CBO Releases an Interactive Tool for Analyzing the Military’s Forces and Provides an Update on Transparency

Posted by
Keith Hall
August 16, 2018

Yesterday, CBO released an interactive tool for analyzing the military's force structure—a new method for examining an important aspect of defense spending. The tool is one of the many products CBO has provided to policymakers and analysts so they can assess the effects of differing policies on budgetary outcomes.

This innovative tool allows users to determine the cost and capabilities of customized plans for the military’s forces. You can add or subtract brigades, ships, aircraft squadrons, and other units. It reports the estimated effects on the Department of Defense’s operation and support costs and the size of the military. (Learn more about CBO’s approach to calculating these costs.)

In January 2018, I testified before the House and Senate Budget Committees about CBO’s plans to bolster its efforts to be transparent, building on a strong foundation laid over many years. Today, CBO released a report that provides an update about the accomplishments thus far this year.

Because people can have different interpretations of what it means to be transparent, laying out CBO’s relevant goals is important. One goal is to enhance the credibility of the agency’s analyses and processes by showing the connections to data, professional research, and feedback from experts. A second is to promote a thorough under¬standing of the analyses through accessible, clear, and detailed communication. A third is to help people gauge how estimates might change if policies or circumstances differed.

As CBO strives toward those goals, it has undertaken these varied activities, as detailed in today’s report:

  • Testifying and publishing answers to questions,
  • Explaining analytical methods,
  • Releasing data,
  • Analyzing the accuracy of its estimates,
  • Comparing current estimates with previous ones,
  • Comparing its estimates with those of other organizations,
  • Estimating the effects of policy alternatives,
  • Characterizing uncertainty surrounding estimates,
  • Visualizing data, and
  • Conducting outreach—including direct communication with Members of Congress and their staff, consulting with outside experts, giving presentations, and highlighting key issues in blog posts.

Keith Hall is CBO’s Director.