Once Again, U.S. Military Spending Dwarfs Russia, China

Even in an era of budget cuts, America’s military spending still outpaces the rest of the world:

Despite falling spending, America’s military pre-eminence is vast. A budget of $600 billion for 2014, including $84 billion for “overseas contingency operations” such as Afghanistan, buys a weighty punch. Next year, when the Pentagon’s base budget is expected to fall to $498 billion (spending in Afghanistan is uncertain, but will be much lower), America’s military outlays will still be around 35% of the global total. Its main allies account for another 25% or so. China and Russia combined spend less than half what America does, though their costs are lower.

The chart tells it all:

Military Spending Chart

Remember this the next time some pundit or politician starts talking about military threats.

FILED UNDER: Military Affairs, National Security, , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Dave Schuler says:

    It’s not a particularly good metric. I strongly suspect that we outspent the North Vietnamese 10 to 1 between 1963 and 1975. It still didn’t assure victory.

    As I always point out when one of these posts comes out, if I had my way we’d be spending half of what we do on the military and reduce “the mission” commensurately. I don’t believe it would materially reduce our security but it might reduce our propensity towards military adventurism.

    I believe there’s a certain amount of cognitive dissonance on this particular subject. Many of those who point out the appalling amount we spend on our military also want us to use our military a lot more. Interventionists, whether of the liberal or neocon variety, should support more military spending.

    I would like the Europeans to spend more so we can spend less. I am assured however that it is impossible for the Europeans to spend more than 2% of GDP on their militaries and could we please intervene in Yugoslavia, Georgia, Libya, Syria, South Sudan, and Ukraine?

  2. Rob in CT says:

    Dave’s points are good, as usual. Long term, I’d like to see us spend less on the military and reduce the scope of its mission. Short term, well, the only acceptable Keynesianism is Weaponized Keynesianism, so I’m not as hot to trot on military cuts as I normally would be.

  3. stonetools says:

    @Rob in CT:

    Short term, well, the only acceptable Keynesianism is Weaponized Keynesianism, so I’m not as hot to trot on military cuts as I normally would be.

    Yeah, aint it something? Pour money into weapons programs, expand the army, and Republicans are lining up to vote for this. Reagan used just such “weaponized Keynesianism” to get of the 1980-2 recession.
    Yet if Obama suggested a WPA type program aimed at rebuilding infrastructure in the good ol’ USA , conservatives would rise up in a body talking about “failed stimulus” and “soshulism”.

    On May 6, 1935, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt issued Executive Order 7034 creating the Works Progress Administration (WPA). Passed and funded by Congress in the Emergency Relief Appropriations Act of 1935, the WPA became among the two most important federal jobs programs of the New Deal and a model for how government investment in the economy can not only solve short-term unemployment problems but also build the infrastructure of a strong, modern nation. ….

    The WPA (along with the Public Works Administration) built most of the nation’s modern infrastructure. WPA workers constructed 5900 new schools, 9300 recreational buildings, 1000 libraries, 7000 dormitories, 900 armories, 2300 stadiums and grandstands, 52 fairgrounds, 1686 parks, 3026 athletic fields, 254 golf courses, and a whole lot more. Among the most famous WPA-constructed buildings are Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood in Oregon and the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles. It build flood control projects, roads, airports, utility projects, and electrical infrastructure. One of the roads it built was the Blue Ridge Parkway, today one of the nation’s finest drives.

    There’s a lot more at that post at Lawyers, Guns and Money. Reading through this, I wonder why the hell we couldn’t duplicate that today. I think to a great extent liberals today just tried to be a bit cute with the stimulus programs-like when they gave a tax cut and doled it out over the course of a year rather than one lump sum. Later on, When Obama claimed credit for a stimulus tax cut, people said, “What tax cut? I didn’t see one.”
    Had the federal government just hired people rather than doled out tax cuts…
    Any how, since the federal government can’t hire folks to build stuff, maybe we should just hire more folk to kill people and blow things up (what armies do).

  4. gVOR08 says:

    @stonetools: Krugman suggested, mock seriously but to make the point that you and @Rob in CT: make, that Obama should have faked a space invasion. Then we’d have gotten some serious stimulus going.

  5. Grewgills says:

    How much of the spending difference between us and China is a result of PPP? China spends less total on military than we spend on personnel, yet their military is about twice as large.

  6. Dave D says:

    However, that doesn’t really encompass all of military spending since Veteran Services and the VA system aren’t included. And thus we spend even more on the military than the government would like to admit.

  7. gVOR08 says:

    @Dave D: Also DOE’s nuclear weapons programs.

  8. PJ says:


    China spends less total on military than we spend on personnel, yet their military is about twice as large.

    Size isn’t everything.

  9. Andy says:

    The chart tells it all:

    No, the chart tells us one, of many, data points.

    Like so many other areas of our government, the problem isn’t really the amount of spending, it’s the value we get from each dollar spent. It’s not a coincidence that we also spend much more than other countries on other government services such as education and health care. Those are two other areas where we also don’t get good value for the money we spend. This is a systemic problem and one that can’t be analyzed, much less fixed, by looking at top-line budget numbers.

  10. Grewgills says:

    I understand that, but the fact that they field twice as many men while spending less total on their military than we spend on personnel shows that dollar for dollar comparisons aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. I would like to see the comparisons corrected for purchasing power, but my admittedly lazy search hasn’t found any.