20 March 2012

Defense Budget "Analysis"

This chart was posted over at Mother Jones today. Now yes, you need to consider the source, but it's based on data from the International Institute of Strategic Studies. The sourcing of the actual chart is only an issue if you follow the link and decide to read the comments.

Click to enlarge, at least a bit

In case it isn't approved by the site moderators, here are the comments I submitted to the article.

I'm curious about 2 things in the US figures, and wondering if they were included, and how (if at all) comparable expenditures are included in other nations' military budgets:

1. R&D. The US R&D budget for the military is pretty damn big compared to other countries. We tend to develop a lot of the technologies/hardware, then sell it to other people to help recoup the costs. We were better at this 30 years ago than today (F16 vs F35) but we still do a lot more R&D than say, Germany or Brazil.

2. Military family support. How much of the budget is covering things like military housing, family health care, on-post/overseas schools for military kids, etc? The US tends to do a lot more for their military families than other nations, in part because of the frontier tradition of larger, unified military bases where the entire community is self-contained (that was replicated in Europe in the Cold War). Other nations have their military folks at the "local" base far more integrated into the community with regards to housing, shopping, family activities, etc. Plus many of those nations have a completely different health care structure than the US does, which changes the calculus of providing health care to military families.

This doesn't mean there's not room for improvement in the defense budget, but when you're comparing US numbers to everyone else, you have to include deployment costs (discussed ad nauseum), as well as these other considerations, before you just scream about how out of whack the US budget seems. The US Navy is all over the world, in large part ensuring global trade lanes are reasonably open. If the US pulled back to home ports, would other nations pick up the slack? Impossible to know, but probably a factor in the numbers discussed here.

By: Brant

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