Barry posted some nice infographics last week relating to military spending.

Using the numbers in that post and some population estimates from the Population Reference Bureau, here’s a per capita look at defense spending for the 10 countries referenced:

The Top 10 spend about $1.23 trillion on defense.  Here’s a breakdown of who spends what on a percent-of-total basis:

And here’s how the United States (#1 with a bullet, pardon the pun) stacks up against numbers 2-10 on a per capita basis:

Adding: I see in comments some who are questioning the accuracy of the last chart. And I can certainly understand why. However, India has a population of 1.24 billion and a per capita defense spend of $30. China has a population of 1.35 billion and a per capita defense spend of $67. That’s 2.6 billion with a per capita of $49. So, while it may seem like an optical illusion, the fact is that those two population behemoths are skewing the numbers toward the low side, and the other seven can only pull it up to $80. Fun and games with numbers.

Category: Economy, 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.

36 Responses to “Military Spending Addenda”

  1. DeDude says:

    I know it was a request from some of the right wingers desperate to defend out absurd gobinment spending on defense, but it is really not relevant to look at defense spending per capita. The relevant number is how much total dollar is spend by your potential enemies. It is perhaps acceptable to spend twice as much the two most likely attacking nations (presuming that they may gang up on you – and that a budget twice as big as theirs would convince them that you have the resources to beat the heck out of them if they do). Anything abovc that is just absurd, and gets even more absurd when people start talking about steeling grandma’s social security because we can’t afford to give her what she and grandpa was promised and paid for through their working life. I am all for cutting government and after we have cut the military budget in half we can start looking a any waste that may or may not exist in other corners of the discretionary part of the national budget.

  2. queenbee1 says:

    The reason that this will never change is that the MIC has infiltrated every state. It is just another form of welfare jobs. They could redeploy this money into something useful, but them where would that put Boeing, GE, Lockheed Martin and Haliburtin employees and their stock? I wonder now how many people in the US directly or indirectly benefit from military spending?

  3. Les Lofton says:

    The first chart does not seem to jive with the last chart. How can the next nine be 80 when the UK alone is 1000? Maybe I’m viewing it wrong.

  4. Frilton Miedman says:

    The end of the Roman empire was marked with currency devaluation, gold & silver coins were being mixed with other metals to pay the army.

    The bread & circus was imposed to prevent citizen revolts when farmers properties were given away by the Roman Senate to influential Roman Aristocrats and farmers livelihoods were lost, further decreasing GDP, increasing currency devaluation and eventual collapse.

    The Romans had an excuse, lead used in water storage and cookware is thought to have induced mass brain damage & mental instability that led to poor decision-making.

    We have no excuse.

    The premise of “trickle down”, faux “job creating” tax favoritism and defense spending for the benefit of friends & campaign donors of the House, Senate & executive branch has only led to our own version of the Bread and Circus & currency devaluation without the revenues to pay it.

    It all stems from one single violation of the Constitution, “bribery”,

    Bribery, listed in the Constitution as “high crime”, the problem has to be dealt with starting at the top – the Supreme Court, then the other three branches of government.

  5. ilsm says:

    US accounts for roughly 50% of the world’s war spending. At least a 40% increase over US 2000 DoD spending.

    In 2011 dollars during fiscal 2011 $703B went to the pentagon and overseas contingency operations. The next largest US sum spent in 2011 constant dollars was $595B with Vietnam and checking the red army going on. Then during the Reagan “push” the US and soviets to bankruptcy over war it hit $553B in 1989.

    The 2011 sum does not include about $300B for non pentagon related insecurity spending and taking care of the troops off the DoD budgets.

    And the secretary of the Air Force is telling Lockheed they will only get $388B to deliver a floating number of poorly tested, unperforming F-35, Lightning II’s.

  6. mjfitz9 says:

    @ Les Lofton. Agreed, third one is wrong. Saudi alone is $1600 per capita

  7. dirge says:

    I believe that the U.S. spends too much on the Department of Defense, but these graphs avoid some key issues. The last graph is especially useless. Folding in France, Germany and the U.K.’s 200 million into China and India’s 2.55 billion strips the numbers of meaning.

