The real FY2012 US military budget

On Oct. 1st, FY2011 ended and FY2012 began. Because in the last days of September the Congress managed to agree to a Continuing Resolution (a stopgap measure), the federal government is now operating under this CR as a provisional FY2012 federal budget.

What are the funding totals provided for by this CR? As anyone who is at least slightly knowledgeable about budgetary issues and the federal budgetary process knows, the federal budget which the Congress passes is almost always different (and sometimes very different) from what the President originally requests. That’s because, as per the Constitution, the President doesn’t determine the federal budget. The Congress does. The President may only request funding. Congress may agree or not. It may agree to provide as much, more, or less than what the President requests. The FY2012 federal budget (CR) is a perfect example of that. It provides for a lot less federal funding than what President Obama requested, as the US is trying to cut spending to deal with a huge budget deficit.

The history of America’s military budgets during the last 32 years was one of conflict between two branches of the federal government. Before President Obama was inaugurated, the Congress tended to provide a lot less than what Republican Presidents requested, and more than what Democratic Presidents (Carter and Clinton) requested. Only in FY2005 did the Congress provide more than what President Bush requested. Under President Obama, however, the Congress has been providing less money than what he has been requesting.

For FY2012, Obama requested, in February, $553 bn as a core defense budget, $118 bn as a GWOT supplemental, and $19 bn for the DOE’s military programs. The Congress has authorized a lot less than that: full funding for the GWOT, but only $513 bn as a core defense budget and $15.675 bn for the DOE’s military programs. This is $43.325 bn less than what President Obama requested in FY2012. Regardless of whether you think it was right for Congress not to fully fund the President’s request or not, the fact is that the Congress has provided much less than what Obama requested.


The core defense budget request will fund the military on a day-to-day basis: salary, feed, train, house, operate, maintain, and equip it, as well as pay for RnD programs and health programs. The GWOT supplemental will pay for the Afghan and Iraqi wars. The DOE’s military programs would be funded as follows:

a) Defense Environmental Cleanup would receive $5.002 billion;

b) Weapons Activities would receive $7.190 billion;

c) Nuclear Nonproliferation would receive $2.383 billion; and

d) Naval Reactors would receive $1.100 billion.

Under the SAC-reported Fiscal Year 2012 Energy and Water Development Act, the DOE would receive a total budget of $25.549 billion, $15.675 bn of which would be spent on military programs and the rest on nonmilitary ones.

All of this adds up to $644.675 bn, which is way smaller (50% smaller) than the figure that Ron Paul advisor Bruce Fein has repeatedly claimed as the total US military budget ($1.2 trillion per year). It constitutes 4.4% of America’s GDP ($14.66 trillion according to the CIA World Factbook). 4.3975% of GDP, to be exact.

So how big is the military budget, exactly?

The core defense budget amounts to 3.49% of GDP (the smallest proportion of GDP devoted to defense since FY1940, except the late 1990s), less than 15% of the total federal budget, less than 50% of the federal discretionary budget, and $1,665.58 per every American.

The total military budget (i.e. the core defense budget plus the GWOT supplemental plus the DOE’s military programs) amounts to 4.4% of GDP, less than 19% of the total federal budget (the Heritage Foundation says it’s 17.3%), less than 50% of the federal discretionary budget, and $2,110.39 per every American.

Here’s my message to every taxpaying American: the next time you do you federal tax return, calculate your total annual tax liability and multiply it by 18%. That’s the amount of your tax dollars that goes to the military.


1) The Defense Appropriations Act:

2) The Fiscal Year 2012 Energy and Water Development Act:


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