Rebuilding the military has been a key part of Ted Cruz’s agenda from day one of his campaign, but he only recently joined fellow candidates Marco Rubio andJohn Kasich in making it clear to voters how much he would spend on defense.
Citing concerns about the size and state of the military, including the number of active-duty soldiers, the number of combat squadrons and aircraft, the size of the Navy, and the service life of elements of the nuclear triad, Cruz has vowed to boost defense spending to “at least 4.1 percent of GDP over the first two years” in office. In subsequent years he would use 4 percent as a general guide. This would lead to a substantial increase in the Pentagon’s budget. The chart below shows the Congressional Budget Office’s (CBO) latest project of defense spending, which will be at 3.1 percent of GDP in 2017, and the increased level if Cruz’s plan is implemented and maintained for the next eight years.
Under the CBO’s budget outlook, defense spending will reach $592 billion in FY 2017. From FY 2017 through 2024, the military budget will total $5.06 trillion, an average of 2.9 percent of GDP.
It would require an additional $199 billion in outlays to reach 4.1 percent of GDP in Cruz’s first year. CBO forecasts that the economy will grow by an average of 4.1 percent annually over the next eight years. Compared to the CBO baseline, Cruz’s plan would see defense spending rise by a total of $904 billion over four years ($226 billion per year), and $2.1 trillion over eight years ($263 billion per year).
With the additional funding, Cruz’s goals are to:
Cruz intends to pay for his plan by:
Cruz’s plan relies heavily on a robust, expanding economy as a way to finance a large increase in defense spending. Even if his “Five for Freedom” meets its goal of cutting $500 billion from the budget over ten years, and let’s say the sale of assets listed by CBO generate a total of $100 billion over ten years, that still leaves $1.5 trillion in new spending (over eight years) that is not directly offset. And like the perpetual effort to fight "waste, fraud, and abuse" in the budget, selling of property could be easier said and done.
On February 25th, the Government Accountability Office reported – yet again – that it was unable to audit the Department of Defense due to “serious financial management problems.” In addition to specifying corresponding savings, any calls to expand the military should include proposals to reform the military as well, including acquisition reform and reviewing the efficacy of defense platforms.
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