U.S. Military Spending Overwhelms the Rest of the World
By Bernie Horn
June 9, 2009 - 12:23pm ET
Yesterday, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) issued its annual report on global military spending. Worldwide, governments spent a record $1.46 trillion on their armed forces in 2008. The United States accounted for 42 percent of the global arms spending. When will we realize that’s simply too much?
Every year, SIPRI issues a Yearbook on armaments, disarmament and international security. Here’s the gist of the data on worldwide military spending:
Top 10 Military Spenders in 2008
(in billions of dollars)
1. United States — 607.0
2. China — 84.9
3. France — 65.7
4. United Kingdom — 65.3
5. Russia — 58.6
6. Germany — 46.8
7. Japan — 46.3
8. Italy — 40.6
9. Saudi Arabia — 38.2
10. India — 30.0
The U.S. spent 7 times more than the second-biggest spender, China. Incidentally, that doesn’t make China the second-strongest military—not by a long shot. SIPRI researcher Sam Perlo-Freeman explains that’s because “a lot of other countries have been at this game for a lot longer than China.”
Put another way, the U.S. spent more on its armed forces than the next 14 countries combined.
SIPRI points out that U.S. arms spending increased by 71 percent during the presidency of George W. Bush and as a result, global military spending is 45 percent greater than it was a decade ago. From 2007 to 2008, U.S. military spending increased by 10 percent which helped make global military spending 4 percent higher in 2008 than 2007.
Are all these guns really necessary? Do we need to spend so much more than other nations?
President Obama and his Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, seem to think so. They proposed a marginal increase in the 2010 military budget and Congress approved. But incredibly, right-wingers attacked the Obama-Gates military increase as a budget cut. They argued that the Obama-Gates plan’s modest cuts in a few weapons programs was going to endanger America’s security.
For example, Republican Sen. James Inhofe, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, thundered:
President Obama is disarming America. Never before has a president so ravaged the military at a time of war.
Can we bring some sanity back to the debate over guns versus butter? The Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) thinks so. The Progressive Caucus proposed a substitute budget which would have spent $479 billion on defense in FY2010, a $69 billion cut from the President's legislation. This proposal is modest—it’s about a 13 percent reduction in spending.
And every bit of the CPC military budget cut is sensible:
- • Savings from a safe, orderly disengagement from Iraq.
- • Cuts in outdated and unneeded weapons systems, including ballistic missile defense (so-called Star Wars), reduce our nuclear arsenal, cut off the F/A 22 Raptor, the DDG 1000 Zumwalt Class Destroyer, the SSN-774 Virginia Class Submarines, the V-22 Osprey, the C-130J transport plane, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, space-based offensive weapons, and more.
- • Implementation of the Government Accountability Office’s recommendations to reduce waste, fraud and abuse in Pentagon procedures.
A government budget is a statement of priorities. Sadly, the current military budget reflects poorly on our nation’s values. We should be investing in our people and our infrastructure. We should be using our limited tax revenues to pay for services that America desperately needs—like health care, energy, a clean environment, education, housing, and a secure retirement for all. We’re not going to be able to afford our commonsense progressive priorities until we get serious about cutting excessive military spending.
The writer is a Senior Fellow at Campaign for America’s Future and author of the book, “Framing the Future: How Progressive Values Can Win Elections and Influence People”.
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Views expressed on this page are those of the authors and not necessarily those of Campaign for America's Future or Institute for America's Future