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


A Century Later, the Versailles Treaty Still Haunts Our World

By Doug Bandow. American Conservative. January 17, 2019.

How Can a Bankrupt Republic Run the World?

By Doug Bandow. Orange County Register. January 2, 2019.

The One Reason America Can’t Police the World Anymore: Washington Is Broke

By Doug Bandow. National Interest (Online). December 26, 2018.

Cato Studies

Risky Business: The Role of Arms Sales in U.S. Foreign Policy

By A. Trevor Thrall and Caroline Dorminey. Policy Analysis No. 836. March 13, 2018.

Withdrawing from Overseas Bases: Why a Forward-Deployed Military Posture Is Unnecessary, Outdated, and Dangerous

By John Glaser. Policy Analysis No. 816. July 18, 2017.

Obama’s Foreign Policy Legacy and the Myth of Retrenchment

By John Glaser and A. Trevor Thrall. Working Paper No. 43. April 24, 2017.


Another BRAC Now

Christopher A. Preble. Strategic Studies Quarterly. Vol. 12. No. 1. Spring 2018.

An Open Letter on BRAC

Christopher A. Preble and Benjamin H. Friedman. June 19, 2017.

Reclaiming the War Power

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

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


Two Roads to War: How (and Why) America and Britain Decided to Invade Iraq

Featuring Patrick Porter, Michael Mazarr, Colonel Lawrence B. Wilkerson (Ret.), & Christopher A. Preble. April 24, 2019. Book Forum.

The Future of BRAC: A Conversation

Featuring Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA), Christopher A. Preble, and Joe Gould. March 14, 2018. Policy Forum.

The Trump Doctrine at One Year

Featuring Kathleen Hicks, Hal Brands, Susan Glasser, Laura Rozen, Tamara Cofman Wittes, Ilan Goldenberg, John Glaser, Kelsey Davenport, Rebeccah Heinrichs, Aaron Mehta, Gene Healy, Ryan Evans, A. Trevor Thrall, Erik Goepner, Heather Hurlburt, & James Goldgeier. January 30, 2018. Conference.


Shadow Force: Private Security Contractors in Iraq

By David Isenberg. February 16, 2009.

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.