Global Military Spending Tops $1T in 2004

One estimate puts global military spending at over one trillion for 2004, a new high in unadjusted dollars.

Global Military Spending Tops $1T in 2004 (AP)

For the first time since the Cold War, global military spending exceeded $1 trillion in 2004, nearly half of it by the United States, a prominent European think tank said Tuesday. As military operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and the war on terrorism continue, the world spent $1.035 trillion on defense during the year, corresponding to 2.6 percent of global gross domestic product, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute said.

The figure “is only 6 percent lower in real terms than it was in (1987-88), which was the peak,” said SIPRI researcher Elisabeth Skons, who co-authored the organization’s annual report. Worldwide military expenditure increased 6 percent in 2004, matching the average annual increase since 2002, the institute said.

However, the figures may be on the low end, the institute said, as countries are increasingly outsourcing services related to armed conflict, such as military training and providing logistics in combat zones, without classifying them as military expenses.

That’s some serious cash, no matter how you slice it. Still, the fact that it’s actually much less in real terms than it was in the dying days of the Cold War is instructive.

It’s worth noting, too, that while some things that are legitimately “military” are outsourced to private contractors and not counted in this tally, the reverse is true as well. Presumably, U.S. military expenditures for such things as humanitarian relief missions are counted as military expenses. Even if the study excluded the direct costs for such things, the fixed cost salaries of soldiers and other employees would be counted as “military” as would the replacement cost of material and expendibles that were used/deprecated during such operations.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. LJD says:

    “Presumably, U.S. military expenditures for such things as humanitarian relief missions are counted as military expenses…”

    I would argue that EVERY mission undertaken by the U.S. military is humanitarian in nature.

    Of course, the world has to spend an equal amount to protect itself from American Imperialism…

  2. mike says:

    a billion here and a billion there, pretty soon that could add up to some big bucks.

    It’s a good thing that the oil revenues in Iraq are paying for the entire operation there as Wolfw/nowits sit it would.