2019 Military Budgets by Nation; the US is Still Spending Far More Than All its Competitors Combined

There are various ways to calculate the total defense spending for a nation depending on whether you include such things as retirement benefits and long-term care for injured veterans, but by any measure the United States spends far more than any other country. The chart above comes from data collected by the International Institute of Strategic Studies, and it shows US military spending approaching $700 billion in 2019. Spending in 2020 will exceed that figure, rising to approximately $725 billion.

We spend 3-4 times as much as our closest rival China, and 10 times the amount that Russia invests in its military. 15% of our federal budget is spent on defense and, overall, America's military budget now constitutes about 36% of all defense spending in the world.

Yes, we spend a lot on defense, but is it too much? There's a wide divergence of opinion on that question and both sides make some good points. Michael E. O’Hanlon of Brookings captured both points of view in a recent article. He notes, for instance, that the defense budget has declined as a percentage of our GDP from a high of 8% during the 1960s to just over 3% today. O'Hanlon also reminds us that we ask our military to do a lot.

Brookings.edu: "One of the reasons the defense budget is so large is that we expect our military to be able to do many things at once. The 2018 National Defense Strategy envisions being able to conduct several missions simultaneously:  maintain a strong nuclear deterrent; protect the homeland from attack by missiles, aircraft, terrorists, and others; defeat China or Russia in conventional combat, and deter North Korea while doing so; and sustain momentum in the “war on terror.”

He's right, but other commentators are quick to note that the sheer size of America's military today exceeds what is reasonably necessary to keep us safe.

Brookings.edu: "By contrast, those who criticize the Pentagon budget often note that it constitutes more than one-third of all global military spending, and three times that of the number two global military power, China. Or they note that estimated 2020 national security discretionary spending of more than $700 billion will exceed the Cold War inflation-adjusted spending average of around $515 billion, expressed in 2020 dollars. Or they note that it dwarfs the size of America’s diplomatic and foreign assistance accounts, or homeland security figures (each in the rough vicinity of $50 billion a year at present)."

So, do we spend too much? That's a good question and a conversation we should have as a nation, but America will always spend a lot on national defense; it's been in our DNA since WWII. So maybe the more important question is whether we are spending the money wisely. That's a topic we will take up in a future article.

#military #research

By: Don Lam & Curated Content


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