Former Reagan economic advisor says current defense budget is much smaller than during other wars

The expanding array of threats to U.S. national security contrasts dramatically with the declining share of national resources being devoted to our armed forces, suggests Murray Weidenbaum, former chief economic advisor to President Reagan and the Mallinckrodt Distinguished University Professor at Washington University in St. Louis.

Murray Weidenbaum

“These findings by themselves do not provide a justification for increasing — or reducing — the size of the military budget,” he cautions, but “it seems clear that the current economic burden of military outlays is sustainable — now and in the foreseeable future.”

There’s little doubt, says Weidenbaum, that the U.S. can afford to spend whatever it thinks necessary to promote the nation’s security. But it’s far less certain that lawmakers will take the steps necessary to make sufficient defense funds available. His concern is that percentage declines in military outlays appear to be driven mostly by the realities of domestic politics, by the fact that lawmakers find cutting discretionary military spending to be much easier than slashing cherished entitlement programs, such as Medicare and Social Security.

“The author’s personal analysis of the ongoing debates on national security policy leads to the uneasy conclusion that the strategic shift in resources identified here has been made by default rather than by deliberate design,” he concludes.