A Tutorial on How to Find the Real Numbers
On Dec. 21, 2005, Congress passed a defense appropriations bill, which according
to the press releases of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees, and
many news articles subsequently written, funded "defense spending"
for the United States for the current fiscal year, 2006. The impression made
by the press releases and the news articles was that the $453 billion advertised
in the bill, H.R. 2863, constitutes America's defense budget for 2006.
That would be quite incorrect. In fact, the total amount to be spent for the
Department of Defense in 2006 is $13 billion to $63 billion more, the latter
figure assuming full funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. If you also
count, non-DOD "national defense" costs, add another $21 billion,
and, if you count defense related security costs, such as homeland security,
the congressional press release numbers are more than $200 billion wrong.
Having observed, and in past years participated in, the obscuration of just
how much the United States actually spends for defense, this author believes
it would assist the debate over the defense budget in this country by identifying
its actual size. The "defense spending" bill enacted in December had
the title, "Making appropriations to the Department of Defense for the
fiscal year ending September 30, 2006 and for other purposes." It was a
little heavy on those "other purposes"  and it
did not comprise all the money the Defense Department received and will receive
To peer through the opaqueness of congressional defense appropriations, it
is necessary to run through the numbers; all the numbers. The first step is
to understand the "defense spending" bill, H.R. 2863, as enacted:
* Division A of the bill appropriated $453.3 billion, but
not all of it for DOD. $522 million went to the CIA for unclassified "intelligence
community management" and to the Coast Guard. This makes the DOD total
in Division A $452.8 billion.
* Division B, Title I, Chapter 1 of the bill adds to DOD
$4.4 billion for its expenses to rescue and relieve civilians and to undo
damage to DOD contractors from Hurricane Katrina.
* Chapter 7 of Division B adds another $1.4 billion to rebuild
DOD facilities damaged by Hurricane Katrina.
* Division B, Title II, Chapter 2 adds $130 million for
DOD work for protection from the threat of the Avian Flu pandemic.
* Division B, Title III, Chapter 2 cuts the DOD budget by
$80 million in rescissions (cancelled spending). More importantly, Chapter
8 in this title cuts DOD, and all other federal spending, except the Department
of Veterans Affairs and "emergency" spending, by one percent "across
the board." The cut is mandated to occur in every single program of the
affected accounts, nothing is exempted. The reduction to DOD is $4.0 billion.
The actual total for DOD in the bill is $454.8 billion, over a billion more
than what the appropriations committees implied.
But that's not all for the Defense Department's budget. Add $12.2 billion for
For reasons of politics and jurisdiction, Congress appropriates money for the
Defense Department in two separate bills: the Department of Defense Appropriations
bill and the Military Construction Appropriations bill -- which these days is
also wrapped in with other spending, such as the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The "MilCon" bill funds military bases in the states and districts
of almost every member of Congress.
A major Capitol Hill activity is writing press releases for local newspapers
about the goodies the senators and representatives add for their military facilities
back home. They also write press releases about the goodies they add in the
DOD appropriations bill. (Having two bills to write press releases about is
better than one.) So, that gets DOD spending for 2006 to $466.7 billion. That's
all, right? Nope. Add about another $50 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
There is already $50 billion for Iraq and Afghanistan in the $466.7 billion
appropriated in H.R. 2863. However, war spending in 2005 was over $100 billion,
and most expect 2006 to cost at least as much. Nonetheless, Congress decided
to provide just $50 billion for ongoing military operations, about enough money
for the first six months of the fiscal year.
It will run out in about March 2006.
Before then, Congress and the president will need to add more, up to another
$50 billion. It is that amount that Pentagon and congressional officials privately
say they anticipate will be added in a "supplemental" appropriations
request in early 2006. OK, that gets the total to $516.7
billion. Done now, right? Nope. There are other defense activities in the Department
of Energy to keep America's nuclear arsenal reliable and effective and to develop
new nuclear weapons.
Add another $16.4 billion. There are also defense related costs in the Selective
Service, the National Defense Stockpile, parts of the General Services Administration,
and other miscellany. Add still another $4.7 billion. That gets the total to
$537.8 billion. This figure constitutes the "National Defense" budget
function (known to budget geeks as budget function "050") in presidential
budget requests and congressional budget resolutions. You may also want to count
even more spending, such as the costs of the Department of Homeland Security,
which is certainly national defense in a generic sense. Add about $41 billion.