    I’d suggest per capita spending doesn’t mean much without comparing per capita incomes. If a military is to be supplied by domestic companies, then that military will have to pay prices for equipment based on domestic wages. The discrepancy between median wages in China/India and the U.S. plays a key role in the difference in spending. Of the countries listed, the U.S. has the highest GDP per capita. This also ignores the military support the U.S. gives to some of these countries via subsidized arm sales and regional protection. E.G. Japan’s populace may not appreciate our presence in the Pacific or our bases in their country, but they spend far less on the military than they would otherwise because of that presence and those bases.

    Military spending as a percent of GDP:
    Eritrea 20.9%
    Saudi Arabia 11.2%
    Oman 9.7%
    United Arab Emirates 7.3%
    Israel 6.3%
    Chad 6.2%
    Jordan 6.1%
    Georgia 5.6%
    Iraq 5.4%
    United States 4.7%
    Kuwait 4.4%
    Singapore 4.3%
    Russia 4.3%

    Looking at it this way, we only spend twice as much of our GDP on defense as other top military-spending countries: (U.K. 2.7%, France 2.5%, Turkey 2.7%, India 2.8%, China 2.2%).

  8. InterestedObserver says:

    @mjfitz9/@ Les Lofton: That last one is (total spend)/(total population) summed over 2-10 with India and China dominating this weighted average. Looks a little strange, but it’s easier to make sense of it if you pop back to the original link which gives the net spend numbers.

  9. Jojo says:

    The world would probably be a safer place were the USA to spend 50% less on “defense”!

  10. Bokolis says:

    When you consider weighted average- China and India are a bunch of heads at next to zero- 80 works out.

    Towards our situation, to say our economy is addicted to war is putting it mildly. Even if we were to have a MIC intervention, that’s an awful lot of detox we’d have to go through to wean ourselves off of it.

  11. theexpertisin says:

    When one factors in the cost of the volunteer nature of our armed forces (recruiting costs, pay, benefits, medical costs, family benefits, housing allowances, etc.), the cost of producing armaments in myriad Congressional districts due to political exuberence at prevailing wage, research and development costs billed at retail rates, the cost of maintenance of all military equipment at prevailing wage facilities and other assorted costs that dwarf the cost structure of China and almost all other adversaries, we actually get a much reduced ultimatte bang for our buck. The Abrams tank is 18x more expensive than a highly comparable Chinese tank. A US front line fighter is 40x more expensive than a Chinese front line fighter of similar comps.

    I find the past couple of pile-on articles regarding military budgets to be myopic and misleading. Perhaps the author would be happy to see a universal draft and slave wages for all things miltary. Then we play dee-fense on the cheap.

    That stated, if the author chastises the overuse of our military and the type of conflicts we have entered, there is common ground for agreement from my tent.

  12. david_12321 says:

    Ah, did any one forget that we are still at war?

    We have troops throughout rag head land. Did anyone remember that a Marine was killed by an afghan troop last month? The marines news said he died in combat operations. The news hints that it is some “treachery” as he was shot in the back of the head. A afghan civilian stole a pickup and rammed it into a us defense secretary’s airplane (that took guts). A afghan solder shot a couple us solders in february in nanganhar. They got an air force light colonel and army major in kabul. They also got two paratroopers in Kabul. And a sargent in the Army is being tried for shooting afghan civilians.

    As far as I can tell, the “they” above who is killing our solders is the afghan troops we are training / supporting. Folks, we are still in combat. At war. Troops being killed and killing the enemy.

    Actually, I don’t know why the troops are over there. Or where all they are. Because the ??? country is so important to us? Because we have to rebuild the ??? government? Because we are stealing the oil? Because the defen$e industry need$?

    Say, how much of that money is going to the front lines and how much to the friend$ of the currently elected party? And where are the front lines?

  13. TLH says:

    How can you vote for either political party? We have no choice come November.

  14. Petey Wheatstraw says:

    It’s not defense, in the first place.

    In the 2nd place — and what theexpertisin fails to touch on, at all — well-connected people (contractors), are getting filthy stinkin’ rich off of it. Prevailing wages, my ass. This about crony capitalism, and nothing more.

    Why do we need contractors when we already have the greatest military the world has ever known?

    Here, in the DC area, drive time radio is filled with ads touting the necessity of the contractor’s product, so that our “war fighters” won’t fail (whatever happened to soldiers, GIs, or troops?). Most of their audience is already on the payroll, so they’re preaching to the choir, and using OUR money to do it.

