globally to deter potential adversaries and reassure allies and friends despite the emergence of A2/AD threats.
This report provides a preliminary outline for an offset strategy that exploits and builds upon existing enduring U.S. capability advantages to restore and maintain U.S. global power projection capability. This effort is essential in order to improve crisis stability, bolster allied confidence in U.S. security commitments, strengthen conventional deterrence, reduce operational risk in the event of war, and compete more efficiently over the long run.”
Making the Military great again. This article defends Trump’s increase in military spending, but it also that Trump could undermine the increase by reducing the United States’ overseas military presence.
One Pro focus could be on increasing these capabilities.
What Donald Trump’s military strategy should be . This article is not critical to your preparation, but it is an interesting read, discussing what the is needed to move the military to a Third Offset — the integration of artificial intelligence, hypersonic weapons, and swarming drones — beyond spending on the technologies.
Pro — Navy
What the Navy’s New Maritime Strategy should be. This article argues for increased naval spending to reverse cuts cause by the sequester.
HASC to Navy: We Want More Ships: Discusses a legislative proposal to add more Navy ships.
Posture v. Presence: The relationship between global naval presence and warfighting. This article argues that declining naval presence undermines maritime cooperation that is needed to reduce terrorist threats and deter China in the South China Sea.
A Thousand Splendid Guns: Chinese ACSMs in Competitive Control. This article argues the US needs to expand its antisurface warfare (ASUW) capabilities in order to address China’s size advantage in military capabilities.
Naval dominance in undersea warfare. Hearing.
Building the Fleet we need. Hearing
Pro — Nuclear Modernization
Pro — Air Power
Aviation readiness. Hearing.
Pro — Missile Defense
Pro – Russia
Trump’s military expansion plans. “The president-elect has proposed a military buildup that would include enlarging the Navy’s fleet to 350 ships from today’s 270-plus. He wants to grow the Marine Corps to 36 battalions from today’s 24 and increase the Army‘s troop strength to 540,000, an increase of about 65,000. He would add at least 1,200 fighter aircraft to the Air Force, increase the number of missiles and upgrade cybersecurity. Trump also promised to end the automatic budget cuts known as sequestration.”
Pro — Jobs
Con — General
Con — Navy
Does the Navy really need 350 warships? This article argues that increasing the number of ships won’t increase deterrence and that the problem is strategy, not ship tonnage.
What hawks have to say about the Navy’s new maritime strategy. This short article argues that a more hawkish naval stance undermines trust and cooperation
South China Sea
The U.S. army’s role in countering China’s A2/AD effects. In much of Asia, ground forces continue to exercise substantial political and bureaucratic power. In most Asian militaries, the ground forces are the largest service and control a substantial portion of most nations’ military budgets. This, in turn, means that ground force commanders exercise substantial political power, both within their respective national security establishments, and also in their political environments. Consequently, the U.S. Army potentially plays a vital role through its interactions with local militaries as fellow ground force leaders who speak the same “language.” This political role is further enhanced by the common desire among many of these militaries to work with a premier ground force, arguably the premier ground force in the world. Because of the various wars in which the United States has engaged since 1990, the U.S. Army has combat experience that is unrivaled in the Asia–Pacific region—which means that the U.S. Army represents a key means of engaging significant military and political players throughout the Asia–Pacific region.