GOP Candidates Offer Military Spending Proposals

Michael Tasselmyer

During last week's GOP debate, much of the policy focus was on issues related to foreign policy and national defense. Nearly every candidate had something to say about how they would utilize and/or expand the military as Commander in Chief.

In all, NTUF identified 15 defense-related proposals made during the debate that would impact the federal budget. Of those, 5 would increase federal spending and 10 had indeterminate costs.

Military Expansion. Several candidates voiced support for a larger military, which accounted for some of the most expensive proposals of the night.

Jeb Bush pushed for a repeal of the sequester cuts on defense spending, which would increase outlays by $53.9 billion per year. This was the most expensive proposal of the night, defense-related or otherwise.

Carly Fiorina offered the most detailed plans of any candidate, specifying exactly how many Army brigades, Marine batallions, and Navy ships she would want to see. By NTUF's estimation, her proposals would require at least $43 billion in annual spending. She also made 4 other statements regarding military spending (including foreign aid, nuclear triad upgrades, and new technology) whose costs could not be determined.

Fiorina's call to build and maintain a fleet of over 300 Navy ships would cost $16.3 billion per year. Chris Christie also proposed this during the first debate in August.

A Lack of Specifics. Many of the candidates proposed a general "rebuilding" of the military without specifically stating how many additional forces they would fund as President. Jeb Bush mentioned that he would seek to "rebuild" the U.S. intelligence and counterintelligence programs; Ben Carson blamed much of America's foreign policy problems on a military that is "too weak" as he called for its expansion; and Donald Trump said he would "make America great again" by "rebuild[ing] our military." In addition to her items above, Fiorina also called for unspecified reforms to the Department of Defense.

Military Aid to Combat ISIS. CNN moderators asked plenty of questions regarding America's role in fighting ISIS. Senator Rand Paul and Carly Fiorina both suggested sending military aid to Kurdish forces fighting the terrorist group in the Middle East. The National Defense Authorization Act of 2016 authorized at least $90 million in such support, and the State Department has suggested it's indirectly sent at least $365 million in aid already. Senator Paul voted for an amendment to the bill that would have authorized the U.S. government to send that aid directly.

Whether or not the candidates were specific in their proposals to expand or rebuild the military, none enlightened taxpayers as to how they would pay for them.

You can read NTUF's full analysis here.

Michael Tasselmyer

Policy Analyst

Michael Tasselmyer is the Policy Analyst for the National Taxpayers Union Foundation. He is primarily responsible for conducting research associated with the Foundation’s BillTally project, which tracks the impact of proposed legislation on federal spending.

Prior to joining NTUF, Michael worked as a legislative assistant within the Maryland State Senate, where he conducted research on the economic implications of proposed legislation, prepared testimony on key issues, and oversaw various constituent outreach and communication initiatives. He has collaborated with several Maryland-based think tanks and consulting firms on research related to a wide range of policy issues.

Originally from Baltimore, Michael holds a B.A. degree in Economics from the University of Maryland, College Park.

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