The national defense base budget has outweighed non-defense spending for much of the past three decades, according to data compiled by the Congressional Research Service. In constant dollars, defense base budget authority in 1977 was lower than non-defense -- $340.6 billion versus $421.1 billion. In 2012, national defense spending was higher than non-defense -- $554.3 billion versus $489 billion.
The national defense budget includes military operations and defense-related activities at other federal agencies, including the Energy Department. The base budget does not include supplemental spending for wars and emergency operations.
Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter and Pentagon leaders warned lawmakers in February that sequestration cuts would result in a “drastic shortfall in the funding we need to do training, which inhibits our capacity to fight.” But it appears consensus is building around scaling back military spending. Factoring in war costs, the Pentagon’s budget is 12 times that of the civilian agencies, former Office of Management and Budget defense analyst Gordon Adams said at a March forum hosted by the Center for International Policy.
Here's a look at how defense and non-defense dollars have ebbed and flowed from the Carter administration to President Obama's. Amounts are adjusted for inflation in fiscal 2012 constant dollars and exclude spending for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.