    Moreover, their products and services suck. Can somebody explain how virtually every command and control system has been compromised? We paid a King’s ransom to these buffoons, and got squat for it. Now, they’re going to come back to the teat for more. They should all be doing hard time.

    Biggest waste of taxpayer money ever.

  15. Petey Wheatstraw says:


    Your third paragraph answers your first: Our soldiers are getting killed BECAUSE we put them in harm’s way, for no valid security or national interest reason. They are in harm’s way BECAUSE we breed conflict to sustain the grave train.

    Smedly Butler told us why they are there (if you don‘t know who Smedley Butler was, I‘m not surprised — you can’t teach kids about America’s most decorated Marine and General if he turns around and rats out those getting rich of our soldier’s blood).

    BTW: We have “rag heads” here too — they’re called citizens. You’d do well to drop the ethnic/religious slurs.

  16. theexpertisin says:

    Petey Wheatstraw

    Smedly Butler was often quoted (and admired, as I recall) by my uncle, who served under Butler in Central America, Cuba and Haiti shortly after WW1.

    Uncle Hank and General Butler’s command had to do corporate America’s bidding to guard the sugar and fruit plantations against “rebels”. In Haiti the mission was different as the island was in chaos – some things never change. My uncle was never a pacifist, but he sure admired Butler for his brutal critiques about politicians being in bed with corporate America.

    We could use a few more Smedly Butler’s, and a few less politicians in the pocket of big business.

    Thanks, PW, for giving me a trip down memory lane.

  17. Petey Wheatstraw says:

    Damn. “Grave train.” Maybe that’s more accurate.

  18. flu-cured says:


    Check out the war college. Afghanistan was pitch black to US intelligence (ok, just dark). The US needed better optics, IMO.

  19. 873450 says:

    Could it all come down to a matter of inefficient spending?

    With all that treasure expended on defense, why can’t we make ourselves safe? Why did it take ten years, trillions of dollars and tens of thousands of killed/wounded American soldiers for the most powerful, most advanced, most expensive military defense apparatus in history on earth to hunt down and kill Osama bin Laden? Why are Americans always being told our nation and freedom are under constant, imminent, existential threat from enemies, known and unknown, inside and outside our borders?

    These charts suggest we could achieve the same poor results at a cost savings amounting to hundreds of billions of dollars every year by outsourcing our defense to China.

  20. victor says:

    @dirge and@ theexpertisin: you two pretty much explain the state of affairs in very logical terms. Look at the Military spending as a percent of GDP per dirge. Realize that all military spending MUST originate in the US a the theexpertisin says. Throw in the legendary wastefulness of any Gov. run entity. Add to the mix our basic military doctrine/strategy of being able to fight and win concomitant wars in the two major theaters. And finally our own insistence that besides playing the role of trading partner and occasional life-guard we also be the designated world wide sheriff and voila, it is all made clear.

    Right after the coronation ceremony, well informed sources said that President Obama was given “the talk” in bullet points format by the trio of the CIA/FBI plus Pentagon plus State Dept; he walked out convinced that our military spending cannot be cut, au contraire…

  21. James Cameron says:

    > I wonder now how many people in the US directly or indirectly benefit from military spending?

    A reasonable estimate is in the 6 to 7 million range, I believe:

    And you’re right, major projects like the F-35 are spread across the nation to create political support that cuts across both parties. More on the F-35 – a truly bloated DoD program – can be found here:

  22. Petey Wheatstraw says:

    873450 Says:
    March 25th, 2012 at 8:10 pm
    Could it all come down to a matter of inefficient spending?

    Private industry does not do things faster, or better, or cheaper. Private industry has a profit motive, and the public teat gives unlimited sweet cream.

  23. glengarry says:

    @dirge: To amplify your vg points, that we must pay domestic wages shows that much of military spending promotes our domestic economy (these manufacturing jobs won’t move overseas). Indeed, military salaries, manufacturing salaries, r&d, and base-related economies are all “shovel-ready” stimulus spending.

    Does our strong military keep our markets safer and our borrowing costs lower? Is our willingness to militarily “cover” Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and other allies better for the global economy than if we shared the expense more?

    Though many, myself included, question how Iraq and Afghanistan were handled and are war-weary — I no longer see any viable national security interest in Afghanistan — I haven’t seen any public groundswell to redefine our military readiness: our ability to defend our allies or intervene when we feel necessary, to fight 2 wars simultaneously.

