Wednesday, January 30, 2013


Updated July 17, 2013

This week in my INTL 5400 class, students discussed whether US defense spending, the highest in the world, was benefiting the US economy.

The problem with ascertaining defense expenditures is the need to keep some defense budgets away from the public eye, due to national security. One student thought the ratio of US military defense spending to GDP, was 4% (which although the student didn't cite the source, is from the World Bank) , another cited 20% of the US national budget, which is different from GDP. One statistic sounds low, another sounds high.

Here is another conclusion, entirely, which puts defense spending at 22% of the GDP:
"In fiscal year 2014, the federal government will spend around $3.8 trillion. These trillions of dollars make up a considerable chunk – around 22 percent – of the US. economy, as measured by Gross Domestic Product (GDP). That means that federal government spending makes up a sizable share of all money spent in the United States each year."

Another student wrote about how military budgets are difficult to ascertain and sometimes don't include  the costs of actual warfighting. "According to Shea the United States spent $380 billion dollars in 1956 based on 2012 adjusted numbers.  For the Fiscal Year 2013 defense budget, President Obama requested $523 billion. This is approximately a 37% increase in spending when comparing the adjusted numbers.  Shea provides a staggering statistic, however, as he explains the $1 trillion dollars spent to fight in Afghanistan and Iraq (over the life of the wars) were never part of the budget and that those funds were in addition to the normal operating budget.  In addition to the $1 trillion, the cost of maintaining the nuclear arsenal and providing our allies with arms are also not included in the defense budget."

See: Shea, Joe.  “Campaign 2012:  The Gingrich Turn.”  American Reporter Online.  January 22, 2011.,771W/146.html  Accessed July 13, 2013.

Personally, I have tried to research the defense budget in all its complexities and found it difficult.
Students have pointed out the high costs of the War on Terror. Obama is trying to scale back costs by using Special Forces, drones etc, instead of costly boots on the ground wars.

Today, the chances of an American being made a casualty of a foreign terrorist attack are very very low.
1 in 20 million — Chance of dying in a terrorist attack in the United States from 2007 to 2011, according to Richard Barrett, coordinator of the United Nations al Qaeda/Taliban Monitoring Team.
This raises the necessary is a large military budget  today?
According to a 2007 US Chamber of Commerce report, “The more than $70 billion in aerospace and defense sales overseas is important to U.S. national security and the economy because it supports high-quality, high-paying U.S. employment; advances in critical national security areas; improves interoperability with allied forces; and holds down the costs of
equipment purchased by the U.S. military.This study shows that the defense and aerospace industry supports 3.6 million American private sector jobs and requires a supply of the nation’s best and brightest technically trained and skilled talent.”

A 2007 study by the University of Massachusets found that US taxpayer is paying 4.4 percent of the GDP for defense spending  - $600 billion, “eight times the amount of U.S. federal spending on education…The $600 billion military budget creates approximately five million jobs, both within the military itself and in all the civilian industries connected to the military

(Are these two reports consistent? Here students should always do the maths. Could it be that 1.4 million Americans are employed directly by the military?  I’ll let those who are interested do the research…perhaps as a final paper topic.)

The U of Massachusets study found that “by addressing social needs in the areas of health care, education, education, mass transit, home weatherization and infrastructure repairs, we would also create more jobs and, depending on the specifics of how such a reallocation is pursued, both an overall higher level of compensation for working people in the U.S. and a better average quality of jobs.


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