Aug 28, 2012

Trends in U.S. Military Spending - In 2011, military spending declined by almost $9 billion, the first such decline since 1998.

  • Sequestration scheduled to take effect in January promises about $55 billion in cuts to U.S. military spending, although the baseline against which these cuts will be made remains unclear.
  • The president's 2013 budget requests $728 billion in military spending. If this were used as the baseline, sequestration would mean a 7.5 percent reduction in military spending from the president's requested level in FY 2013.

U.S. National Defense Spending

  • In the post-Cold War world, the U.S. national defense budget has fluctuated within a relatively narrow band. It fell by about three percentage points of GDP as the nation reaped the peace dividend of the 1990s, then rose after the terrorist attacks of 2001.
  • President Obama's budget proposes cutting security spending to 3.7% of GDP in 2018. This would match the 2000 level and represent the lowest allocation of GDP to defense spending in the post-World War II era.

To put U.S. military spending in context, consider GDP and population shares as of 2011. The pie charts demonstrate that the United States accounts for a larger share of military spending than of either GDP or population, and would continue to even if military spending were to revert to 2000 levels as a percent of GDP.

Military Spending, GDP, and Population

If U.S. military spending were to revert to its 2000 level over the next five years, as President Obama has proposed, and the rest of the world were to continue spending the same portion of its GDP on the military, U.S. military spending as a share of the global total would decline sharply, to just under 30 percent.

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