Budgets indicate how a government prioritizes its responsibilities. As we have shown before, over the past decade defense spending budgets have trended upward significantly. In fact, the FY2012 defense budget request was fully 110% higher than defense spending in FY2001.
The special status that defense enjoys is perhaps best shown by a breakdown of how frequently stand-alone defense appropriations bills are passed, rather than lumped together with Omnibuses and Consolidated Appropriations Bills.
The table to the left indicates that from 2001-2011, Defense and Homeland Security enjoyed privileged status as they were wrapped into consolidated bills only twice. Further emphasizing this dynamic, the Military Construction bill was passed as a stand-alone bill every year it was by itself. When Veterans funding—hardly politically unpopular funding—was added to that bill, it has been wrapped into consolidated bills every year since FY06.
On the other hand, the table shows that State and Foreign Operations has not enjoyed such privileges, as it has been wrapped up in consolidated bills every year since 2003 (except 2006). Despite efforts—including ours—to stress the role of international affairs funding in our national security, State and Foreign Ops remains politically weak.
Never has Defense’s special consideration been more obvious than in FY2011, when a continuing resolution for the rest of discretionary spending was tacked on to an actual appropriations bill for defense, clearly setting Defense apart as a budgetary priority.