Comparing Presidents – Defense Spending

This post is on military spending, with a few graphs thrown in. It shouldn’t produce many surprises to anyone who has been paying attention…

Data on defense spending and the budget comes from OMB Table 3.1. Data on the GDP OMB Table 1.2.

Here’s what defense spending as a share of the Federal Budget looks like since 1940, the first year for which OMB table 3.1 has data.

And here’s defense spending as a percentage of GDP.

WW2, the post-War demobilization, and the Korean War are easy to spot. There’s also an uptick there for Vietnam. There are a few ups here and there, but mostly military spending has drifted downward as a share of the budget and a percentage of GDP.

Here’s the same information, color coded by President, and going back to Ike:

A summary of the annualized percentage changes by Presidential administration in defense spending as a share of the budget and as a percentage of GDP:

Only GW and Reagan increased spending on the military as a share of the budget, with GW almost doubling Reagan. GW’s increase is more than double Reagan’s as a percentage of GDP. The moral of the story – run two wars extremely badly, and its going to cost. Interestingly, as a share of GDP, both JFK/LBJ and Carter also increased spending on defense relative to the size of the economy, but by very small amounts. The biggest drops in spending came under Nixon/Ford, and who followed depended on one’s measure. But… Ike, that pacifist weenie, also cut spending by quite a bit.

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