21 April 2011

World military expenditure, 2010

In all of the posturing and arguing about American "bankruptcy" and the need for economic restraint and the austerity and cutting the budget, I have yet to hear any leader in either party give one single speech about trimming military expenditures.

Data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, via The Dish.
World military expenditure is estimated to have been $1630 billion in 2010, an increase of 1.3 per cent in real terms. This represents the slowest annual rate of increase since the surge in global military expenditure that began after 2001. Between 2001 and 2009, the annual increase averaged 5.1 per cent in real terms.

The increase in 2010 is almost entirely down to the United States, which accounted for $19.6 billion of the $20.6 billion real-terms increase. Excluding the USA, the total in the ‘rest of the world’ barely changed in 2010, increasing by a statistically insignificant 0.1 per cent...

Even in the face of efforts to bring down the soaring US budget deficit, military spending continues to receive privileged treatment. President Obama’s FY2012 budget announced a 5-year freeze on non-security-related discretionary expenditure, but military spending, along with other security spending such as intelligence and Homeland Security is exempt.


  1. Yeah. It'd be political suicide to say it right now, but if we really want to trim the budget, the areas to look at are military and medicare. We could cut ALL social services and school funding and not really dent the deficit. One more really good reason for getting things wrapped up in Iraq and Afghanistan ASAP.

  2. Good chart. I'd rather have it look like that than any other alternative.

  3. It says a lot about our mentality just by looking at that chart and reading what people have to say about it. We have a spectacular military to protect what exactly? Crippling debt, homeless millions, a cracking infrastructure, extremely poor education, limited and selective health care? I hate saying I'm an American because of how our government prioritizes. Education that would increase our future potential is put on the back burner because we have a vendetta against everyone and a mass paranoia that has an insatiable appetite for killing those who we do not agree with. US spends 27% on military and only 5% on education. Yet that bozo in Wisconsin wants to cut millions from education, get rid of unions and lay off teacher. How does that help us at all?! We can afford to trim from 27% of our GDP to give to social programs. Uneducated citizens lead to crime and a downfall in society.

  4. "The second step in our approach is to find additional savings in our defense budget. As Commander-in-Chief, I have no greater responsibility than protecting our national security, and I will never accept cuts that compromise our ability to defend our homeland or America’s interests around the world. But as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Admiral Mullen, has said, the greatest long-term threat to America’s national security is America’s debt."

    Lots more here:


  5. Stan, your opening statement in this post is one I've made many times. People don't dare question the chickenhawks and the armaments lobby. But it isn't all about fear, IMHO. I am certain the "oversight" is intentional. There is a gravy train (read: welfare for the wealthy) that dwarfs by several magnitudes any "welfare queens driving Cadillacs."

    They (pols and lobbyists and news media) pander to the mentality of the "law and order" crowd, and for all intents and purposes that is the same crowd that accepts unquestionably that "someone out there" is just waiting to invade the continental U.S. of A.

    It is all pretty pathetic. But it wasn't always that way. In the '50s and '60s there was always two sides to that issue, which was stated as "guns or butter." Well, the guns side eventually shut up the butter side.

    If we didn't pay for well over 700 military bases in countries that have no business having our military presence, we could put every man, woman and child in the U.S. who needed it on pension and have a sterling national health care system, too.

    It's never been a shortage of tax dollars. It was just that no one would challenge the pro-kick-butt crowd, the ones that have to see "our boys" shooting our "enemy of the week."

  6. BTW, I found out four years after he left office, that Bill Clinton cut something like $400B/yr out of the non-military budget, but he nearly matched that with about $300B/yr of military spending. He did it so quietly that I missed it at the time.

    But I also think that is one of the reasons the reactionary Right hated his guts so much.

    And yet, after the fall of the USSR, cutting the military budget HAD to happen. We couldn't keep arming for World War III if there wasn't any other superpower. Some argued in the 1990s (and were proven right) that we would have to find someone else to demonize, and that it would probably be the Arabs.

  7. Anonymous, I agree with your points. I sincerely think we not only bankrupted the Soviet Union, but - in slower motion - we bankrupted the U.S., too. When the end comes, I don't think we will know till it happens.

    No one predicted the fall of the USSR. Will anyone see our collapse coming?

    I freaking do not want to see it happen. But the system has been broken so badly, I don't know if there is any way to fix it without letting it fall completely apart and starting all over.

    (Okay, I will get off my soapbox now... sorry guys... this is just a really sore point with me.)

  8. And it was Eisenhower who warned us about themilitary industrial complex. I have seven grandchildren, and I fear for their future.

  9. The U.S. military industrial complex and arms manufacturing is a significant portion of the U.S. economy. Cutting military expenditures and closing bases cuts manufacturing and service jobs that have been carefully distributed throughout many congressional districts.

    This is why the U.S. is also big on military aid. It's more useful for the U.S. to give $100 million in weaponry than $100 million. We are currently dumping 'surplus' military equipment on the Libyan rebels. Them taking this stuff does us a favor -- it helps justify the continued redistribution of taxpayer money into this industry. We don't need the stuff, but a lot of people need us to continue producing the stuff. It's no different than the U.S. deciding to use taxpayer money to send Apple computers to everyone in Africa. Except Apple doesn't have as much influence in congress. If it did, I'm sure we'd be sending macs all over the world.

    People fall for this old trick again and again. Note what happened with health care. Did Americans get better health care? No -- we got a law requiring everyone to buy health care INSURANCE. Basically, congress decided to redistribute taxpayer money to the health care insurance industry.

    Which is the next big industry to get shored up by new laws? Well, let's take a look...


  10. One of the biggest reasons for such a large Defense Budget are called the United States Navy and United States Air Force. While the Army is forced to do without (vehicle and body armor among other things), both the Navy and the Air Force are working on introducing the next generation of ships and aircraft. But the problem with that is that no one that we are currently fighting against has anywhere near the capability needed to defeat in a real sense our current equipment. Let's cut a lot of the advanced equipment from the inventory, and cancel much of the rest, and let everyone make do with what they already have.

  11. I'm absolutely sure that there is much to be reformed in defense spending processes, but there should be no confusion: the drivers of our debt and deficits are *not* military spending. It is the Big Three entitlement programs. Period. Defense spending will remain quite consistent over the long term, but the entitlements are going to grow in such a way that in a few short decades, the entire federal budget would have to be devoted to interest payments and Medicare alone.

    I'm all for better oversight of defense spending, but thinking that cutting defense spending is going to fix our financial problems in the long term is silly.

  12. I don't think that we can realistically cut anything from our spending in the near term - the cuts in spending would ripple through our economy and kill any recovery.

    That said, we should at a minimum freeze spending and look to spend money on industries that could actually help us - think of what would happen if we spent $600 billion on green energy and ways to remove CO2 from our atmosphere.

    Meanwhile, the U.S. is the one of the few countries that will not sign the land-mine ban - guess those lobbyists are good for something after all.

  13. It's pretty much what you've got to do when you're so GD dependent on foreign oil.


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