Today, CBO released an enhanced version of its interactive tool for analyzing the force structure of the US military and understanding how that structure influences defense spending.
What new features does the tool provide?
The improved tool allows users to modify the overall defense budget (annually or in total for 10 years) to see the possible effects on military forces; or to add or subtract brigades, ships, aircraft squadrons and other units to see the effects on the defense budget; or explore any combination of these approaches. It shows the estimated effects on Department of Defense (DoD) costs and the size of the military. (Learn more about CBO’s approach to calculating these costs.)
Additionally, CBO now offers a tutorial to help users understand how to use the tool’s new functionality to explore different types of policy choices. The tutorial, combined with the ability to edit total defense spending, makes the tool more widely accessible by reducing the amount of specialist knowledge users need to have about the military or defense budget.
How can people use the tool?
The new features will allow congressional staff, defense researchers, members of the media, educators and others to use the interactive tool in different ways.
For budgeting, the tool helps people explore alternative policy choices and generate results that include standard 10-year costs. They can do this by looking at potential changes to the total size of the defense budget, changing phase-in timelines, and exporting detailed data files that show costs over 10 years as well as the deflators needed to convert real dollars to nominal dollars for budgeting. purposes.
For force structure analysis, the tool provides a way to analyze the effects of proposed changes to forces, taking into account reductions or expansions of different sizes and focusing, if desired, on particular types of units. The tool also provides information on the major combat units that currently make up the US military, including their number, size, functions, and average costs.
For education, the tool—in conjunction with the CBO’s periodic report The US Military’s Force Structure: A Primer—can continue to help instructors at military academies, war colleges, and security studies programs deliver an introduction to US forces and to engage in “what if” analysis of possible modifications to those forces.
To be transparent, the enhanced tool follows CBO’s practice of showing raw cost factors and quantities used in the agency’s cost model for the U.S. military, allowing other researchers to view, d use or modify this template. Additionally, CBO will continue to update cost factors and quantities in the tool as DoD releases new budget plans. The enhanced tool also includes the ability to export more detailed data files for users who want to perform deeper analysis than the tool itself allows. These data files include documentation of all cost drivers and CBO’s cost model default parameters, as well as technical factors such as phase-in rates, deflators, and projected army costs at course of the next decade.
Phillip L. Swagel is the director of CBO.