Professor Bilmes will discuss why and how the post-9/11 wars were funded entirely differently from previous U.S. wars, and the long-term implications of these differences. The differences include both the method of budgeting (circumventing usual procedures) and how the wars were paid for and financed (relying exclusively on debt). This combination effectively established a parallel or "ghost" budgetary process, largely exempt from regular government spending constraints, which became institutionalized as a second source of military spending. This method has reshaped the defense budget and influences how the US pays for military support in Ukraine and elsewhere. The title of "Ghost Budget" is based on the widespread use of the term "ghost", in government reports on the post-9/11 wars, referring to alleged people, places, or projects that turned out to be phantoms, and where the funds vanished.
Bilmes is a former Assistant Secretary and Chief Financial Officer of the US Department of Commerce. She has co-authored the international bestseller The Three Trillion Dollar Warand has written extensively on the costs of war, veterans' issues, national parks, municipal budgeting and financial topics. She is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and a Fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration.