Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Political Science


Andrew J. Polsky

Committee Members

Peter J. Liberman

Charles Tien

Subject Categories

American Politics | Political Science


Presidency, national security, defense spending, defense budget, war


At war’s end, presidents take advantage of the political opportunity structure they inherit in order to reduce the size of the national security state. By analyzing federal spending for the Department of Defense and archival material from presidential libraries, I argue that presidents can influence the trajectory of the national security state more than its size. Even when there is consensus among members of Congress about American foreign policy goals, the legislature does not give the executive adequate budgetary powers to see these objectives accomplished. The result is innovation; presidents implement new policies, embrace new solutions to old policy problems, and pursue alternatives in order to secure greater reductions in defense spending. The relevance of this research is increasingly evident given the rise of a permanent national security state over the past six decades, as well as the United States’ continued engagement in wars throughout the world.

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