US military spending

Is US military spending too high?

The purpose of this post is to ask if the United States spends too much money on the Army, Navy, Air force etc. The post will look at it from an economic and national defense perspective.

Who is the US fighting

For the United States what is the optimal level of US military spending? I think this question also asks another. Who are the enemies of the US and what do we need to defend ourselves?

The enemies of the US are not old cold war foes. The next war will not be fought with million dollar tanks in pitted battles like Kursk, multimillion dollar submarines disrupting merchant marine supplies like in the Pacific Island hopping strategy of WWII. Nor will battleships on the high seas dueling it out like the dreadnaughts of WWI. So I guess the question is why do we stock up on such things? Why do we buy these to keep old organizational structures of military command full?

The modern battlefield is the unseen enemy. Homegrown threats and unconventional war only to be won with technology and intelligence. Also there is a lot to be said the best way to defeat an enemy is change their heart.

Going in with guns blazing does nothing but draw up legions of militia that would never have been an enemy in the first place. It is like 1984, we must keep the war going, the system perpetuates itself.

The warfare of the 21st century will be as different as the 20th century was to Napoleonic tactics of rifle and saber or 16th century tactics of musket and pike are from today. If the US does not see this they will lose a war of attention when military expenditures become too high and drain the resources of the good people of this country. Wars of attrition are not won.

Therefore, understanding the way war is conducted in the 21st century should be the basis of the US defense budget, rather than incremental adjustments to last years budget based on cold warrior mentalities.

What is the level of US military spending?

The US budget for military spending is 1.5 trillion dollars in 2011. The budget is bloated and miss-allocated. For example:

  • We increased the budget for Virginia class submarines 28% year to year. We are still ordering Poseidon ASW (anti submarine warfare planes). Yeah those will be useful.
  • On the other hand we only spend a fraction on SBIRS which is a spaced based infrared system. FBI counter terrorism is only 2.7 billion a fraction of this total budget.
  • Considering the type of warfare we are fighting does it make sense we are building ASWs and not funding FBI counter terrorism at a higher levels? We are putting legions of grunts on the ground on the other side of the world, but what about more money to fight threats at home?
  • What about bringing the troops back home including the bases we have in Germany and on EU soil? Did you know the USA has 42,000 soldiers in Germany and Italy. Those are a lot of young intelligent people who could be doing something else besides guarding rich Germany.

How much of the budget do we allocate for defense

We spend too much and on the wrong things. 700 Billion is not a real number anymore by the way. It is about 1.5 trillion, but those numbers are so large does it mean anything.

Defense is about 25% of the national budget (4.7% of GDP). Is this level optimal? What if it was 5% or 1% of the total budget? What if we did not build attack submarines and such and had a budget for 50 billion for FBI anti-terrorism would that not make more sense? I think before then next national strategy happens we have to rethink the way we are thinking about national defense.

On a positive note this is nowhere near the cold war percentages of over 50% of the total US budget, but they were different times. The United States had a stronger economy as the whole world was rebuilding from WWII and the other half was communist. The USA was the economic leader by a mile. No one could touch us. These are different economic times.

Before the people of the USA goes bankrupt we have to think if 50% of the discretionary spending on military is the right amount.

The US budget is 6 times the budget of China. And do you think China is worried about its defense?

Who is a patriot?

Is a patriot someone who beats drums and  supports a system that will lead the US down the path of decay? America is losing its edge because of special interests, including misallocated US military spending which is draining United States resources. Military expenditures are always unproductive expenditures. It is like a house with no insulation.

My conclusion is amp up anti-terrorism efforts and reduce cold war weapons to nil. Save the USA by passing a balanced budget amendment and become strong economically and this will help our ability to defend ourselves. Politicians are dancing around the issue of reallocating the military because of political reasons of special interests. Robert Gates tried to convey some small cuts were big changes. They are not. Military intelligence is a contradiction in terms.



2 Replies to “US military spending”

  1. Paul Lemma says:

    1. There are several problems when using numbers, you can make them say anything you want. The avg Military Budget to GNP btwn 1987-2011 is approx. 3.9% depending if you use the CIA, WB, DoD, CBO or UN data. If you avg. out the percentage of the military from the whole Federal budget between 1987-2011 the avg. is approx. 25%. The remaining portion of the budget breakdown as follows: 22% gen. govt operations for the executive, congressional, judicial and executive branches; the remaining 77% is distributed amongst the domestic programs such as roads/highways, social security, medicare/Medicaid,education, homeland security,etc.

    2. Using the above figures the GNP grew from $7.3T in 1987 to over $15.8T in 2012.

    3. Now you must look at the Federal revenue (money the Federal Gov’t takes is from taxes to fees and other sources. The revenue grew from $777B (19% GNP) in 1987 to $2.2T (16%).

    4. Look at the constants and the variable in relationship to GNP and Federal Budget.

    5. Now one must assess what are the basic primary roles of government as defined within the U.S. Constitution. Defense/military is the key to ensure the primary functions: 1)to protect the rights, liberty and freedom of citizens, 2) to regulate and protect commerce, 3) the ability to tax to support the governing and obligations of the Union of the States, 4) make treaties and enforce them, 5) the establishment and function of a postal service, 6) establish and maintain the three branches of the government. All other government initiatives are subordinate to the aforementioned.

    6. Our representative form of government as it relates to funding must be able to define the priorities of what are the needs, wants and desires. Needs takes priority over all others.

    1. Mark Biernat says:

      We can slice the data anyway we want and torture the numbers until they confess to support our points but the military is a waste. Some people say 50% of the budget is military.

      Further and most important, lives are destroyed foreign and American, and who knows how many Einsteins or Mozarts we have extinguished. All for what cheap oil from Kuwait so we can drive our cars around. Oh the oil, in the future is going to China anyway. Or children that is not reported and just labeled collateral damage.

      The biggest economic cost is opportunity cost. You will never convince me that the military is not the biggest waste of resources based on the idea of opportunity cost. That is if you spend most of the money elsewhere or not at all, society would benefit more.

      It makes the US poor and in debt. The spending is more about supporting the contractors and the industrial military complex. Just like Vietnam was a waste like Iraq and all the other wars. Someday grey hair old men that beat the drum but will not send their own kids in battle will see that.

      What is defense? I do not know if the US cares too much about its citizens. I mean when I was attacked as I was a US citizen abroad I had a lackluster support. Trust me most of the military is not about defending you as much as their jobs.

      Homeland security and intelligence collecting and the national guard is. But sending the marines to battle in Iraq was criminal.

      What about our streets? I live near Jacksonville where people are shot daily. Money could better be spend at home that stirring up trouble up anger abroad.

      Police a more important job to protect you than the billion dollar subs we are still cranking out.

      911 was not caused by lack of battleships, tanks and men in uniform, but a lack of intelligence about the reality the current situation in the world. Old generals basing their ideas on outdated concepts about the enemy.

      You paying the bill and while I look around me in Florida many people living in trailers, oh except the ones with nice military or consulting for the military jobs.

      Each individual will have to answer to God as to why for some abstract political ideology they destroyed one of his miracles. Many veterans come back with brain injury, ADD, unable to integrate into society.

      Talked to a vet this morning who cooly said he would take out people with his gun in Iraq no problem. I saw no regret or though on his face, only a laugh. Is that the society you want?

      People often joined the military for economic reasons lets be honest. But when they come out that really did not solve the problem they are just a few years older.

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