For those people who are truly concerned about deficits — real Hawks, not deficit peacocks — should take a look at this chart from The International Institute for Strategic Studies.

Look at the comparative defense budgets of various countries, versus what can only be described as the unique military budget of the USA; if you are serious about balancing federal debt, any plan should include significantly reduced spending in this budget line:


Click to enlarge:

Source: The International Institute for Strategic Studies

Category: Digital Media, War/Defense

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

45 Responses to “Military Balance 2012”

  1. cdub says:

    I thought I knew. I was wrong. Wow.

  2. bear_in_mind says:

    It’s positively ridiculous!

    The majority of this money is being spent on “protecting” natural resources (read: oil) we can’t really protect in places such as Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. This is the best use of our blood and treasure? At the same time our infrastructure is literally falling apart?!

    One other observation: Can you imagine the ‘true’ cost of gasoline if one-third or one-half of this budgeted sum were added to the per-gallon price at the pump?

  3. techy says:

    I think repubs dont want to say it loud but their goal is world domination, and this works well for the military industrial complex.

  4. rocketgas says:

    Kinda interesting, but the only meaningful number is hidden right in the middle. Cut that one half and you get maybe 20% deficit reduction. Possibly, but this isn’t where the meat of the problem is.

  5. inessence says:

    Defense still small when compared to the absolute and growth of U.S. entitlement spending.

  6. G3 says:

    To point out the obvious, Greece has a bigger Air Force than U.K. (need to go to the site and enlarge middle graph about NATO).

    Just surreal.

    To be perfectly clear, everyone wants to be slim without exercising and reducing food intake. We also want our gratification instant. The Muppets will never be able to think two things at the same time: entitlement and deficit. The Greeks think this way. We think this way.

  7. UncleMilty says:

    I agree that other countries should be “paying their fair share,” but defense spending is not the cuase of our current problems. Defense spending is $700B and trending down if we get out of Iraq/Afganistan. Social Secuirty, Medicare, Medicaid, unfunded pensions, etc. represent more than 2x defense spending and are projected to EXPLODE (pun intended) in the future.

    If we took military spending to zero, we would still have massive deficits as far as the eye can see…

    If there’s fat to cut, I’m all for it. But this is a distraction from the real issue that no one wants to deal with…entitlements…who gets them and who is going to pay for them.

  8. Greg0658 says:

    Saudi Arabia is doing that well on the GDP scale ? and how can we the USA be positive 4.91% with trade deficits every month FOREVER

    further onT – its all good because cooked GDP is providing tv stations income via rascal scooters to the disabled via medicare and MIC jobs are jobs … that recycle flow of cash in-to/out-of localities and industries .. any flow is a positive when your in the right business and mindset

    don’t get me wrong – love stuff and police – its the bunk I’m having trouble with

  9. rd says:

    Asymmetric threats. As Iraq and Afghanistan are proving it doesn’t take much to make a superpower bleed for a very long time. I assure you that we are spending far more money (although fewer casualties) than the other side.

    The US relies on shear brute force and technology.

    The others don’t want to spend anywhere near as much, so they use proxies that can disrupt using some cheap fertilizer bombs planted along the side of the road.

    China is putting its money into cyber warfare and the ability to knock out satellites to disrupt communications and navigation. Multi-billion dollar weapons are worthless if they don’t know where they are and you can’t talk to them. Stone age people on the ground can then be almost as destructive.

    Are the navigators on our carriers trained to locate themselves at sea using a sextant? Probably not.

  10. gman says:

    I think this understates the true size of military spending. Military spending is tucked into many other budgets other than just “defense”.

    “Defense still small when compared to the absolute and growth of U.S. entitlement spending.”

    Yeah much smarter to spend a million dollars a year per soldier in Afghanistan than keep grandma alive.

