Defense Spending

Memo to Rubio: We Already Spend Far More on 'Defense' Than Any Other Country

If Congress cut the Pentagon's budget in half, the U.S. would still be "the strongest military power in the world."


Fox Business

During last night's Republican presidential debate, Rand Paul criticized Marco Rubio's "plan for $1 trillion in new military spending" as "not very conservative." Rubio responded by inaccurately describing Paul as "a committed isolationist" and declaring (twice) that the United States needs to be "the strongest military power in the world." But Rubio did not explain why a bigger Pentagon budget is necessary to accomplish that goal. After all, the U.S. already devotes much more money to military spending than any other country.

Paul said "we spend more on our military than the next 10 countries combined." According to the latest figures, that's not quite right, but it's pretty close. Data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute indicate that the U.S. last year spent more on the military than the next seven countries combined:


In 2014 the United States, a country at peace with its neighbors that has less than 5 percent of the world's population, accounted for more than a third of the world's military spending. Congress could cut the Pentagon's budget in half, and the U.S. would still be "the strongest military power in the world."

NEXT: The Long Walk

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  1. It makes one wonder just who is funding Rubio’s campaign, if he wants to expand an already bloated military budget by such a large amount.

    1. It’s my people. We may actually need you stooooopid mammals to help fight off The Machines. You know the same ones you’re trying to make to drive your drunk asses around

    2. He knows where the votes are, apparently. Particularly in a GOP primary, you can’t go wrong cheerleading the military. But even in the general election, the vast majority of voters are pro-military.

      It is one of the truisms of politics. You can’t go wrong calling for more spending on education and better pay for teachers. You can’t go wrong calling for better pay and more money for police and firefighters. Etc.

      It takes a really big smack in the head for voters to realize that their old conceptions are outdated. The ship is beginning to turn on pot, just as it did on gay marriage. But by and large nobody has noticed that teachers and police are not lowly paid, undercompensated heroes any more.

      The same goes for military spending. Reagan was able to shake off that post-vietnam malaise and reinstate the longstanding “more money for defense” plank to all national political campaigns. It hasn’t changed yet, even with a huge deficit and no credible rival.

      1. I’m reminded of the sudden b long-delayed dawn in “Dennis Moore”.

    3. Most (but not all– the same libertarians that are good on pot objected) of the Republican caucus feels the same way, damn their eyes. It’s not *funding*, it’s what the stupid voters think.

      The insistence on increasing defense spending is also what caused the budget deal to increase non-defense spending. The Dems and Obama insisted on dollar-to-dollar equivalent spending increases over sequester amounts. So the defense increases cost twice as much as the price tag.

  2. Whomever wins is gonna be awful.

    But some awful is more awful than others.

    1. About two years difference between the inevitable, complete economic collapse.

  3. Happy armistice day, everyone.

  4. A couple of questions. Does the figure for the US include military pensions and medical costs? Is Just what is being spent on the sharp end?

    Secondly do the comparisons take national costs into account? Chinese and Indian manpower costs may be much lower than those in America. Adjusting the figures for PPP is one way to get a more realistic view. Was that done here?

    Enquiring minds would like to know.

    1. Shhh, you’re ruining the narrative. And the answers to your questions are no and no.

    2. Pensions and active duty medical costs come out of the Defense budge, the Veterans Department is separate and half the Energy Department budget is for nuclear weapons.

      1. There are no “pensions”. There is “pay” for retired members, who are subject to being recalled to active duty if required by the President and/or Congress.

  5. Congress could cut the Pentagon’s budget in half, and the U.S. would still be “the strongest military power in the world.”

    Assuming all military spending by all nations is equally efficient. And if there’s anything we’ve learned about our government and money, it’s that they piss it away like crazy.

    By my estimation, if we cut our military budget in half, we’d probably have a military as strong as England even though we’d still be outspending every other nation on stupid boondoggles like the F-35 and diversity officers in each unit.

    In short: spending =/= strength.

