In June of 2010, BFAD’s Gordon Adams testified to a House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee that “We are, in fact, facing a moment of defense budget decline, pressured by deficits and the end of the wars.” Visible evidence was a long time in coming, though, as turbulence in the last couple of years’ budgeting process interfered with the data. But it’s here now, allowing us to see the build-down. The national defense budget peaked in 2010, fell in inflation-adjusted terms in 2011 and 2012, and will continue falling in 2013 if Congress’ appropriation is anywhere near the President’s request.
Two major drivers are behind this trend, as Gordon referenced. Ending the war in Iraq and moving toward withdrawal from Afghanistan creates the steeper effect visible in the total budget trend. Yet the base budget also has turned downward, perhaps indirectly related to the wars but likely more a consequence of fiscal pressure from deficits and the debt. That trend is, and should be, less dramatic, but it’s likely to also be more enduring.
It seems the build-down has started.