The United States has the biggest defense budget in the world. In 2016 the U.S. Department of Defence had outlays worth $516 billion, which constituted a slight rise compared to the year before.
The current President of the United States, Donald Trump, has announced he wants to increase overall defense spending by more than $50 billion. This would also mean an increase in the budget for the DoD and take levels back up to where they stood in 2012. When the U.S. engagement in Iraq ended in 2011 the defense budget started coming down considerably.
As our infographic shows, the spending spikes, apart from when Ronald Reagan held office during the last phase of the Cold War, were related to actual wars. The steepest hike in recent history was during the War on Terror, fought most notably in Afghanistan and Iraq, the other had to do with the Vietnam War.
Looking at the spending history, makes one wonder why Trump proposes to up the defense budget, with neither a massive strategic investment program in sight (like the so-called Star Wars under Reagan) nor an enemy you could break by outspending him in terms of defense investment (like the Soviet Union). Neither is there a high-intensity war going on which would necessitate a massive build-up and in-theater sustainment of ground forces.
The Romans said “si vis pacem, para bellum” (“If you want peace, prepare for war”). It’s just as likely though, that if you prepare for war, war is what you’ll get.