      1. Indeed, which is why the shield wall is still a key part of military tactics 🙂

        1. One man’s shield is another man’s B-52 or CBG.

    1. Our fleet of aircraft carriers and nuclear subs means we are (and will remain for the next century) the world’s dominant military.

      Military spending could easily be slashed with no detrimental effect on military capabilities if the United States would just adopt a saner foreign policy of not intervening in every clusterfuck of a civil war.

      1. I agree. If it gets slashed n the right areas. But it won’t. It never does, because then departments couldn’t justify their bloated begets.

        1. The only way we’re ever going to cut any government departments will be by offering a chunk of the savings to people in the particular department. As it is, none of them give a crap. If they got 5% of every penny saved, I think gov’t employees would become very fiscally hawkish.

      2. The problem is one of defining the military’s mission. People expect it to be everywhere, do everything and beat everyone.

        If we restricted our military to a mission of national defense rather than enforcement and protection of national interests then our military would look quite different.

        People are still in the mindset of that were on the verge of a Normandy invasion at any moment.

        War is peace after all.

        1. Esp. when “interests” flex infinitely.

        2. “If we restricted our military to a mission of national defense rather than enforcement and protection of national interests then our military would look quite different.”

          With one of those national interests being defined as keeping the sea lanes open for global commerce.

          Whether one thinks the United States should be in that business or not – there would be global economic repercussions if the U.S deliberately decided to abdicate that role. China is in the business of trying to turn the South China Sea into it’s own private lake by building artificial islands on reefs and claiming 12 mile limits around each one as it’s sovereign territory. If they are successful in that endeavor, there will be economic effects for the other Asian nations in the region as well as the rest of the world.

          1. With one of those national interests being defined as keeping the sea lanes open for global commerce.

            Then you do what Britain did up until WWII – you define the Navy as the senior service and you fund it accordingly (because FoN is clearly a Navy job). That doesn’t mean funding the services roughly equally because of “equity”, or justifying budgets based on ability to project ground power anywhere in the world.

        3. “People expect it to be everywhere, do everything and beat everyone.”

          Except when dealing with regimes that actually threaten Americans ex Iran, pre-9/11 Taliban.

          1. Fuck your obsession with Iran you dimwitted Canuck. You want to talk about the source of the religious fanaticism that drove 9/11 and animates AQ and ISIS – it is the goddam Saudi Wahhabis. You take all that war-boner and point it there for a change, huh monkey boy?

      3. ‘and will remain for the next century’
        The way I look at claims like this is to step back an equivalent period and see how things looked then. So back to 1915. The dreadnought was the top nautical dog then, its days were numbered by the end of WW1. In a 100 years time I suspect aircraft carriers will have gone the same way, perhaps submarines as well.

      4. A hammer is going to find them nails…

      5. You have to constantly train. Which means flying aircraft, maneuvering tanks/etc, and cruising ships in the manner they would be used in a combat situation so the “software” (soldiers/sailors/Marines) stays current and synced.

    2. stupid boondoggles like the F-35

      I guess you would have been against other Pentagon programmatic disasters like the F-15 and P-51?

      1. The last time the DoD tried the all-around fighter/attack plane it was the F-111. JSF is a revisitation of a proven wrong design concept.

      2. You could have chosen better examples for “programmatic disasters” than those two which do not seem to meet the criteria.

    3. What reason is there to think that other nation’s spending is more efficient? We’re talking about places like China, Russia, France.

  6. However, keep a few things in mind:
    Almost all of the R&D for the nations we usually work with is funded by the US.
    And as a percent of GDP, the US is only 4th or 5th depending on the source (behind both Saudi Arabia and Russia).

    Should we use the military in the ways that we have in the last 2 decades? Probably not.

    That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to keep the absolutely strongest military in the world. And who said we don’t have any legitimate rivals? China? Iran? Russia? Is it completely inconceivable that these countries could ally themselves against us?

    This is one power that is specifically granted to the federal government in the Constitution. We absolutely need to significantly change the way we do business in the Pentagon regarding defense procurement and contracts.

