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U.S. share of world military spending keeps climbing

February 21, 2010 - Jim Anderson
The Project on Defense Alternatives (funded through the Commonwealth Institute) has published a new report on Pentagon spending.

A few findings from the Defense Alternatives report:

— The U.S. has gone from accounting for 28 percent of world military spending during the Cold War (1986) to 41 percent in 2006.

— The Western group (the U.S. and its allies) has gone from a 49 percent share to a 70 percent share. Based on current trends, the U.S. itself will soon account for more that half of all global military spending.

— Spending by potential adversary and competitor states has gone from claiming a 42 percent share in 1986 to just 16 percent in 2006.

— Had Ronald Reagan wanted to achieve in the 1980s the ratio between U.S. and adversary spending that existed in 2006, he would have had to quadruple his defense budgets.

President Barack Obama’s proposed Pentagon budget for fiscal 2011 is a record $708 billion. Last month, when Obama proposed a freeze in some areas of government spending, he specifically excluded the military.

When including war costs, Pentagon spending has grown by 70 percent in real terms since 2001, according to the Center for a New American Security.

Reagan was sometimes celebrated for setting the stage for the end of the Cold War by forcing the Soviet Union to spend itself into disaster. The economic cost of military spending seems widely acknowledged in that regard.

In our time, in our own nation, the mere suggestion of a military spending freeze sends chills up political spines. Rarely, in federal deficit discussions, is the domestic economic cost of military spending recognized.

A reduction of 5 percent in President Obama’s 2011 Pentagon budget would amount to $35.4 billion.

If security is the issue, let’s try looking at it this way. At $70,000 per officer, $35.4 billion would be enough to fund more than 500,000 police officers, or more than 10,000 officers for each of the 50 states.

That’s a lot of domestic security.


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