You might also want to consider some of the human consequences of current and
previous wars; add about $68 billion for Veterans Affairs. Also, consider adding
the costs of reconstruction in Iraq and Afghanistan which counts in the State
Department's budget, plus all the other costs for international security, diplomacy,
and foreign aid, as administered by Condoleezza Rice; add about $23 billion.
If you count all these costs, the total is $669.8 billion. This amount easily
outdoes the rest of the world. In fact, if you count just the costs of the National
Defense budget function, the approximate $538 billion we spend is $29 billion
more than the $509 billion the entire rest of the world spends. 
Pick the number you believe to be most appropriate for "defense spending"
in 2006. Presumably, you will not be using the $453 billion widely advertised
by Congress and the press. Now, there can be an accurate debate on whether this
budget is too large or too small. Please proceed.
Confused by this welter of numbers? Not surprising; below are the important
U.S. Defense and Security Spending Fiscal Year 2006
H.R. 2863 Grand total for the Department of Defense Appropriations
Act, (but not all Congress has appropriated to DOD) $454.5 Billion
H.R. 2528, Military Construction Appropriations: $12.2
Total Appropriated to Date to Dept. of Defense: 466.7
Likely 2006 Supplemental (Possible amount to complete Iraq/Afghanistan
war costs for 2006) $50 billion
Likely Total for DOD for 2006 $516.7 billion
Department of Energy/Defense Activities Appropriations (Funds nuclear weapons
activities): $16.4 Billion
Other non-DOD defense activities (Funds Selective Service, National Defense
Stockpile, etc.): $4.7 billion
Total for "National Defense" (Constitutes the National
Defense Budget Function (Budget Function 050) in presidential budgets) $537.8
Homeland Security (Approximate amount for non-DOD Homeland Security costs):
Veterans Affairs $68 billion
International Security (Approximate amount for reconstruction aid, foreign
arms sales, development assistance, etc.) $23 billion
Total for non-defense but security related costs $132 billion
Grand Total for All international security and defense costs $669.8
Winslow T. Wheeler is the Director of the Straus Military
Reform Project at the Center for Defense Information. He spent 31 years working
for US Senators from both parties and the Government Accountability Office.
He contributed an essay on the defense budget to CounterPunch's new book: Dime's
Worth of Difference. Wheeler's new book, "The
Wastrels of Defense: How Congress Sabotages U.S. Security," is
published by the Naval Institute Press.
 See Dec. 17, 2005, U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations,
"Conferees Approve FY 2006 Defense Spending Bill." See first sentence
in addition to the press release's title.
 The bill was passed by Congress on Dec. 21, 2005, and
it was signed into law by the president on Dec. 30, 2005. It is now Public Law
 To be entirely correct, significant amounts of the funds
ostensibly appropriated to DOD are actually for the various U.S. intelligence
agencies, some of them outside DOD. Last year, a defense official accidentally
told the press the classified intelligence budget amounted to about $40 billion.
The appropriations for intelligence agencies are buried in various parts of
the DOD bill. For example, the account, "Other Research and Development,"
for the Air Force might have a few billion for CIA or NSA programs. The details
of these intelligence appropriations are available only to members of Congress
and a very small number of staffers. The paperwork resides in a secure vault
in the Capitol building for those cleared members and staff to read; very few
 As this is written, the press is reporting DOD and OMB
to be considering a supplemental of not $50 billion to finish out war funding
in 2005 but $80 billion to $100 billion. Insiders report that the press has
this wrong; it is more likely that DOD and OMB will ask for about $50 billion
more for 2006 and a "down payment" for 2007 war costs of $40 billion
to $50 billion.
 This number and those below for the VA and international
security are not from congressional budget data but from "The Military
Balance 2005-2006," International Institute for Strategic Studies, Routledge,
2005, p. 42 . The final actuals for these agencies in 2006, including not just
appropriations but also "mandatory" or "entitlement" spending,
is not available and likely will not be for a few weeks, as of this date.
 "SIPRI Yearbook 2005; Armaments, Disarmament and
International Security," Stockholm International Peace Research Institute,
Oxford University Press, 2005, p. 310.