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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

Republicans pledge to set aside differences and work with Biden

President Biden speaks to Sen. Mitch McConnell after being sworn in at the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday. Photo: Erin Schaff-Pool/Getty Images

Several Republicans praised President Biden's calls for unity during his inaugural address on Wednesday and pledged to work together for the benefit of the American people.

Why it matters: The Democrats only have a slim majority in the Senate and Biden will likely need to work with the GOP to pass his legislative agenda.

The Biden protection plan

Joe Biden announces his first run for the presidency in June 1987. Photo: Howard L. Sachs/CNP/Getty Images

The Joe Biden who became the 46th president on Wednesday isn't the same blabbermouth who failed in 1988 and 2008.

Why it matters: Biden now heeds guidance about staying on task with speeches and no longer worries a gaffe or two will cost him an election. His staff also limits the places where he speaks freely and off the cuff. This Biden protective bubble will only tighten in the months ahead, aides tell Axios.

Bush labels Clyburn the “savior” for Democrats

House Majority Whip James Clyburn takes a selfie Wednesday with former President George W. Bush. Photo: Patrick Semansky-Pool/Getty Images

Former President George W. Bush credited Rep. James Clyburn with being the "savior" of the Democratic Party, telling the South Carolinian at Wednesday's inauguration his endorsement allowed Joe Biden to win the party's presidential nomination.

Why it matters: The nation's last two-term Republican president also said Clyburn's nod allowed for the transfer of power, because he felt only Biden had the ability to unseat President Trump.