• The Heritage Network
    • Resize:
    • A
    • A
    • A
  • Donate
  • Defense Spending as Percentage of GDP Well Below Historical Average

    Lost in all the typical liberal hyperventilating over increased defense spending during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, is just how low current defense spending compared to the last 45 years. The Heritage Foundation recently released its 2008 Federal Revenue and Spending Book of Charts and among the many gems is this graphic on National Defense Spending as a Percentage of GDP from 1962-2007:

    Posted in Security [slideshow_deploy]

    13 Responses to Defense Spending as Percentage of GDP Well Below Historical Average

    1. Jake McGee, Canadia says:

      It's not the percentage of GDP that matters. It's the percentage of government expense relative to government income that matters.

      So, if the gov't is solvent and only spends 1% on military – no big deal. If the gov't is broke and spends 30% or more on the military (including VA and Dept. of Energy's nuclear arms section, and other mil. related expenses) which is where we really are, the answer is: you're screwed and need to wildly cut back on military expenditures, as their expense is multiplied by the interest rate on the debt sustaining it.

      In short, you're wrong. Thanks for playing.

      • Robert DeForest says:

        yes, you're partly correct. But % of GDP is a historical metric in comparing what the nation produces vs. what it spends on one of the few constitutionally mandated duties, namely National Defense. The nation is currently contributing overall less of the economy than it historically has over the past 45 years. However, given the decline in the economy, the relatively flat revenue, and spending on a myriad of other "programs," of course then the budget is out of whack. Do we raise revenue by increased taxes…do we cut across the board all of the programs…do we put in place economic policies and incentives in order to grow the economy (and thus revenues)? Perhaps a combination of all three in a 10/10/80 target rate? That's what Clinton (and the Republican-led congress) did in the 1990s.

      • BOb says:

        Your statements are simnply lies period

    2. Brian says:

      The "leaders" of this country are exactly like the old Soviet leaders. Here, as there, the country is imploding but they refuse to face reality. So, like the SU we are headed for the dustbin of history.

    3. Brendan, California says:

      Sure, the administration is cutting spending as a percent of GDP. Notice the conspicuous lack of the elephant in the room, The Soviet Union. There is no reason to spend a colossal stack of cash on something that no longer exists. Perhaps, the compiler of this chart should have considered an average that included spending before the Cold War, in which case we are probably still above average

    4. Gale says:

      The likelihood of the government going bankrupt, having an undereducated workforce, and having a majority of Americans in poor health, far exceeds the possibility of the country being invaded. Perhaps we should defend our quality of life.

    5. Marc , USA says:

      When the soviet union collapsed they were spending 30% of their GDP on defense. Ours is holding steady at 5.4% (by my calculations, and I'd prefer we spent 6+%). The problem many overlook is that our social spending is at about 18% of our GDP and climbing sharply. This social spending trajectory and level of government interference in the economy is what's unsustainable, not defense.

    6. Eric says:

      As for the first posrt, why would defense need to be cut if it's the same percentage that we've been historically spending? Either we've increased spending elsewhere over time (SS and Medicare/Medicaid), and/or revenues have not increased at the same rate as GDP. All gov't spending shoudl be a percentage of GDP or as % of revenues…just liek anyone has to run a budget. So defense would get let's say 20% = $800B. If gov't revenues increase 10%, then defense gets $880B; etc. All spending woudl go up and down with revenues = no more deficits.

    7. Jbar says:

      It's 2008 and you post a graph that ends in 2000. How lame is that!!!

    8. Jbar says:

      For you to post a chart in 2008, which END in 2000, right at the start of the Bush admin and his big defense run-up, is just plain dishonest! Pants On Fire!

    9. russ says:

      Okay … a reality check for those of you stage-one-thinkers want to cut defense spending. Please read the Constitution … you will find that the Federal Government's only mandate for spending is that of maintaining a national defense… to protect us. There is no Constitutional mandate to "take care of" us. The current budget calls for some 58% of it to go to pensions, health care and welfare … I call that redistribution of wealth, socialism, and a pathetic state of affairs for a country founded on self determination. By the way, Jbar … Defense spending under Bush was still around 6% of GDP, you'd know that if you had done some research. The chart isn't dishonest. It simply illustrates a point; that defense spending isn't our problem. Now … being too lazy to look up the stats for yourself … that's a whole other issue.

    10. Bilbo says:

      Just to clear this up…

      Have a nice day!

    Comments are subject to approval and moderation. We remind everyone that The Heritage Foundation promotes a civil society where ideas and debate flourish. Please be respectful of each other and the subjects of any criticism. While we may not always agree on policy, we should all agree that being appropriately informed is everyone's intention visiting this site. Profanity, lewdness, personal attacks, and other forms of incivility will not be tolerated. Please keep your thoughts brief and avoid ALL CAPS. While we respect your first amendment rights, we are obligated to our readers to maintain these standards. Thanks for joining the conversation.

    Big Government Is NOT the Answer

    Your tax dollars are being spent on programs that we really don't need.

    I Agree I Disagree ×

    Get Heritage In Your Inbox — FREE!

    Heritage Foundation e-mails keep you updated on the ongoing policy battles in Washington and around the country.