Data Point: 0.90%

From 2000-2006, ‘real’ (read: adjusted for inflation) US defense spending grew at an average annual rate of 5.45%.

Not bad.

From 2007-2011, real US defense spending is projected to grow at an average annual rate of 0.90%.

Ouch.

This data comes courtesy of the US Government Accountability Office, which published its (very helpful) Assessments of Selected Weapon Programs last week.

If taken at face value, such projections seem to contradict a chorus of voices, led by staunch defense industry optimist Loren Thompson, who argue that current defense spending growth levels may continue indefinitely.

The problem is I’m not sure the data can be taken at face value.

The GAO’s data, gleaned from the DOD’s own projections, assumes that the account for research, development test and evaluation will decline at an average annual rate of nearly 3 percent. That would mark a nearly 11.5-point shift from the very positive growth rate in RDT&E spending from 2000-2006. It seems implausble to me that Congress would allow the DOD to reduce its investment accounts by so large a margin.

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