After the Sequester, the Pentagon Gets a Reprieve


Yesterday’s budget deal doesn’t spare the Pentagon from the full impact of the sequester cuts, but it sure eases the impact considerably. As things stand now, the inflation-adjusted defense budget is still bigger than it was in 2001, before the 9/11 buildup, and shows no signs of ever coming back down to that level. The chart below tells the story:

This is part of “Can’t Touch This,” a detailed look at the Pentagon budget from our upcoming print edition. The story it tells is pretty simple: the defense budget skyrocketed after 9/11 and never fully returned to its pre-war level. The base budget (which doesn’t count the cost of Iraq and Afghanistan) ran to about $1,400 per person in 2001, and by the end of this decade, nearly 20 years after 9/11, it will still be over $1,600 per person.

In past wars, we usually got a peace dividend afterward as spending returned to its old level. It happened after Vietnam and it happened after the Cold War. But this time it’s stalled. Spending is down a bit from its Bush-era peak, but only a bit. The war on terror, apparently, really is a forever war.

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We've never been very good at being conservative.

And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

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