17.953 | Fall 2010 | Graduate

U.S. Budgets for National Security


Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 1 session / week, 2 hours / session


Open to qualified graduate students and requires permission of the instructor.


This course is for students who want to know how the dollars we spend on national security relate to military forces, systems, and policy choices, and who wish to develop a personal tool kit for framing and assessing defense policy alternatives.

The course aims to familiarize students with budgetary concepts and processes; to examine relationships among strategy, forces, and budgets; to explore tradeoffs among the main categories of defense spending; and to develop frameworks for identifying the costs of new military policies.


Adams, Gordon, and Cindy Williams. Buying National Security: How America Plans and Pays for Its Global Role and Safety at Home. New York: Routledge, 2010. ISBN: 9780415954402.


Class participation 10%
Opinion article about national security 25%
Paper on budget options for national security 25%
Group project on top-level national security review 40%


1 Introduction — Budgets as Policy  
2 National Security Budgets in Context  
3 Defense Budget Composition and Internal Pressures  
4 Grand Strategy and Budgets Opinion article about national security due
5 Planning and Budgeting for National Security  
6 Spending for Military Pay and Benefits  
7 Budgets to Modernize the Force  
8 Budgets for Operation and Maintenance Paper on budget options for national security due
9 Cost of the War in Iraq  
10 Federal Spending for Homeland Security  
11 Federal Spending for Diplomacy and Foreign Aid  
12 Presentation of Alternative National Security Plans Group project on top-level national security review due

Course Info

As Taught In
Fall 2010
Learning Resource Types
Written Assignments
Presentation Assignments