When You Wish Upon a Star: 2024 Defense Wish Lists Total More Than $17 Billion

Each year, a variety of Department of Defense (DoD) military branches, combatant commands, and components are required to send Congress a list of “unfunded priorities” that were not included in DoD’s base budget request. These lists, also called UPLs, unfunded requirements (UFRs), or “wish lists,” total more than $17 billion so far for fiscal year (FY) 2024.

NTU can make this estimate thanks in large part to the work of Taxpayers for Common Sense (TCS) in obtaining many of the wish list requests submitted to Congress thus far. Unfortunately there are no public reporting or transparency requirements for the wish lists, meaning taxpayer advocacy and watchdog organizations like NTU and TCS – along with reporters covering DoD and the defense budget – need to do the work of assembling and aggregating the wish lists themselves.

Last year, NTU and TCS were the only organizations – governmental or non-governmental – collecting and reporting on all the wish list requests, which, in aggregate, exceeded $24 billion.

While NTU and TCS have not obtained all wish list requests required by law this year, the ones obtained so far add up to more than $17 billion. The Marine Corps ($3.67 billion), Indo-Pacific Command ($3.48 billion), Air Force ($2.45 billion), and Navy ($2.02 billion) are leading the way.


For reference, the $17.55 billion in FY 2024 wish list requests are more than the entire FY 2023 base discretionary budgets for:

  • The Department of Commerce;
  • The Department of Labor;
  • The Department of Interior;
  • The Department of Treasury (which includes the Internal Revenue Service);
  • The Environmental Protection Agency; and
  • Numerous other government agencies and programs.

Wish lists used to be an informal practice at DoD, but in 2017 Congress started requiring many of the above branches and commands to send them wish lists each and every year. The result has been increased bloat in the defense budget, an end-run around civilian control of DoD and its budget, and distortions and perverse incentives in the defense budget process.

NTU has supported bipartisan, bicameral legislation – led by Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Mike Braun (R-IN), Mike Lee (R-UT), and Angus King (I-ME) in the Senate, and Reps. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) and Tom McClintock (R-CA) in the House – to repeal the statutory wish list requirements.