Military Too Expensive

Our Military Too Big?

Just How Expensive Is It?

By Daniel Muniz

War protesters constantly rant about America being a war-mongering nation that is obsessed with financing an expensive oversized military machine. They insist that we are driving this country into bankruptcy with gargantuan defense spending while neglecting the needs of the rest of the country.

But where does the Department of Defense really stand in its military expenditures when compared to our own economy?

And how does our defense budget compare to everyone else’s military spending?

Yes, America spends hundreds of billions of dollars on its armed forces but it also spends hundreds of billions of dollars everywhere else because our national economy is so enormous. But in all reality, the cost of the military burden to the entire economy is actually rather small, which is something that the war protesters neglect to mention.

The best way to accurately measure this so-called burden is to compare its expenditures to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

For the year of 2004, defense spending for weapons, operations, and troop pay was only 3.8% of our GDP. Bluntly speaking, over 96% of our economy was devoted to something else other than our military.

But in the minds of war protesters, that percentage doesn’t seem to jibe with their version of what they believe that our government budgets to military spending. They naively envision a huge portion of the economy powering a gigantic industrial complex.

Yes, America’s military may appear massive to the Left Wing but its share of the GDP is fairly small, which means that our national economy is already allocated to so many other expenditures. If protesters are complaining that too many of our needs for the country are being neglected, perhaps they ought to examine the large sums of money that is already being spent in other governmental programs and entitlements.

However, what is more surprising is the comparison of our defense spending with that of other countries. The United States actually lags quite a bit behind many impoverished economies, especially among those of the Third World.

Below is a chart of where America sits with the world’s top 40 nations of military spending compared to their GDPs.

Percent of Gross Domestic Product Devoted to Military Expenditures for 2004:

RankCountry% GDP
1North Korea25%
2Oman 10%
3Myanmar9%
4Eritrea9%
5Saudi Arabia8.8%
6Israel8.2%
7Jordan7.9%
8Kuwait7.8%
9Syria7.4%
10Qatar7.2%
11Vietnam 6.9%
12Burundi6.4%
13Armenia6.3%
14Yemen6.2%
15Zimbabwe5.9%
16Brunei5.6%
17Uzbekistan4.9%
18Singapore4.7%
19Egypt4.6%
20Russia4.3%
21Bahrain4.3%
22Angola4.3%
23Djibouti4.0%
24Cuba4.0%
25Colombia4.0%
26Botswana4.0%
27Ethiopia3.9%
28Belarus3.9%
29United States3.8%
30Tanzania3.8%
31Morocco3.7%
32China (PRC)3.7%
33Chile3.6%
34Algeria3.6%
35Pakistan3.5%
36Turkey3.3%
37Serbia/Montenegro3.1%
38Lebanon3.1%
39Guinea-Bissau3.1%
40Azerbaijan3.1%

The United States ranks 29th compared to the GDP of other countries although war protesters probably already assumed that we must be number one. But the cold hard figures don’t lie. We no longer maintain the massive infrastructure that we once had during the Cold War. In fact, this country is constantly trying to right-size its resources with base closures and the consolidation of services.

Perhaps what annoys the war protesters the most is that our military is actually a well organized, highly trained, and effective organization. Even using just a small portion of our national economy, we continue to maintain the greatest fighting force on the face of the planet.