Putting Defense Spending in Context: Simple Comparisons Are Inadequate
(Source: The Heritage Foundation; issued July 12, 2017)
Despite the damages wrought by six years of budget caps, the U.S. military remains the largest and most capable in the world. It is the only force capable of global power projection, and it maintains a vast network of logistics hubs and systems.

Maintaining a force of the size and strength necessary to protect U.S. interests and uphold international obligations understandably necessitates a larger budget than is required for other nations with regional or local forces.

However, statements such as “the U.S. spends more on defense than the next eight countries combined” evoke an appearance of excess, but give no consideration to the decisions driving defense spending or the factors contributing to costs across national economies. Claims that the U.S. spends too much, as measured against the defense expenditures of other countries, are disingenuous.

The security environment in which the U.S. military is expected to operate has grown increasingly complex, and national defense resourcing warrants more than a solitary sentence of discussion.

Key Takeaways

-- Defense spending levels should be determined based on U.S. national security requirements, not arbitrary spending comparisons.

-- Differences in personnel costs and purchasing power between countries can contribute to forces of widely disparate size and strength at equivalent spending levels.

-- Although still the largest spender, the U.S. has decreased defense spending as a percentage of global spending, while adversary spending has rapidly increased.

Click here for the full report (15 PDF pages) on the Heritage Institute website.


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