    Hope for peace.
    Prepare for war.

    1. Just for the record, I am not even arguing that we should INCREASE defense spending. I would even be in favor of a 10% cut across the board on all federal spending including defense. I am just trying to provide a counterpoint to the idea of drastic defense spending cuts.

    2. What’s outrank going to do, invade it’s? The only reason they are a “threat” is because we are playing in their sand pile.
      Russia? Are they planning on invading the US? Again, the only reason they are a threat is because Europe won’t pay for their own defense. Same goes for China.

      1. Iran, not outrank, and us not it’s

      2. Iran has repeatedly sponsored attacks on US citizens.

        1. Yeah, that does not make them a threat to the US. They are an enemy, but one with no capability to do any serious harm to the United States .

    3. So long as we keep buying billions of their exports, China isn’t going to be that aggressive against us (assuming we don’t attempt to free Tibet militarily), and they certainly won’t enter into military pacts aimed against us, as that would be begging for economic payback (tariffs on Chinese goods, etc.)

      1. The beauty of America is it wouldn’t take tariffs. One well placed marketing approach and the kombucha drinking hipster crowd would never buy Chinese items again.

    4. If we cut our spending in half we would still outspend Russia and China *combined* by a good margin.

      And I would be willing to bet that our ‘spending efficiency’ is a hell of a lot better than either of those two countries by a good margin. Meaning that our defense dollar goes a lot further, increasing that gap.

      We’re behind places like Russia in % of GDP because places like Russia have shit economies. They’re confiscating and spending a huge proportion of the wealth of their citizens and still not able to maintain parity. And that’s *on top* of slowing their economic growth allowing the gap between them and us to widen even further.

      1. I wouldn’t. This is the same debunked point that keeps getting trotted out. We spend more in absolute terms than Russia or China (well what China admits to spending and when have they. EVER lied?). But we also have an all volunteer force that China does not. We also spend more on healthcare than the next few countries combined. Why doesn’t reason like to trot out that argument? Why doesn’t Reason talk about the fact that the fastest growing component of military spending is personnel costs? Right, because fighter jetz.

        1. +1 I like your news letter and would like to subscribe

  7. But dispite all that spending there are still problems in the world. So need Moar penis missiles

    1. Can YOU build a missile out of IOUs? Pretty cool if you think about it.

  8. Memo to Sullum: thank God we do.

  9. The military budget will change according to policy. If we become less or noninterventionist, the military budget will shrink accordingly. After all, no none wants obviously unnecessary spending. If we continue to stick our fingers into every bloody pie around the world, the military budget will continue to stay enormous or grow out of a simple requirement to fund enormously expensive missions.

    A radical policy change is a prerequisite for cutting the military budget in any meaningful way. Good luck with that, though. All of the viable candidates on both sides of the aisle are interventionist maniacs and the military budget will necessarily reflect that.

    1. ” After all, no none wants obviously unnecessary spending.”

      Thatsa a gooda one.

      1. Freudian slip.

    2. No republican will cut money from the military industrial complex. Too many jobs for crap projects. To them perpetual war is the same as “leading.” They have no problem sending our sons and daughters to die as long as we look “tough” doing so.

      1. Wait so Democrat presidents don’t send out sons and daughters to die looking tough?
        I forgot Boooooosh!

  10. If we cut the military budget in half, we would still have enough to produce the most alt-text in the world.

  11. I’m not sure comparing spending levels really gives you a good idea of relative military strength. A huge amount of military costs are soldier/sailor/airman compensation. The US is spending something like $100k per soldier, on average, in cash and non-cash compensation. China is spending about $10k per soldier. That’s why China has 2.3M active duty personnel and the US only has 1.4M, but China spends less. Sure, we have better weapon systems and likely better training, and that’s very important, but so is raw numbers.

