US Military Spending is Highest in World

Vinayak Narain Srivastava


The phenomenal expenditure incurred on military by wealthy nations, particularly United States, not only diverts precious resources from improving lives of their people, but also ensures that they dominate the world through actual use or show of force in order to push their economic interests. Nations will incur some expenditure to defend their territorial integrity. But what they spend currently on defense is far in excess of what may be reasonably required. Such an excessive expenditure is being done at the cost of other social obligations of a society and the State.


Military spending by the United States is in a different league altogether. For 2015, out of the total budget proposal of $3.9 trillion, over $648 billion or 16.3 percent are to be spent on defense.


To put this in perspective, look at how US defense spending compares with other countries. In 2013, the US spent $640 billion – more than the next 9 countries ranked in descending order of military expenditure that add up to $607 billion, according to SIPRI. [China $188 billion; Russia, $88 billion; Saudi Arabia, $67 billion; France $61 billion; UK $58 billion; Germany $49 billion; Japan $49 billion; India $47 billion; and S.Korea $34 billion].


Of the total money spent by the whole world on military and defense in 2013, US accounted for 37 percent; China, 11 percent; Russia, 5 percent; Saudi Arabia, 3.8 percent; Japan 3.7 percent; France 3.5 percent; UK 3.3 percent; Germany 2.8 percent; Japan 2.8 percent; India 2.7 percent; S.Korea 1.9 percent; Brazil 1.8 percent; and the rest of the world, 26 percent. The gap between US, ranked first in military spending and China ranked second is glaring.


Six out of ten top military spenders, UK, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Germany, S. Korea and France, are very close military allies of United States, and account for 18 percent of global military expenditure. Thus United States and its top close allies together account for a whopping 55 percent of what the entire world spends on defense.


At the same time, United States Federal Debt approached $18 trillion with a debt-to-GDP ratio at 101 percent as on January 2014. It is interesting to note that Afghanistan and Iraq wars, cost each American household about $17000 and this figure is expected to rise by about 50 percent “with bills yet to be received”, according to Joseph Stiglitz.


Now look at another aspect of US defense spending. About one third of the US govt.’s annual expenditure is “discretionary spending”, that is, it is not mandated by law where this amount has to be spent. Out of the $1.16 trillion proposed for 2015 for such discretionary spending, $640 billion or 55.2 percent will be spent on military or defense. Compare this to $56.1 billion to be spent on Social Security, Unemployment and Labor; $56.7 billion on Medicare and Health; $60.9 billion on Housing and Community; $29.2 billion on Science; and $12.8 billion on Food and Agriculture.


This data raises some pertinent issues and highlights certain deepening trends. Firstly, there is an ever-increasing emphasis on and enhancement of military expenditure of major world powers. At the core of all this, is obviously, a desire to strengthen the military capabilities, and perpetuate the dominance of United States and the West, as leading military powers in the world. This is to ensure that their economic interests around the world, whether reasonable or unreasonable, are protected, backed by military might, in disregard to the sovereignty of other nations, who are militarily weaker.


Secondly, this military might of the West, led by United States, establishes it as a unquestioned global political hegemon, such that their political supremacy remains unchallenged. This gives them unprecedented and unparalleled diplomatic power in international relations. Such dominance allows them to pursue their interest-based foreign policy under all and any circumstance, and often in disregard to values of democracy and human rights, for example, support to Israel, and several other barbaric regimes around the world.


Thirdly, it further buttresses the role of military-industrial complexes in their economy, thereby creating a strong lobby of vested interests, whose economic interests lie in perpetuating a war-based or militaristic economy and an advanced military-industrial complex without precedence. Such a global reality is inimical to the establishment of global peace and harmony and international and diplomatic relations based on mutual respect, equality of nations and peaceful coexistence.


Fourthly, such a high spending on military invariably presupposes overwhelming nuclear capabilities, possession of excessive quantity of nuclear arsenal, thereby giving one or a few nations extraordinary edge over others in terms of nuclear wherewithal and putting the world in danger of nuclear accidents.


Fifthly, such a high resource allocation puts a strain on the economy itself, since military spending beyond reasonable limits is essentially an unproductive investment, and is a drain on available resources that can be better utilized for further economic progress.