The United States does not spend too much on military

Author: dylancatlow ,

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  • dylancatlow
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    It is frequently claimed that the United States spends an inordinate amount on its military, as reflected in the fact that its military budget exceeds the combined military budgets of the next 17 largest military spenders. Left-leaning politicians can't seem to enter into a discussion about military spending without framing the issue in such terms, presenting the above statistic as irrefutable proof that the US can and should cut back on its military become less of a global outlier. The statistic is, in fact, completely misleading, being mostly a reflection of the sheer size of the American economy as a whole. As a percentage of GDP, the United States spends slightly more on military than is typical for a Western country, but not that much more. The world average for military spending is 2.2 percent GDP, and the US spends a mere .9 percent GDP above that, at 3.1 percent GDP. For reference, France spends 2.3 percent, UK 1.8 percent, Australia 2.0 percent. So what these politicians are basically saying is: "Two percent may be reasonable, but three percent?! At three percent we're a global scandal." It's pretty laughable. 

    Some countries spend significantly more on their militaries compared to the US, and one of them (Russia), has only recently warmed up to the US after more than half a century of extreme hostilities, at one point coming within inches (we are now learning) of launching a nuclear strike against the US that would have destroyed it and probably the entire world. It is not unreasonable to suppose that tensions could rise up again, especially if a democrat in the mold of Hillary Clinton were to occupy the White House. 

    When combined, Chinese and Russian military spending amounts to approximately half the US military budget, even though China spends a mere 1.9 percent GDP on military, and between them have more than five times the population of the United States. China's real (price-adjusted) GDP has already surpassed that of the US, and is on course to surpass the US in actual GDP within a few decades. Therefore, what the US is looking at is a potential hostile military alliance that beats it in GDP and population. In such a world, American military dominance could only be maintained with the help of Western allies, who often have their own separate agendas.

    It's hard to see why the US, as the one global superpower, should feel embarrassed that it spends slightly more on military than other Western countries, who in some ways can only get away with their smaller military budgets thanks to the protection offered by the United States. 

    This is yet another instance of the democrats resorting to dishonest framing when facts do not support their preferred conclusion. 
  • Fallaneze
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    Yeah but 1 percent of GDP is still hundreds of billions of dollars, no small amount. We should require justification for marginal increases or decreases. Plus we have NATO, which means that our actual military power far exceeds US-owned assets.

  • ethang5
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    --> @dylancatlow
    Excellent post.

    +1

  • Greyparrot
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    Considering that protecting our freedoms and liberties from the hoards of caravans is the number one job of the government...perhaps 3% is too low.
  • blamonkey
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    I ended up writing something on another debate site regarding US military spending.The formatting keeps messing up and smooshing words together for some reason, so I will post the link here:
    (Note: may not be actual opinion, could just be something I wrote when bored.)

    The arguments for boosting military spending presumes that the spending will bolster our ability to fight ISIS, defend the US from aggressive actions of rival nations, and prevent piracy through more enforcement. Of course, the impact of increased military spending does not necessarily mean any increase in defense capability. Kimberly Amadeo writes for The Balance, analyzing the breakdown of our current military budget. In total, there are 4 components to the military budget:
    1.      The $597.1 billion base budget for the Department of Defense.
    2.      The overseas contingency operations for DoD to fight the Islamic State group ($88.9 billion.)
    3.      The total of other agencies that protect our nation. These expenses total $181.3 billion. They include the VA Department ($83.1 billion), the State Department ($28.3 billion), DHS ($46 billion), FBI and Cybersecurity in the DOJ ($8.8 billion) and the National Nuclear Security Administration in the DOE ($15.1 billion).
    4.      The last component is $18.7 billion in OCO funds for the State Department and Homeland Security to fight ISIS. (1)
    An increase in military spending would transfer more money into government coffers; however, one needs to consider how the money is spent. In fact, the DOD’s own estimates conclude that overall, it has 22% excess capacity (2). Nevertheless, the 2013 Bi-Partisan Budget Act of 2013 blocked future base closures. Considering the purported loss of local jobs, the possibility of government officials supporting base closures is slim. In fact, the most recent Bi-Partisan Budget Act raised the military base spending cap by $80 billion (3). Clearly, the legislature is determined to move the opposite way of closure. It would be impossible to determine if the increase in military spending will be absorbed by administrative and operational costs from strategically defunct bases.
    One must also consider the massive cost of providing more money in the face rising costs of operational and management as well as personnel in the DOD. Todd Harrison of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments estimates that by 2024, both categories of spending will “consume the entire defense budget by 2024. You’d have no money left for procurement, for research and development, military construction, for family housing, nothing (4).” This is not to say that we should not properly compensate soldiers. Instead, limiting the growth of civilian personnel would help (1). Instead, the DOD could create a competitive bidding process to contract work to the private sector and/or form public-private partnerships. This is especially important for cyberwarfare, where private-public partnerships or private contracting work are pivotal considering the drought of talented cyber-experts in the government. The current bureaucracy does need to be streamlined as far as those on the DOD’s payroll is concerned. When the Pentagon asked for an internal study to find out how to decrease costs, they found that despite historically sparse numbers of troops, (roughly 1.3 million,) there were nearly as many desk jobs (5). The Pentagon hid the report in fear of budget cuts, but that does not change the truth of where taxpayer money is being held: in a bloated bureaucratic system.
    Pentagon cost overruns also produce issues for military budgets. The CATO Institute in September of 2015 summarizes only a minute sample of cost overruns by the Pentagon because, as they quote from the GAO:
    “[The military branches] overpromise capabilities and underestimate costs to capture the funding needed to start and sustain development programs”
    Cost Estimate and Date of Estimate Original vs. Final 
    Littoral Combat Ship $360m (2004) $667m (2014)
     Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle $102m (1998) $376m (2013) 
    Joint Strike Fighter $79m (2001) $138m (2013) 
    JPALS Landing System $29m (2008) $77m (2014) 
    G/ATOR Radar $24m (2005) $61m (2014) (6)
    One must realize that an increase in military spending is not synonymous with a better military. The funds traverse through a broken system that pays out to military bases without a purpose, expensive military contractors, and a bloated civilian workforce. While security does need to be respected, the practicality of an increase in military spending needs to be weighed over anything else. Until I am told where the increase would take place and guaranteed that money will not be diverted elsewhere, I cannot in good conscience support the plan.
     
    1. https://www.thebalance.com/u-s-military-budget-components-challenges-growth-3306320
    2. http://1yxsm73j7aop3quc9y5ifaw3.wpengine.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/041816_dod_brac_parametric.pdf4
    3. https://www.csis.org/analysis/making-sense-bipartisan-budget-act-2018-and-what-it-means-defense
    4. https://federalnewsradio.com/sequestration/2013/04/analysis-pay-benefits-om-will-swallow-entire-dod-budget-by-2024/
    5. https://www.washingtonpost.com/investigations/pentagon-buries-evidence-of-125-billion-in-bureaucratic-waste/2016/12/05/e0668c76-9af6-11e6-a0ed-ab0774c1eaa5_story.html?utm_term=.dcacac164b7e
    6. https://object.cato.org/sites/cato.org/files/pubs/pdf/tbb-72.pdf


  • blamonkey
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    Also, when I said excess capacity, I meant excess base capacity, and that could be a projection for the future. As in: