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  • How Does U.S. Defense Spending Compare with Other Countries?

    In 2008, the United States spent $607 billion on our military. Far more than any other country as British author David McCandless illustrates in the graphic to the right. But as McCandless goes on to show in the rest of this Datablog post, focusing on spending totals alone doe not provide an accurate context to judge U.S. military spending by. The U.S. is a wealthy country with a larger Gross Domestic Product (GDP) than Japan, Germany, and China combined. McCandless compensated for this fact and you can see the result after the jump:

    At 4% of GDP U.S. spending on defense is tied for 8th world wide. And in a historical context it is far below average. Throughout the 1960s the U.S. spent almost 9% of GDP on defense and even during President Ronald Reagan’s defense build up, military spending topped out at 6%. Considering that the U.S. is actively fighting two wars, if anything this amount is too low. Heritage fellow Mackenzie Eaglen details how President Barack Obama’s most recent budget proposals fail to protect the core defense budget here.

    Posted in Security [slideshow_deploy]

    21 Responses to How Does U.S. Defense Spending Compare with Other Countries?

    1. randy sa tx says:

      and we have people complaining that health care cost 800 billion for 6 years.we need to take care of our own people health.

    2. S GOEL, INDIA says:

      I have no problems with 4% of GDP spent on Defence in the US. However, how this amount gets spent leaves much to be desired. GAO says that the accounts of defence department are not adequately audited.

      There are several stories how bolts and nuts required by the army are purchased at several dollars per set when the same thing is available at Wall mart for a few cents. This needs to be corrected.

    3. Todd, Albany OR says:

      randy sa in texas,

      There are apparently 30 million people in this country that don't have health insurance at any given moment.

      If we spent 1/10th the combined cost of the TARP and the 1st Stimulus to buy every one of them a $2500 HSA deposit and then gave them all tax credits to pay for the (significantly lower than average) premiums on their HSA-compatable, high-deductable catastrophic insurance policires; the purported reason for the health care takeover would be solved.

      I'll bet that some of these people might even voluntarily sign up for a payment plan to pay back their debt to society after they get back on their feet just because it would be the honorable thing to do.

      Done. Problem solved.

      Then we could work on fixing the real problems with health care costs correctly instead of selling out our future generations.

    4. Barbara Frances Delo says:

      As you write in the article, it is important to look at US military spending in the context of the size of the US compared to other nations.

      It is also important to recognize that the US plays a critical role as a protector of other democratic and emerging democratic states throughout the world. It does this through agreements like the ones with Taiwan and Japan, through alliances like NATO and through its support of many emerging regimes. There are many nations that owe their safety and security to the United States. Some of those nations do not have the size or economic strength to survive on their own.

      Finally, it is critical to recognize the limits of information we have on the military capability of nations like China, Korea, the cresent of Muslim

      nations from North Africa to Indonesia. North Korea successfully developed a stealth nuclear program under our noses, China has an official policy of "strategic underreporting" for the purpose of "tactical advantage" according to its own leadership, and there have been numerous instances of transfers of nuclear material from China and Russia around the globe…most recently from Russia to Venezuala according to an article in Fox News just this morning.

      Make no mistake, the security of the western world is to a large degree dependant on the deterrent effect and the respect accorded the US military. It's sad that there are those who would have us feel ashamed of it.

      • A Human says:

        We, in the rest of the world beg to differ…you are not making us safe…you are killing and maiming us in our homes, murdering our babies and laying our country to ruins. You destroy our DNA with filthy weapons like Depleted Uranium and White Phosphorus. You take our children's limbs and lives with cluster munitions and call us terrorists. You destroy our farms and destroy our environment. You steal our resources on lies and deception. You are shameless brutal Imperialists. Somehow the US citizenry accepts/justifies this as their right.

    5. Sandra Driscoll says:

      Obama is a globalist (remember the Global Poverty Act he tried to push through the Senate) and therefore most likely not too concerned about defense. His actions continue to weaken the USA: Our country is already bankrupt and Congress keeps adding new spending programs.. entitlement costs, such as the hugely expensive Health Care Plan, (the huge tax writeoffs for the large companies like AT&T),the economy, healthcare.

      It seems to me that he is not trying to strengthen the USA but weaken us. The huge deficit will harm the country, weaken our dollar and negate our investments.

    6. Don Harper, Lubbock, says:

      Let us not forget that defense is one of the few Constitutional duties of the central government. Transferring wealth from one citizen to another, even in the name of healthcare, is most definitely NOT constitutional.

    7. Drew Page, IL says:

      I agree with Tod in Albany, OR. Perhaps this option could have been discussed had not the Republicans been locked out of the closed door meetings in the Senate.

      I think our friend Randy in Tx just likes to pull the chain of Heritage followers. He would probably be more at home with Move On.Org.

    8. Al Wunsch, Fl says:

      The problem with comparing "defense spending" of the U.S. to other countries is that part of the defense budget is for what is really foreign aid and much is spent, not on building up the military or even re equipping the military but on doing the job that Europe and other countries should be doing to maintain peace in the world. As the U.S. winds down it's policy of being the worlds big brother or policeman, chaos and overreaching by other countries will increase in the world. In the past, our policy has been to try to contain the "bad guys" and encourage democracy on the basis that democratic governed countries don't wage war. Now, we are encouraging others to pick up the slack and that, most likely, will result in the "bad guys" picking up the slack.

    9. Brad Kelley, Marylan says:

      JFK predicted that 30 nations would possess nuclear weapons by the turn of the century. There are 9 and we are a decade into the new century. The US has acted as a nuclear deterrent in many ways and it has worked. Granted, the main argument is why should we not have nukes when the US has so many, but saying we will not use nukes even if we are attacked with chemicals is like saying come and get me to some of these tin pot dictators.

    10. Pingback: Unto the Breach » Military Roundup 8 Apr 2010

    11. Misha Grey, Michigan says:

      This is spin at its finest. Recasting spending in terms of percentage of GDP is nothing more than a technique of lying with statistics. The simple fact is that the US spends more on warfare than ALL OTHER COUNTRIES COMBINED. I'm not complaining. I'm lucky to live in the world's dominant country.

    12. Bigbird, Montana says:

      I totally support the U.S. Military however this country must drastically reduce its spending in which every aspect of the government must take a hit. Our government has become too big and must be reduced.

      We did not need another entitlement program like the Health Care Bill which is not only going to help bring this country down but will further indoctrinate our children a slave to the government. We need to make our children work for their future instead of letting them become video game couch potatoes expecting Uncle Sam to take care of their lives. Our country was built on values that have been lost by a lot of Americans.

      With the government stealing the money from social security and Medicare, do you really think they are going to save the money they will be collecting for the Health Care Bill? Do you really believe they will adequately run the medical system? Look at the VA…. they can’t even run the post office in the black.

      If we used our military the correct way by deploying, taking care of the problem without a leash and come home, our troops in Afghanistan and Iraq would be home now. We can still have the best military might in the world by making cuts, identifying the waste and by cutting the spending that we send to other countries under the guise of military spending. We should not be “nation building”. It is just a matter of time before Iraq and Afghanistan return to their former self when we leave.

      Let innovative Americans not the government implement solutions to our problems. Americans are the answer to climbing out of this recession. The government is bankrupting this country and with the current leadership, they will collapse our country.

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    14. rodney canterbury says:

      Yes, and look at the sterling company we are keeping in the Top 10.

    15. Samuel Hyman says:

      Why is Israel ommitted?

    16. Pingback: Global Security Monitor - Center for Advanced Defense Studies

    17. Cay Borduin, Oregon says:

      You aren't asking the right question. Why do we need such a huge defense budget? Putting it in the context of the GDP makes the percentage shrink, but it doesn't make it sensible.

    18. Ken Devol says:

      Question: how many nuclear weapons are required to provide an effective deterrent? Would any country, confronted with the threat of say 500 high megaton nukes, not be deterred?

      Question: It's true that we provide security for many other countries, and the list is growing. Is this, then, to be our role in the world? How much responsibility beyond home defence, should we take on? Our major NATO allies spend at a much lower rate than we do, and obviously count on us to provide protections they should properly provide themselves. Is this appropriate?

      We have created a kind of military welfare state and are tacitly encouraging the dependency of our allies, to our own economic detriment.

    19. Tom Bise, Wuhan, Chi says:

      We're spending 170 billion in the war against Iraq and Afghan. Afghans GDP is around 12 billion. So instead of spending 100 billion in war against Afghan why don't we take about 50 billion a yr and build some hospitals, schools, universities and build up their infrastructure which they have none. This is so ridiculous its just unbelievable. Obama is as bad as Bush.


    20. Pobre, Indio, CA, US says:

      Let's stop wasting money on countries like Taiwan; let the Chinese use their military to take back what is rightly theirs. The Chinese military can kill all the Taiwanese and then charge each family for the bullets that were used to kill their relatives; this is quite economical to say the least. Additionally, Let South Korea go to the North. Kim is a "hell of a guy." Why waste the money? The US can use these funds to pay for the enormous debt that Obamas has incurred over the last two years–twice that of what Bush incurred over eight years. Now this is "change that I can believe in."

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