    There is a good amount of waste and corruption in the MIC but not enough to make any real difference in the deficit. Some cuts are in order as a show of fairness to the needy who unfairly will lose entitlements. But I think it’s in our national interest to maintain the ability to defend and attack decisively.

    I do, however, think that military spending disproportionately benefits the better off.

  24. Petey Wheatstraw says:

    “I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested. Looking back on it, I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents.[13]”

    “Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But now we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense; we have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually spend on military security more than the net income of all United States corporations.

    This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence — economic, political, even spiritual — is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.

    In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the militaryindustrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

    We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.”

  25. RC says:

    I think that per capita calculation is a bit misleading. A more accurate representation would be spending proportionate to portion of total world GDP.
    So since out of around 50 trillion world GDP, our 15 trillion would justify around 30 some percentage of the total world military spending. Anything more than that cannot be justified.
    In my view it should be much much lower but that’s just my view.

  26. ilsm says:


    GDP comparisons………………………….

    Look at the denominators!


    US DoD drive up prices, of course. That is what single buyer systems where the sellers buy the buyer resolve toward.

    The US at a trillion a year can be beaten and worn down by the like of Giap, and Sun Tzu at pennies on the corrupt dollars the US must waste.

    “Then we play dee-fense on the cheap.” Friedman and his fear of an army of slaves, versus Westmoreland’s disdain for an army of merc……..

    Beats the fraud, waste abuse and corruption that squanders trillions.

    Westiewas right as was Ike (1953) on the unwarranted influence of the military industry congress complex.


    Impact the deficit………………….

    The opportunity costs of throwing away 12 to 5% of GDP over the past 65 years to blow things up and maintain the unwarranted influence of the MIC. What better productivity could have come from those tens of trillions of bucks? To say nother of cutting waste in outlays by $400B next year.

    20% of outlays for the DoD and another 5% or so cleaning up after the DoD wastes.

    Driving up tech costs, beyond all reason. Shipyards for aircraft carriers, but all other large ships built elsewhere.

    50% of R&D spent for war, crowds out so much better uses.

    What is the F-35 worth? $388B for unknown quantity and it is unknown how many tests it will do, much less pass, nor how well it will do in the real world.

    It is not economy it is welfare for the military industry complex and the dividends of the profitable arsenbals who never fail.

    No one in the military industry complex ever lost monsy cheating uncle sam.

  27. philipat says:

    Ron Paul.

  28. willid3 says:

    Rome was killed a drought, the worst they had had in ancient times (its why the Mongol hoards were on the move, and what was killing the empire, since as ancient empires it was an agrarian empire, it was a very long time before industrialization came along and made it so empires could survive extreme drought ). if you want to look for a more recent example consider Portugal and Spain. thy both collapsed because they found lots of gold. and that trashed their economies. as for our military spending, it seems we spend lots more than the rest of the world (sounds like health care but at least we get more for it). we could certainly improve the efficiency a lot, and get more and spend less. and in some cases (like the f35) we wait so long before we replace current equipment. even though we have had it in front line use for almost 40 years. either we really got it right the first time, or we just put it off way to long

  29. Andy T says:

    Try Military spending as a % of GDP … see where that lands you on the ‘Statistics Wheel of Fortune.”

    “Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics.”


    BR: That data point is in the original post.

    “Reading Comprehension, Trolls, and Epic Fails.”

  30. Frilton Miedman says:

    Will, drought/Famine was somewhat regular for the Romans, not just towards the end.

    There are numerous theories on the eventual fall, but the most prominent is that they spread themselves too thin in their non-stop military conquests, as well as their famous political strife/personal agenda, while ignoring economic & political infrastructure that was in the interest of the entire country.

    It was just easier to create the Bread and Circus than to focus on fortifying infrastructure, improving agriculture & farming, than risk losing favor in wealthy, affluent circles.

    I cite the taking of land from farmers to give to Politically influential aristocrats as a good example, they failed to prioritize agriculture in pursuit of personal/political gain in that example, which then led to the Bread and Circus to appease the lower classes.

    The mixing of gold/silver coins to pay their military also exemplifies the problem.

    Peter Schiff says a lot of things I completely disagree with, but he’s completely spot on when he says America simply needs to get back to “making stuff”.

