Thursday, January 31, 2008

U.S. Military Spending in Context

Want to read some eye-popping figures on our military budget or the number of personnel we employ related to our defense? Check out Paul Waldman's column. He also describes just how far-flung our military power is:
According to the Defense Department's 2007 Base Structure Report, we maintain 823 military facilities in 39 foreign countries, and another 86 facilities in seven U.S. territories. According to the document, "DoD occupies a reported 343,867 buildings throughout the world, valued at over $464 billion and comprising almost 2.4 billion square feet." The DoD also owns 32.4 million acres of land (nearly all of it in the U.S.), or over 50,000 square miles, an area about the size of Louisiana (or half of Colorado; or Delaware, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, and Maryland combined).

Our military doesn't come cheap. Ezra Klein took Waldman's numbers and put them into the chart you see here to give us a visual image of US military spending as compared to the handful of nations we're theoretically spending that money against (numbers are from 2005).

This is how Klein breaks the numbers down:
Our spending is 43 percent of the total. Not the total on that chart. The total of the world. The "hostile" nations on that chart barely equal out to a fraction of our spending.
Will a new occupant in the White House affect military spending? Not according to Waldman:
John McCain says that he wants "a larger and more capable military," no shock from a man who barely ever met a military operation he didn't support. The one who actually provides some specificity is Mitt Romney, who wants to increase military spending to four percent of Gross Domestic Product. According to the government's current projections, GDP in 2009 will be $15.3 trillion, which means Romney is proposing to boost military spending by about 20 percent, to $612 billion in his first year in office (not counting Iraq). [emphasis added]

...the Democrats don't have much to say -- although Barack Obama wants to add 65,000 Army soldiers and 27,000 Marines. A consistent hawk, Hillary Clinton evinces no particular desire to reduce the size of the military either.
No wonder we don't have money for infrastructure, health care, education, etc. We're spending as much on our military as the rest of the world combined. For what? So we can be safe here at home? Our spending doesn't reflect that says Waldman:
...the portion of our "defense" spending that goes to actual defense is miniscule. Our soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines aren't patrolling our borders and training to defend our cities. What they prepare for, and what they're called to do, is to project our extraordinary military power outward.
We're the world's sole superpower, but we really aren't safe at home and our domestic needs aren't being met. What a mess our leaders have made of this country.

Update: In a report released today, here's more proof those defense dollars aren't protecting us on the homefront:
The U.S. military isn't ready for a catastrophic attack on the country, and National Guard forces don't have the equipment or training they need for the job, according to a report.

Even fewer Army National Guard units are combat-ready today than were nearly a year ago when the Commission on the National Guard and Reserves determined that 88 percent of the units were not prepared for the fight, the panel says in a new report released Thursday.


Kvatch said...

So we can be safe here at home? Our spending doesn't reflect that says Waldman

I've long maintained that if we want to be safe at home. We should spend at home.

Lew Scannon said...

The increasing military budget doesn't come without a price; it's the reason we have a large budget deficit every year. If we cut it in half, we'd have more than enough to provide decent health care for every American citizen.

Larry said...

All this while millions lie in poverty, and thousands more lose their jobs each week.

abi said...

Wow, those are impressive (and worrisome) stats. You have to wonder how long we can keep this up.

Anonymous said...

Great post, Kathy. I have a feeling I will be referring to it soon.

Kathy said...

Kvatch, I agree, and I think the reasonable half of our country does too.

Lew, you're right, it would give us money for other priorities, but we'd still have that deficit to pay down.

Larry, the poor and unemployed aren't on the Republican's radar - only the rich.

Abi, if we end up having to use our military to defend ourselves on another front, the rich will have to kick in a few bucks to support the military.

Expat, thanks. I'll be looking forward to reading what you write.