Place Your Bets! Crowdsourcing the Defense Budget Question

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Place Your Bets! Crowdsourcing the Defense Budget Question
By: Ryan Crotty

Think tanks are often asked to provide forecasts aimed at helping policymakers anticipate and plan for “what lies ahead,” but there is a growing body of literature on the wisdom of crowds. So, we at ISP are turning the forecasting question back on our audience, conducting our first attempt at seeking the wisdom of the crowd on one specific national security topic—the U.S. defense budget. The budget is always a popular (if not sexy) topic inside the Beltway and one that lends itself to both relatively concrete potential outcomes and some “time certainty” of conclusion.

On June 12, we posted a poll, asking three relatively simple questions: (1) How will the 2016 defense budget be resolved? (2) On what date will 2016 appropriations (or full year continuing resolution) be signed into law? (3) Will there be a government shutdown? If you have not had a chance to take the survey, it takes about 30 seconds and can be found here, along with background on the options.

With more than 1,000 responses as of June 16, there is enough of a sample size to start reporting initial data. Surprisingly, the two definitive proposals on the table today, the Republican and the president’s budgets, have been chosen the least. Fully half of respondents selected a full-year continuing resolution (CR) as the most likely outcome. This response provides a particularly interesting juxtaposition, in that defense has never had a full-year continuing resolution in the 40 years of the current budget process, but a CR also represents the “do nothing” option. So, it appears that the respondents have less faith in Congress managing to reach some kind of agreement with the White House than overcoming the weight of history. Yet, on the optimistic end of the spectrum, a grand bargain has managed to garner 15 percent of the vote, and a Murray-Ryan–like budget deal has 20 percent of the predictions.

There is wide agreement that the debate over the budget will not lead to a government shutdown (85 percent). The timeline guesses are concentrated on the November 1 to January 31 timeframe (43 percent), which fits recent history. “Before October 1” did surprisingly well, 31 percent, given that such timely action has not been common in recent years. So respondents seemed to be more optimistic here than they are with the actual outcome.

We will continue to track these responses over time and will have periodic updates of results as this debate reaches its conclusion over the coming year. So keep the predictions coming.

Ryan Crotty is a fellow with the International Security Program and deputy director for defense budget analysis at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). Other posts by .

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