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The Politics of National Security Budgets

Gordon Adams
Policy Analysis Brief
February 2007

Given the range of international challenges that the United States confronts in the 21st century—extreme poverty; failing states; religious and ethnic conflicts; booming traffic in drugs, people, and weapons, all contributing to terrorism and proliferation—the need for a robust toolkit is critical. None of today’s challenges can be handled by the military alone; they demand an integrated use of diplomacy, assistance, and military capabilities. But these nonmilitary instruments are budgeted at a fraction of the spending levels allocated to the Defense Department. Any effort to boost international affairs budgets by more than incremental margins will run into structural obstacles. This brief, written by former senior White House budget official Gordon Adams, examines several built-in advantages—political, bureaucratic, administrative, congressional—that the military enjoys in the competition for resources.

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