  11. brianinla says:

    Which shows how worthless the goal of having a positive GDP really is. Harshly slash government spending on the military or Medicare and GDP will go negative. And how many would cry foul that we’re not having ‘growth’. Will people finally shut up that we need the government to increase deficit spending just to print a positive GDP?

  12. abatis says:

    Go to most any military base and you will see a huge jobs program as most people on base are civilian support workers (voters) and contractors. Cutting the military budget will be tougher than getting rid of earmarks :)

  13. mathdock says:

    I wonder how many people in the US are directly employed in DoD, and how many are employed supporting DoD? When the inevitable cuts do come, certain expenses will increase for a couple of years–transition assistance (including medical and job-training), contract-breaking, unemployment benfits for 99 weeks, Soc Sec payments for the mentally distraught, foreclosure prevention, etc. I would expect some reduction in SecState, DoT, Homeland Security, etc. Who eats the new unemployment rate? It IS stillcheaper after four years, I suspect, but there are balancing downsides as well. It’s why politicians won’t pick up the hot ball.

  14. darth beta says:

    Balance Budgets? Defecits? Please, please, please take 30 mins to review how the US Monetary System works.
    There is no such thing as a balance budget. Taxes do not pay for federal (note the difference between federal and state) expenditures. Taxes simply take money out of the monetary system. Taxes collected are not tied to our ability to spend; they are used to controll inflation.
    For a financial blog it is disappointing to see how many readers lack an understanding of US Federal monetary policy.
    The size of military (and any Federal government program) is a spearate question from do we have the money for it! The role of government is no way controlled by the ability to pay for it. The US unlike all countries (but UK and Japan) is Monetary Sovereignty. Please study what it means to be Monetary Sovrgty.

  15. gordo365 says:

    Many comments here suggest that government spending creates jobs. How can that be? I thought gov didn’t create jobs – only private sector.

  16. NMR says:

    Defense spending was the only area not cut in the Ryan budget. It grows at the rate of inflation. Needless to say a bunch of spoilsports who are better at readin, ritin an rithmetic than Paulie have pointed out that this means the defense budget consumes just about all the discretionary spending which he projects going down to about 3.75% of GDP. So hasta la vista the FBI and FDA. Fly the friendly skies without air traffic control.

  17. NoKidding says:

    True the US spends way TF too much on bombs (and jobs that teach discipline to HS grads), but among the top 10, only China could put up some semblence of resistance to an all out US invasion. China would match our technology advantage with 350 million conscripted farmboys.

    If we could get out on the ME instead of expanding into Iran, that would be a good step toward shrinking the bomb budget. But how do all those returning vets effect UE? I think reenlistments would be deincentivized as part of a ramp down.

  18. Petey Wheatstraw says:

    Are the wars still off budget?

    “Defense” isn’t really about “defense”, now, is it?

  19. Petey Wheatstraw says:


    China are owns all our defense computer systems, now, too, also.

  20. smedleyb says:

    Yeah, throw in the wars, Homeland security budget, foreign military handouts, the CIA, etc, you’re pushing 1 trillion dollars, easily.

    But that aside, why does Barry hate America? Why do you wish to weaken this great nation of ours? Why are you advocating policies which could very well lead to another “mine shaft gap?”

  21. theexpertisin says:

    The International Institute for Strategic Studies presents excellent, in depth material on world matters pertaining to conflict, engagement and military doctrine.

    Serious readers should go to their web site and gain more than a “bubble dot” perspective on challenges facing the world in general and our country in particular.

  22. abatis says:

    Direct civilian employment numbers by DOD and rest of government from 2008 Bureau Labor Statistics

  23. formerlawyer says:

    @Petey Wheatstraw Says:

    President Obama changed the accounting method to include them. Previously, war expenses were mostly covered by emergency allocations which were outside the budget.

    “During the Bush administration, the majority of war funding was allocated through emergency supplementals. Beginning with the FY2010 budget, most of the war funding was included in the core budget appropriations process. In July 2010, Congress passed additional supplemental appropriations to fund the 30,000 troop surge in Afghanistan announced by President Obama in December 2009.”

