Below is the Pentagon’s presentation of the long-term budget picture. Why’s it going from Fiscal 2001 to Fiscal 2015? I don’t presume to know for sure. But the effect is clear: It’s immediately obvious that President Obama is proposing spending more, consistently, on defense — excluding the cost of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars — than did President Bush. That’s the blue bar — how much the Pentagon and the military services need outside of combat funding. If we’re just looking at the blue bar under the Obama era, you can see it continue its slight glide path upward.
The gray bar is for combat funding — Iraq and Afghanistan together. Robert Hale, the Pentagon comptroller, told a press conference that starting next fiscal year, the Pentagon is presuming for budgeting purposes that the wars will cost $50 billion, thanks to the Iraq drawdown. So if that’s the case, then it’ll take a grand total of four more budgets for the Obama Pentagon budget to outspend the final two Bush budgets when the big big costs of sustaining the 2007-8 Iraq surge is factored into the equation. It may be unfair to Obama to compare base budget growth to base-budget-growth-plus-war funding, but that’s the only way for Congressional Republicans to actually argue that Obama is cutting defense — and you know that’s an inevitable line of criticism. So when they say that, you can refer to this chart and know that the only way that line of argument can possibly be true is for us to continue pouring money down the sinkhole of Iraq. Because any way you slice it, that blue baseline funding bar is rising and rising.