In a literal sense, the United States does not have a defense budget. The adjective is wrong. Our military spending is for many purposes: other nations’ defense, the purported extension of freedom, the maintenance of hegemony, and the ability to threaten any other nation with conquest. But the relationship between these objectives and the end they purport to serve, the protection of Americans and their welfare, is unclear. In fact, defining the requirements of our defense so broadly is probably counterproductive. Our global military posture and activism drag us into others’ conflicts, provoke animosity, cause states to balance our power, and waste resources. We need a defense budget worthy of the name.

More on Defense Budget/Policy


The Pentagon’s Blank Check

By Benjamin H. Friedman. Boston Review. March 27, 2017.

Trump’s TSA Budget Fails to Cut the Obvious: Air Marshals

By John Mueller and Mark G. Stewart. Wired (Online). March 20, 2017.

What Trump’s Budget Reveals about His Military Strategy

By Christopher A. Preble. The National Interest (Online). March 20, 2017.

Cato Studies

Our Foreign Policy Choices: Rethinking America’s Global Role

By Christopher A. Preble, Emma Ashford, and Travis Evans. White Paper. July 18, 2016.

The Problem with the Light Footprint: Shifting Tactics in Lieu of Strategy

By Brad Stapleton. Policy Analysis No. 792. June 7, 2016.

Technologies Converge and Power Diffuses: The Evolution of Small, Smart, and Cheap Weapons

By T. X. Hammes. Policy Analysis No. 786. January 27, 2016.


Reclaiming the War Power

Gene Healy. Policy Priorities for the 114th Congress. 2015.

Correspondence: Debating American Engagement: The Future of U.S. Grand Strategy

Justin Logan, Benjamin H. Friedman, and Brendan Rittenhouse Green. International Security. Vol. 38. No. 2. Fall 2013.

Defense Sense: Options for National Defense Savings in Fiscal Year 2013

Benjamin H. Friedman, Christopher A. Preble, Carl Conetta, Charles Knight, & Ethan Rosenkranz. The Commonwealth Institute. May 15, 2012.

Public Filings

U.S. National Security Strategy after Primacy: Resilience, Self-Reliance, and Restraint

By Christopher A. Preble. Testimony. October 29, 2015.

Military Restraint and Defense Savings

By Benjamin H. Friedman. Testimony. July 20, 2010.

Cato Reviews & Journals

Nuclear Weapons: Proliferation and Terrorism

Cato Handbook for Policymakers. Cato Handbook for Policymakers, 8th Edition (2017).

The Military Budget

Cato Handbook for Policymakers. Cato Handbook for Policymakers, 8th Edition (2017).

Restoring Prudence and Restraint in U.S. Foreign Policy

Cato Handbook for Policymakers. Cato Handbook for Policymakers, 8th Edition (2017).


Outside Voices: How Scholars Can Influence Trump’s Foreign Policy

Featuring Steven Weber, Matthew Kroenig, Ryan Evans, Mira Rapp Hooper, Sameer Lalwani, & Emma Ashford. April 19, 2017. Policy Forum.

America Abroad: The United States’ Global Role in the 21st Century

Featuring Stephen Brooks, William C. Wohlforth, Eugene Gholz, Benjamin H. Friedman, & John Glaser. March 21, 2017. Book Forum.

Life after BRAC: Has the Time Come for Another Round?

Featuring Christopher A. Preble, Kurt Couchman, and Peter Russo. February 23, 2017. Capitol Hill Briefing.

Downsizing the Federal Government

Refocusing U.S. Defense Strategy

By Benjamin H. Friedman. December 2016.

Rightsizing U.S. Ground Forces

By Christopher A. Preble. November 2010.

A Plan to Cut Military Spending

By Christopher A. Preble and Benjamin H. Friedman. November 2010.