US defense spending rose 72% over the course of the Bush Administration, from $381 billion in 2000 to $671 billion in 2008. President-elect Obama is expected to continue that trend, as he has vowed to increase the size of the military’s ground forces.

But the Defense Business Board, a top Pentagon advisory group, cautions that “business as usual” style growth is no longer an option, and is recommending dramatic cuts to some of the military’s largest weapons projects as a way of getting spiraling costs under control.

Of course, the figure of $671 billion includes emergency war spending bills. Not including that, the budget is more like $512 billion. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates would have the 2010 budget, presently projected at $526.7 billion, increased by a further $57 billion (again, not counting emergency war spending).

This budget may seem enormous, and the justifications for such an increasing unreasonable, but Secretary Gates sees it as a bargain, if anything, compared to the $700 billion “stimulus” package pushed through last month, saying “If you want to talk about a stimulus package, the defense budget’s not bad and obviously a lot of jobs around the country depend” on military spending.

That may end up being the final legacy of the enormous stimulus package: it has finally provided something that makes even the bloated American military budget seem modest, by comparison.

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