The Public Interest

Reforming the defense budget process

Jacques S. Gansler

Spring 1984

INCREDIBLE as it may seem, fully 27 months of official planning, justifying, and debating now precede the adoption of each annual United States defense budget. Every year, in January, the President submits his budget proposals to Congress for the fiscal year that begins the following October; during this nine-month period, officials of the Defense department make many trips to Capitol Hill, explaining their proposals and modifying them at the direction of Congress. To this nine-month period, one must add the 18-month budget planning process within the Defense department that precedes the submission of each January budget proposal. If one then adds the 12 months of the fiscal year itself, during which the department is spending or obligating itself to spend the money it has been appropriated, this makes for a 39-month period of time for each annual defense budget.

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