  12. It’s mind boggling to thin how I to be that way.

    1. The resource-sapping scripts here are also mind- (& editor-) boggling.

      1. Somebody call the ambulance, Robert’s gotten into AC’s stash.

  13. Paul should focus on foreign freeloaders.
    Nations who mooch off the already overburdened US taxpayer.
    Call it foreign welfare –

    This article is a few years old – most likely little has changed.

    US reportedly footing more of the bill for overseas bases despite cuts to military

    WASHINGTON ? The United States is footing more of the bill for overseas bases in Germany, Japan and South Korea even as the military reduces the number of American troops in Europe and strategically repositions forces in Asia, a congressional report says.

    The exhaustive, yearlong investigation by the Senate Armed Services Committee focused on costs and burden-sharing as the United States spends more than $10 billion a year to back up the U.S. military presence overseas, with 70 percent of the amount expended in the three nations. The figure does not include military personnel costs.…..-military/

  14. We could build a fence along the Mexican border for the price of one Ford-class Aircraft Carrier

    1. Will it look like this? It’s very nice.…..look-like/

    2. Is that a Model A or a Model T Ford class?

  15. Saudi Arabia is #4 in military spending?

  16. Rand Paul’s argument against Rubio was spot on. I really liked what he had to say overtime he was able to speak. The problem is, no neo con or those in the rep party who will get the nomination will agree, they won’t agree because they are blinded by they idea that we have to be the ones who interfere with every country we disagree with. One of these idiots even said that we cannot let the Russians fly in the airspace that is ours. We have no right to fly in others airspace without permission. They continue to show their interventionism and refuse to accept the fact that we have caused the comeuppance of isis by deposing the only one who was able to keep them and iran at bay. Then we double down by getting rid of kadafi and cause a void there. We outspent the old soviet union and their war machine crushed them. If we don’t get a handle on spending, that includes military spending, we too will be crushed. Russia and China don’t need to start a war, they just need to make us believe they might so we will spend on the military industrial complex until it, like the USSR, causes us to collapse.

    This is the reason libertarians need their own party. We need to stop voting for the “lesser of two evils” and show that we are a force to be reckoned with. The republicans will always have this faction in control who believe it’s America’s role to intervene any where and any time they want, to them “leading” is the same as interferring if you don’t do what we want.

    1. “the fact that we have caused the comeuppance of isis by deposing the only one who was able to keep them and iran at bay. ”

      If you believe this then you have no idea what you’re talking about. Assad was ‘comeupped’ by his people, and that’s where ISIS got powerful. I have not been presented any evidence that Sadaam was keeping Iran at bay.

    2. “One of these idiots even said that we cannot let the Russians fly in the airspace that is ours. We have no right to fly in others airspace without permission. hey continue to show their interventionism ”

      Umm, what is your point here. That’s why it’s called airspace.

      Haha neo con, the old liberal dirty word

  17. Paul can’t win the Republican nomination on the basis of not being a war-monger. That is the Republican base and that is what they demand in a Presidential nominee. There are no more Taft Republicans to appeal to and even after the fallout from W, the party has no intention of retreating from its self-destructive impulses.

  18. For how many days?
    What we spend today, is insurance against tomorrow, a tomorrow that can never be foretold.

  19. So what? Many of the European countries just don’t take defense spending seriously so they have soldiers with an average aged of 45 years-old and obsolete equipment. They spent big on social welfare programs and the American tax payer defended them from the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact.

    Ronald Reagan got asked this question all the time and he had a good reply, “About 75 percent of our budget is pay and benefits.” and he had never seen a strong free country overrun by a tyrant but he had seen plenty of weak free countries be mowed over.

    Third, the U.N. will do very little to stop evil on Earth, they spend about 90 percent of their time condemning Israel, that is why Israel has more reporters in it than any country on Earth save the United States, so the UN and the Liberal Media can provide fodder for the 30 denunciations a year that come from that body on Israel.

    If there is no strong United States, evil will flourish.

  20. If congress cut the military budget in half and stopped the theft and waste, the military would likely be much stronger than it is now.

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