    We spent the last several decades on global military conquest and focusing on supply-side only that benefits the wealthy and inducing corporate profits that now sit offshore.

    We opened foreign trade policies with no consideration to anyone but wealthy and corporate beneficiaries – assuming the notion of “trickle down” would benefit us all.

    We can’t even get the government to salvage the damage by reversing tax, fiscal & regulatory policy because they’re owned by the aforementioned beneficiaries….everything from the TBTF problem, to healthcare that costs twice as much as any other country, and we\’re force fed the pipe-dream that corporate monopoly & gaming the government through bribery is a “free market”.

    Our last hope for restoring Democracy took a potentially fatal blow with the Supreme Court’s “Citizen’s united” – allowing unlimited power over our political process to anyone who can afford it.

    The “Aristoocrats” will be able to take even more “farmland” from the lower classes, in turn the “Senate” will be forced to expand the “Bread and Circus” in order to prevent a revolt…meanwhile, we continue our global pursuit of power instead of focusing on the problems right here at home, the dollar continues to weaken, our infrastructure weakens and outside entities are empowered over our future.

    Corporate defense contractors draining our taxes, corporate healthcare & insurers indenturing us al in a global economy that competes for wages, Corporate fiance ensuring the continuance of TBTF, hell….even Pizza is now official considered a vegatable, courtesy of Conagra foods, so it will be included more in school lunch’s all over America.

  31. 873450 says:

    @Petey Wheatstraw Says:
    - 873450 Says: Could it all come down to a matter of inefficient spending? –
    Private industry does not do things faster, or better, or cheaper. Private industry has a profit motive, and the public teat gives unlimited sweet cream.

    You misconstrue. I urge government bypass MIC to avoid paying ten times the amount a combat soldier earns to Halliburton support staff preparing meals and cleaning latrines.

  32. dougc says:

    The last time the GAO audited the defense department they discovered that 100′s of billions could not be accounted for, no one authorized the spending , couldn’t determine who received the money, it just evaporated.
    In addition there are a large number of DOD buyers that are employed by the MIC after they retire from DOD. Politics isn’t the only residence of scoundrels.

  33. Moss says:

    The Military is the biggest non productive use of resources ever conceived. Ike was right about the MIC. The masses have been completely deceived by the war monger mantra so much so that it is now part of the culture. We have a War On Terror, a War on Christmas, a War on Drugs, A War on Health Care, a War on Capitalism, a War on the 2nd amendment, a War on the Rich, a War on Unions, a War on Christianity, Everything is termed as an ‘attack’. Just look at the GOP primary.

  34. Greg0658 says:

    yes DougC – that was on September 10th 2001. 104over&out.

  35. obsvr-1 says:

    @Petey Wheatstraw Says:
    March 25th, 2012 at 8:30 pm


    Private industry does not do things faster, or better, or cheaper. Private industry has a profit motive, and the public teat gives unlimited sweet cream.

    correction: Public/Private industry (or pseudo-private) does not do things faster, or better, or cheaper …

    Private industry, when their own capital is at stake (not the overflowing teat of gov’t $) is efficient, and the majority of time is faster, better, cheaper or they are taken out by the competition

  36. Frilton Miedman says:

    obsvr-1, absolutely.

    The problem lies in the definition of “efficiency”, a corporation, as you illuminate, does not have incentive to be more efficient when it has control over it’s revenues, be it monopoly or tax spending for it’s product/service..

    To a corporation, efficiency is the ratio of cost to revenues, a corporation can fire employee’s to cut costs, or it will seek to maximize revenue’s. (D.C. lobbyists, P.R. hype, media bias)

    A country’s definition of efficiency is to get the most service for the lowest cost, a country cannot fire it’s citizens to cut costs the way a corporation does, the term “USA Inc” is stupid and dangerous, creating the deluded idea that it’s ok for America to allow tens of thousands to die each year for lack of affordable healthcare, or to die in wars to promote defense spending.

    This is where the conflicts lie, not just in defense, healthcare is also exemplified as well as almost any industry with lobbyists in D.C..

    In defense, that “should” mean what we get better intelligence at lower cost through technology that saves lives or intimidates potential threats, instead, we get more fearful media hype & sensationalism promoting war, lest we be accused of “appeasement”.