Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Anup Shah

High Military Expenditure in Some Places

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  • by Anup Shah
  • This Page Last Updated Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes … known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few.… No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.

James Madison, Political Observations, 1795

Table of contents for this page

This web page has the following sub-sections:

World Military Spending

Global military expenditure and arms trade form the largest spending in the world at over $950 billion in annual expenditure, as noted by the prestigous Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SPIRI), for 2003. Furthermore:

World military spending in 2003 increased by about 11 per cent in real terms. This is a remarkable rate of increase, even more so given that it was preceded by an increase of 6.5 per cent in 2002.

  • Over two years world military spending increased by 18 per cent in real terms, to reach $956 billion (in current dollars) in 2003.
  • High-income countries account for about 75 per cent of world military spending but only 16 per cent of world population.
  • The combined military spending of these countries was slightly higher than the aggregate foreign debt of all low-income countries and 10 times higher than their combined levels of official development assistance in 2001.
  • … There is a large gap between what countries are prepared to allocate for military means to provide security and maintain their global and regional power status, on the one hand, and to alleviate poverty and promote economic development, on the other.

The main reason for the increase in world military spending is the massive increase in the United States, which accounts for almost half of the world total…. In the absence of [appropriations for the new war on terror, and on Iraq], US military expenditure would still show a significant increase, but at a much slower rate, and world military spending would show a rise of 4 per cent rather than 11 per cent in 2003.

… While US military expenditure is set to continue to grow and will continue to propel world military spending, the pace is likely to fall back somewhat in the next few years. In the longer term it is doubtful whether current levels will be economically and politically sustainable.

Elisabeth Skons, Catalina Perdomo, Sam Perlo-Freeman and Petter Stalenheim, Military expenditure, Chapter 10, SPIRI Yearbook 2004, Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, June 9, 2004

U.S. Military Spending

The United States, being the most formidable military power, it is worth looking at their spending.

The U.S. military budget request by the Bush Administration for Fiscal Year 2007 is $462.7 billion. (This includes the Defense Department budget, funding for the Department of Energy (which includes nuclear weapons) and “other” which the source does not define. It does not include other items such as money for the Afghan and Iraq wars—$50 billion for Fiscal Year 2007 and an extra $70 billion for FY 2006, on top of the $50 billion approved by Congress.)

These figures typically do not include combat figures, so 2001 onwards, the Afghan war, and 2003 onwards, the Iraq war costs are not in this budget. As of early 2006, Congress had already approved an additional funding total of $300 billion for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Compared to the rest of the world, these numbers are indeed staggering.

In Context: U.S. Military Spending Versus Rest of the World

Consider the following:

The above sources compare the given fiscal year budget request with the latest figures for other countries, which are sometimes two years old. Still using those statistics for other countries, however, a comparison can be made here of the US Fiscal Year 2005 spending against other equivalent data:

  • The US military spending was almost two-fifths of the total.
  • The US military spending was almost 7 times larger than the Chinese budget, the second largest spender.
  • The US military budget was almost 29 times as large as the combined spending of the six “rogue” states (Cuba, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Sudan and Syria) who spent $14.65 billion.
  • It was more than the combined spending of the next 14 nations.
  • The United States and its close allies accounted for some two thirds to three-quarters of all military spending, depending on who you count as close allies (typically NATO countries, Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan and South Korea)
  • The six potential “enemies,” Russia, and China together spent $139 billion, 30% of the U.S. military budget.

Some of the above statistics come from organizations such as the Center for Defense Information, and the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation. They often include a global comparison. The one for Fiscal Year 2007 has been produced as a graph here:

Military spending in 2005 ($ Billions, and percent of total)
CountryDollars (billions)% of totalRank

Source: U.S. Military Spending vs. the World, Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, February 6, 2006


  • Figures are for latest year available, usually 2005. Expenditures are used in a few cases where official budgets are significantly lower than actual spending.
  • * 2004 Figure.
  • Source uses FY 2007 for US figure (and includes Iraq and Afghan spending). I have used 2005 to try and keep in line with other countries listed (but I have NOT included the Iraq and Afghan operations cost which would be another $75 billion).
  • Due to rounding, some percentages may appear as zero.

If you are viewing this table on another site, please see http://www.globalissues.org/Geopolitics/ArmsTrade/Spending.asp for further details.

United States420.743%1
United Kingdom51.15%4
Saudi Arabia21.32%9
South Korea20.72%10
North Korea*5.51%25

Compare the military spending with the entire budget of the United Nations:

The United Nations and all its agencies and funds spend about $10 billion each year, or about $1.70 for each of the world’s inhabitants. This is a very small sum compared to most government budgets and it is just a tiny fraction of the world’s military spending. Yet for nearly two decades, the UN has faced a debilitating financial crisis and it has been forced to cut back on important programs in all areas. Many member states have not paid their full dues and have cut their donations to the UN’s voluntary funds. As of November 30, 2005, members arrears to the Regular Budget topped $695 million, of which the United States alone owed $587 million (84% of the regular budget).

