Military Spending Soars to
Dizzying Heights

Friends Committee of National Legislation

Washington Newsletter, April 2002


Pres. Bush's $2.1 trillion budget request for fiscal year 2003 (FY03) includes nearly $400 billion in discretionary budget authority for the military. Both the full House and the Senate Budget Committee matched this request in their respective drafts of the budget resolution. The U.S. will be spending more on the military now than it did during the Cold War. (The average annual military spending between 1946 and 1991, in constant 2002 dollars, was $344.1 billion.)

Total military spending (i.e. total budget authority) for FY03 will be considerably higher. In addition to the nearly $400 billion in discretionary spending, nearly $32 billion more must be allocated for mandatory spending to cover military retirement benefits and health care for current employees.

Total discretionary funds in the President's $2.1 trillion request amount to $767 billion. Military spending thus accounts for more than half of the discretionary spending. The balance will be divided up among all domestic programs, international affairs, and government. The commitment of such a large proportion of the nation's resources to military spending impacts drastically on other spending.

Spiraling military spending

The growth in U.S. military spending is out of control. The President's FY03 request represents a 12% increase over current spending. This comes despite the drop in global military spending from $1.2 trillion (1985) to $812 billion (2000). During that same time period, the U.S. share of global military spending rose from 31% to 36%. Since 2000, U.S. military spending has continued to rise. The FY03 increase adds to the growing disproportion. The following comparisons provide some perspective for U.S. military spending. (Source: Center for Defense Information.)

* The FY03 military budget exceeds the combined military spending of the next 25 nations. Russia, which has the second highest military budget, spent $60 billion on its military in 2000 (the latest year for which data are available).

* The FY03 military budget request is more than 26 times the combined spending of the seven most likely U.S. adversaries. The Pentagon has identified these countries as Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Sudan, and Syria.

Military strength, no matter how great, cannot assure national security. National and global security are enhanced by measures that relieve the extreme economic inequities around the world and enable peoples in all nations to be self-reliant in meeting their human needs. It is towards these ends that the U.S. should budget its resources.

Military Budget watch

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