U.S. Military Spending: In a League of Its Own

In February 2011, U.S. President Barack Obama asked the U.S. Congress for $671 billion to fund the U.S. military and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq in the 2012 fiscal year. We wonder: Just how high is the proposed level of U.S. defense spending? Is it…

A. Equal to half of India's GDP
B. Larger than the economies of all but 18 countries
C. More than the combined defense spending of the next top 20 nations
D. All of the above

A. Equal to half of India's GDP is correct.

The GDP of India is roughly $1.4 trillion. This means that the proposed U.S. defense budget is about half the size of the economy of India — a country of 1.2 billion people and an emerging economic superpower.

The U.S. defense budget is also nearly half the GDP of Russia, which stands at about $1.5 trillion — and about one-third the size of Brazil's economy (which is just over $2 trillion).

B. Larger than the economies of all but 18 countries is correct.

The proposed U.S. defense budget is larger than the economies of all but 18 of the world's countries. Thus, if the budget were considered its own country, it would rank as the world's 19th-largest economy, after Indonesia, the world's fourth-most-populous nation.

Among the 50 U.S. states, only the economies of California, Texas, New York and Florida are larger than the proposed U.S. defense budget.

C. More than the combined defense spending of the next top 20 nations is correct.

The proposed $671 billion U.S. defense budget is larger than the combined defense spending of the next top 20 nations — which stood at $667 billion in 2009, according to data provided by SIPRI. The next biggest spender is China, whose population is more than four times greater than the United States' — and yet spends only about one-seventh as much on its military.

As recently as 2000, the U.S. defense budget was about as large as the next top ten countries' defense budgets combined. While military spending remained largely stagnant in most other countries, in the United States it increased by 75%.

D. All of the above is correct.

While the proposed 2012 defense budget is 5% smaller than the current budget, the fact remains that no other country in the world comes close to what the United States spends on its military.

To put the U.S. defense budget into further perspective, the top 500 revenue-generating U.S. companies on the Fortune 500 list earned a combined $391 billion in profits in 2009 (the latest year for which data are available). This is less than 60% of the proposed 2012 U.S. defense budget.

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