The United States is spending about $400 billion this year on national defense, some $40 billion on homeland security, and $85 billion on military operations and nation-building in Iraq and Afghanistan. This course is for students who want to know how the dollars we spend on national security relate to military forces, systems, and policy choices, and who wish to develop a personal tool kit for framing and assessing defense policy alternatives.

The course aims to familiarize students with budgetary concepts and processes; to examine relationships among strategy, forces, and budgets; to explore tradeoffs among the main categories of defense spending; and to develop frameworks for identifying the costs of new military policies. The course begins with an overview of U.S. spending for national defense over the past 35 years and a look at the federal fiscal pressures that may affect military spending in the future. It continues with an examination of mismatches between the defense budget and the military strategy and forces it supports. Later sessions grapple with matching forces to budgets and developing alternatives for equipping the force. One session focuses on federal spending for homeland security and combating terrorism. In addition, several sessions will explore frameworks for reform of the infrastructure activities and military pay and benefits that together make up the lion's share of the military budget.


Additional information about these assignments is available in the assignments section.

Individual student products will include an opinion article about a defense policy issue with budgetary implications (suitable for publication in a major newspaper) and a short "budget option" paper that proposes one change in defense policy (patterned on the non-partisan descriptions of budget alternatives prepared annually by the Congressional Budget Office). In addition, students will contribute to a group briefing that outlines a new national security strategy and the military force structure, modernization programs, and budgets to go with it.

Budget Option for National Security
Due Date: Session 5
Grading: 25 percent

Op-Ed About a National Security Policy Issue With Budget Implications
Due Date: Session 8
Grading: 25 percent

Top-Level Defense Review (Group Project)
Briefing Date: Session 12
Grading: 40 percent

Class Participation: 10 percent