UN Financial Crisis, Global Policy Forum (as of February 2006)

The UN was created after World War II with leading efforts by the United States and key allies.

Generally, compared to Cold War levels, the amount of military spending and expenditure in most nations has been reduced. For example, global military spending declined from $1.2 trillion in 1985 to $809 billion in 1998, though in 2005 has risen to almost one trillion. The United States’ spending, while reduced compared to the Cold War era, is still close to Cold War levels.

In 1997 alone, half of USA’s aid was related to military aid/trade—and most of that was to countries that are already wealthy, like Israel, or Turkey (which has often been one of the largest recipients of US military aid and has often been criticized for its human rights violations and crackdowns). Compare that to very poor countries like Sub-Saharan African nations that received very little aid.

During his 2000 election campaign, President George Bush had promised an an additional 45 billion dollars over nine years to the military budget. Yet, that increase was seen in just the Fiscal Year 2003 request alone. This large increase is attributed to the “War on Terror”.

Some regions around the world are also beginning to see an increase in spending. Especially in Asia.

For those hoping the world can decreaes its military spending, a research for SPIRI suggests that “while the invasion [of Iraq] may have served as warning to other states with weapons of mass destruction, it could have the reverse effect in that some states may see an increase in arsenals as the only way to prevent a forced regime change.”

In this new era, traditional military threats to the USA are fairly remote. All of their enemies, former enemies and even allies do not pose a military threat to the United States. For a while now, critics of large military spending have pointed out that most likely forms of threat to the United States would be through terrorist actions, rather than conventional warfare, and that the spending is still geared towards Cold War-type scenarios and other such conventional confrontations.

[T]he lion’s share of this money is not spent by the Pentagon on protecting American citizens. It goes to supporting U.S. military activities, including interventions, throughout the world. Were this budget and the organization it finances called the “Military Department,” then attitudes might be quite different. Americans are willing to pay for defense, but they would probably be much less willing to spend billions of dollars if the money were labeled “Foreign Military Operations.”

The Billions For “Defense” Jeopardize Our Safety, Center For Defense Information, March 9, 2000

And, of course, this will come from American tax payer money. Many studies and polls show that military spending is one of the last things on the minds of American people.

Furthermore, “national defense” category of federal spending in 1997, for example, amounted to 51% of the United States discretionary budget (the money the President/Administration and Congress have direct control over, and must decide and act to spend each year. This is different to mandatory spending, the money that is spent in compliance with existing laws, such as social secuity benefits, medicare, paying the interest on the national debt and so on). This has been similar in recent years too. For example,

  • For 2003
    • The total budget request for discretionary spending was $767 billion, of which 51.6% was the military budget — $396 billion.
    • The next two largest items were education and health, getting $52bn and $49bn dollars, (6.8% and 6.4% of discretionary budget) respectively.
  • For 2004
    • It is similar to the previous year.
    • The total budget request for discretionary spending was $782 billion, 51% of which was the military budget — $399 billion.
    • The next two largest items were education and health, getting $55bn and $49bn (7% and 6.3% of discretionary budget) respectively.
  • For 2005
    • It is also similar to previous years.
    • The total budget request for discretionary spending was $820 billion, 51% of which was the military budget — $421 billion.
    • The next two largest items were education and health, getting $60bn and $51bn (7% and 6.2% of discretionary budget) respectively.
  • For 2006
    • It is also similar to previous years.
    • The total budget request for discretionary spending is $840.5 billion, 52% of which is the military budget — $438.8 billion.
    • The next two largest items are education and health, getting $58.4bn and $51bn (6.9% and 6.1% of discretionary budget) respectively.
  • For 2007
    • It is also similar to previous years.
    • The total budget request for discretionary spending is $873 billion, 52.7% of which is the military budget — $460 billion.
    • The next two largest items are education and health, getting $56.8bn and $53.1bn (6.5% and 6.1% of discretionary budget) respectively.

For facts, statistics, research and news on US military spending, also visit the Center for Defense Information (CDI) web site. They have a section on US Military Spending.

But it is not just the U.S. military spending. In fact, as Jan Oberg argues, westerm militarism often overlaps with civilian functions affecting attitudes to militarism in general. As a result, when revelations come out that some Western militaries may have trained dictators and human rights violators, the justification given may be surprising, which we look at in the next page.

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Sometimes links to other sites may break beyond my control. Where I can, I try to provide alternative links to backups or reposted versions here.


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