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The Defense Budget in Historical Perspective: BGOV Analysis

The U.S. defense budget in recent years has weathered sequestration and budget caps, and now operates under an administration that’s consistently pushed for more defense spending.

Using the Department of Defense’s Green Book for fiscal 2020, Bloomberg Government has assembled a series of charts that place various aspects of the defense budget in historical perspective. The charts show budget figures in estimated constant 2020 dollars (adjusted for inflation) so historical comparisons can be made.

Among the findings:

  • Current defense budgets are higher than the Reagan-era buildup of the mid-1980s but haven’t reached the height of the operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
  • The Army, Navy and Air Force generally receive about the same portion of the Pentagon’s overall budget annually.
  • The share of the economy and federal spending devoted to the defense budget has declined significantly since the 1950s.

To contact the analyst: Robert Levinson in Washington, D.C. at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jodie Morris at; Laura Criste at

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