    Want to bet that the Republicans will blame President Obama for the increased budget?

  24. formerlawyer says:

    @smedleyb Says:
    @Petey Wheatstraw Says:

    “While many people think the military is confined to the Department of Defense, that is not the case. The Department of Defense has budgeted $553 billion, but that does not include the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funding, which is listed as $118 billion. The Whitehouse also lists the following as security funding. Department of Energy – $11.2 billion (this is mostly related to nuclear weapons), Homeland Security – $43.6 billion, Veterans Affairs – $57 billion, State Department – $58.5 billion. There are other various pockets of military and security related funding in other civilian departments as well. It all adds up to $895 billion.”
    From FAQ in

  25. AlexM says:

    All you need to know about how well America defended itself is that trillions of dollars spent could not stop the 9/11 attacks, 19 men armed with boxcutters. Now two trillion later and we still are no safer than we were before.

    We have bases in so many countries that we have lost count.

    Like the financial industry, there is a revolving door between the Pentagon, congress, and lobbying firms and as long as that continues there will never be any meaningful decrease in military spending. Too many important people are counting on getting their share of that pie.

    They speak about entitlement spending being the giant sinkhole, but in reality the defense spending is just as bad.

    Guns over butter.

  26. formerlawyer says:

    Not only is the War Department (I am an old fuddy) the worlds largest employer (Chinese Army is No. 2),

    anecdotally it is world’s largest educator in the world, sponsoring college students, the G.I. Bill(s) etc. With college tuition being what it is – the military makes for an alternative.

    @smedleyb Says:
    The National Security budget of estimate $1T was advanced….in 2007. I apologize.

  27. hammerandtong2001 says:

    Gee, $739 Billion.

    And that would about the going rate for TARP I, or the cost to bailout the insolvent banking class in 2008.

    If we only had that amount to spend, I’d go with the military. And let the banks go bust.

    And just for giggles, one could review past periods of significant US military downsizing with a view towards understanding where that led. There are reasons why some writers earn a Pultizer, and Rick Atkinson’s masterpiece “An Army At Dawn” can help remind us all about what it took to revive a military required to defend the nation during a moment of mortal peril.

    The “Prologue” to the book is available at Amazon.

    “In September 1939, the U.S. Army had ranked seventeenth in the world size and combat power, just behind Roumania…”

    You’ll get the idea.

  28. socaljoe says:

    Without overwhelming military power how are we going to “encourage” our foreign suppliers to take little bits of green paper in exchange for their resources.

  29. gman says:

    “Keynesianism NEVER works and the multiplier is ALWAYS O!” pivot 180 degrees “Any defense cut would cost too many jobs!”

    You can find critters in BOTH parties spewing BS like this!

    Republican Dwight Eisenhower nailed the perils of the congressional military industrial complex.

  30. bear_in_mind says:

    @hammerandtong2001: Actually, your point seems lost on me. You suggest because the U.S. didn’t have a massive standing army in 1939, what exactly? The U.S. caused World War II? Or the U.S. wouldn’t be able to muster a response to Germany and Japan? (obviously false) What World War II taught us is that we CAN convert production from many different industries to making bombs, Jeeps, planes and ships in pretty short order. We might have some issues ramping steel production, but I suspect that would be a mere bump in the road.

  31. gman says:

    “Gee, $739 Billion.”

    The minute I read someone use that figure, I immediately tune them out. They are either stupid, a war monger or hired shill for the industry.

    That number does not include veterans budget, the wars, homeland security or much defense related R and D or many of the “black projects” that are off budget.

    The UK once had an official policy to maintain a fleet as large as the NEXT TWO largest was written in stone…UNTIL ECONOMIC REALITY MADE IT IMPOSSEBLE. We are now at the point where are policy of “spending as much on defense as the rest of world is equally out of date. Time to adjust to the new reality.

