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Aerial view of the Pentagon. Photo: Bill Clark / CQ Roll Call

The budget agreement finally reached by Congress last Friday provides around $700 billion for national defense in fiscal years 2018 and 2019, an allocation in line with President Trump's 2019 budget request, released by the OMB this morning.

Here's what you need to know about that spending:

  1. The defense budget is big, about the same size as the entire Swiss economy. It consumes over half of discretionary spending, though only about 16 percent of the total budget (including Social Security, Medicare and other programs). But the expenditure is not unreasonable: Not only is the U.S. military the finest fighting force in the world, with over 2 million men and women on active duty or in the National Guard or Reserves, it also has components that are basically a health care company, a global supply chain outfit, and a sizable retail operation.
  2. While it's true that the United States spends more on defense than the next eight countries combined, global leadership — and the benefits that accrue to the American people — does not come cheap. U.S. military might ensures that the other expressions of U.S. power (diplomatic, economic, social) operate from a position of strength. As China and Russia challenge this order by violating the territorial integrity of neighboring countries, meddling in foreign elections, and attempting to limit freedom of navigation, it's more important than ever to maintain our edge.
  3. The unpredictability in defense budgets, caused by erratic Congressional dealmaking, is harmful in and of itself. The new deal will bring some badly needed stability and a substantial funding increase, but even still it will not achieve the force structure growth the President promised on the campaign trail — nor should it, given the many other worthy and pressing priorities facing the federal government, and the expected decrease in federal revenue that will result from the recent tax cuts.

The bottom line: With good stewardship, these resources can ensure the U.S. has the military capability and readiness to underwrite global leadership.

Go deeper: More defense budget analysis from CNAS.

Susanna V. Blume, a former Pentagon staffer, is a fellow at the Center for a New American Security.

Go deeper

Updated 2 mins ago - World

Pentagon: 8,500 troops on high alert for possible deployment to eastern Europe

Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has placed 8,500 U.S. troops on "heightened preparedness to deploy" to eastern Europe in case NATO activates its rapid-response force over tensions with Russia, the Pentagon announced Monday.

Why it matters: No decisions have been made to actually deploy U.S. forces, but the heightened alert level will allow the military to rapidly shore up NATO's eastern flank in the event that Russia invades Ukraine. The Pentagon warned that Russia has shown "no signs of de-escalating," and continues to amass troops on Ukraine's borders.

Updated 29 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Biden calls Fox News reporter a "stupid son of a b---h" on hot mic

President Biden blasted Fox News' Peter Doocy on Monday after the reporter asked if the nation's soaring inflation is a political liability, saying, "what a stupid son of a b----h."

The latest: The president called Doocy Monday evening, the reporter told Fox's Sean Hannity. "He cleared the air and I appreciated it. We had a nice call," Doocy said when asked whether the president apologized, adding: "I don't need anyone to apologize to me."

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: Fauci: "Confident" Omicron cases will peak in February.
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  3. Politics: New York Supreme Court strikes down Gov. Hochul's mask mandate for public areas — Sarah Palin tests positive for COVID, delaying defamation trial — Virginia school boards sue Gov. Youngkin for lifting mask mandate.
  4. World: U.K. to lift travel testing requirement for fully vaccinated — Beijing Olympic Committee lowers testing threshold ahead of Games.
  5. Variant tracker