07 February 2008

Defense Spending

Today, America spends more on defense than at any time since the end of World War II, based on the Pentagon's own official budget data. The previous high point in post-World War II defense spending was 1952 - during the Korean War - at $589 billion in today's dollars. The Pentagon's budget request for the current fiscal year totals $670 billion, or a substantial 14 percent above the previous high water mark.

U.S. defense spending is now also larger than the rest of the world - combined. The CIA's 2007 Word Fact Book estimates all other nations to spend about $400 billion on defense. That amount is for not just our potential opponents, whoever they might be; that's the entire rest of the world.

We are told we must worry about China and Russia and prepare against them . . . with defense budgets of just $81 billion and $21 billion, respectively, according to the CIA. . . .

Today, we have the smallest defense inventory since 1946. For example, with a spending level considerably higher than in 1985 when the Cold War raged and after Ronald Reagan increased the Defense Department's budget, we have now 10 active Army divisions, not the 17 we had in 1985; less than 300 naval combatants - compared to 542 in 1985, and we have just over 12 active Air Force tactical air wings, not 25.

The authors from the veterans of the fighter establishment of the U.S. Air Force, go ont to argue the F-22 as a case in point of overspending, for a variety of reasons, some sensible and some of which I disagree with them upon.

I do agree, however, that we can be smarter in spending our defense dollars.

From here.


Andrew Oh-Willeke said...

A good comment to the original at the link:

"Basic issue is that instead of getting 80% of the capability at 20% of the cost, we get 90% of the promised capability at 300% of the cost. That is a fundamentally bad tradeoff. There is also the issue of carrying cost. A $1 bn ship will cost not only the typical (rule of thumb) cost of 25% of the cost of the ship over five years, but also a carrying cost of about 5% a year- (the price of debt), or about as much as it costs to operate.

The clear way to solve this problem is to charge the military budget for a capital carrying cost, just like in private industry. There is a real economic cost in carrying stuff 'just in case'. Not to say we shouldn't be prepared, just that there are real costs here which are not recognized in the budget."

Andrew Oh-Willeke said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I'm sure that the collapse of the USSR was due in part to their attempt to keep military parity with the US. They just couldn't afford to keep up with us. I wouldn't be surprised if the current massive military spending doesn't have the opposite effect to making us a stronger and more secure nation. Is there a parallel to decline and fall of the Roman empire? The follies of history tend to repeat themselves. Also, I can understand why 3rd world countries like Iran want nuclear weapons and loads of relatively cheap ballistic missiles. The Pentagons own computer simulations show that either the Chinese or the Iranians would sink our billions of dollars fleet in the event of war by raining missiles down on the ships from every directions. How much of the Pentagon's budget is used to fight the types of wars of the last century? I dare say, way too much is.