  32. Petey Wheatstraw says:


    thanks for the info.

  33. gman says:

    For all the resourced spent in Afghanistan over the past decade, I think it possible we have created more enemies than we have killed?

  34. farmera1 says:

    Got to have a bloated military. How else can we invade countries like Iraq, do nation building in Afghanistan and kill a million and a half people in Vietnam, and I might add let 9/11 happen. Gotta have it.

  35. AlexM says:


    Not only did 19 guys with box cutters attack the US on it’s own soil, all the money in the world spent on armaments, manpower, intelligence, covert ops, black ops, and a standing army was not enough to stop them.

    Quaint ideas of warfare and war preparedness from 80 years ago have been made obsolete. The next world war will not be fought with the technology of WWI and WWII. War has been evolving since the patriots defeated the British Red Coats.

    Obviously, those who have much to gain continue to push for gigantic military spending and you are a good example of how effective their propaganda is on the American public.

  36. bear_in_mind says:

    @gman: Good points, all. I skipped over the obvious VA expenditures which are the ‘gift which keeps on giving’ when it comes to budget projections. I think the best long-run estimates produced by Joseph Stiglitz come in around $4 trillion USD (i.e. $4,000,000,000,000) to pay for our adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan. And to think the citizens and Congress were cowed into believing the WMD bullshit, not to mention we’ll be welcomed with parades of roses, as liberators, and we can fight a war “on the cheap” with new technologies. Rumsfeld and Cheney should be made to disgorge all their ill-gotten gains to recompense the U.S. Treasury (well, a little) for their blatant lies. Finally, I suspect America’s policies have indeed lain the groundwork for more resentment and enmity (if not outright enemies) in the Middle East than where we began at the dawn of this new century.

  37. Chad says:

    @gman and bear_in_mind
    We have created far more enemies than we had. Pakistan’s gov’t is currently the process of becoming a slight enemy when they were a slight ally before this. The bad thing is that the gov’ts are the least of our worries. If you had a child, a parent, an aunt or uncle maimed, killed, or harassed on a daily basis by foreigners (let’s make them Mexican soldiers for this article) you would never forgive that country.

    I grew up thinking the U.S. was different, but we are just thugs like everyone else.

  38. AHodge says:

    about $85 bio or 1/6th of that is the “intelligence” budget
    how do I know?
    somebody left it on an excel dropdown w major line items
    in an unclassified sales PPT for contractors about all the opportunities.
    in this link
    the spy who billed me site
    you can also find two insiders discussing how awful it is china and russia are not even on our intelligence key targets list. i could go on “forever” read legacy of ashes
    the human part is mostly a do over
    tho i give credit for getting bin laden

  39. TomL says:

    $5.8 trillion: cummulative spend by the US to develop and maintain its air/land/sea nuclear deterence capability from 1940 to 2005.

    Source: Modern Marvels Strategic Air Command video

    I wonder what else this nation could have accomplished with a fraction of that money in the public or private sector. We’ll never know.

  40. Marc P says:

    Anyone know why Saudi Arabia, Oman and Yemen are in the top five of military expenditures by percentage of GDP? When was the last time any of them were in a war (I mean officially in a war)? What are they doing with all those arms?

  41. Chad says:

    @Marc P
    Scared of Iran, but mostly scared of their own citizens.

  42. 873450 says:

    The title of this post is “Military Balance 2012″
    We are looking at charts comparing national defense budgets of ten countries.

    Ike looks at them and says, “I warned you this would happen, but you didn’t listen.”

    Reagan looks at them and says, “OMG! The Russians are way ahead of us! Get me Star Wars!”

    Neocons look at them and say, “Why waste a valuable asset we can exploit for profit? Let’s fearmonger and warmonger so we can invade someplace.”

    A surprising number of this forum’s readers look at them and say, “That’s why we have to cut entitlements.”

  43. [...] TBP posted some nice infographics last week relating to military [...]