We currently spend more on defense than the next 10 countries combined. Defense spending accounts for about 20 percent of all federal spending — nearly as much as Social Security, or the combined spending for Medicare and Medicaid. The sheer size of the defense budget suggests that it should be part of any serious effort to address America’s long-term fiscal challenges. National security threats have evolved over the past 50 years, changing the nature of U. S. commitments around the world. We need a defense budget that matches these new security challenges, not the threats of the last century.
We should also recognize that a strong economy is essential for providing the resources to meet future threats, and addressing our long-term structural debts will keep our economy strong. Indeed, as Admiral Mike Mullen, the past Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has said: “The single greatest threat to our national security is our debt. ” Comparing Defense Budgets, Apples to Apples Part Two of Five In the opening article, we saw how a massive and growing debt (as well as a dose of bad politics) has set America on a path towards sequestration, or, at the very least ,the potential of serious levels of defense cuts.
But to understand the actual impact that these cuts might have, including weighing the predictions that such a scenario would “destroy the U. S. military” or mean the U. S. would be “unable to keep up with potential adversaries,” it is useful to pull back and examine where the U. S. defense budget stands in relation to the rest of the world. (MORE: Sequestration and What It Would Do to U. S. Military Power) The U. S. is the only global superpower, with capabilities and responsibilities that dwarf any and every other state in the world.
And, as the below charts show, the U. S. defense budget reflects that reality, outspending all other nations by a significant amount. What is notable about the scale of the U. S. budget is not just its relative size to other nations, but also how many other of the major players (albeit an order of magnitude smaller) are close U. S. allies, like the UK or Japan, or unlikely foes, like India or Brazil. Only two of the top ten, China and Russia could be put in the category of potential adversaries.
The United States military became one of the largest fighting forces in the world during World War 2 and the Cold War only served to solidify its place on the world stage for decades to come. Its command structure can appear bewildering at times, whether attempting to understand it on a professional or casual level. The information presented on this page provides the visitor the available ranks of the four major American military branches of service (the Coast Guard falls under the banner of the Navy and is included here as well).
Each rank is listed from lowest-to-highest in their respective chain-of-command and include applicable ranks, shoulder patches and quick links to our pay scale page. Another way to visualize this is to combine all the world’s military spending together. At the height of the Iraq war, U. S. spending was above half of all the world’s military spending, but is now down to slightly above 40% of all military spending. Sequestration would take it down by about 2 percentage points more of the pie, roughly 38% of all global military spending, excluding any likely contingency or war spending.
Indeed, it is only in terms of percent of GDP that the U. S. is not ahead, in second place to Saudi Arabia. But here again, sequestration doesn’t change the overall ranking. As a side note, one of the fascinating disconnects in American politics today is between the above data and public perceptions of defense spending, which many unfortunately are quick to exploit in our “post truth” era of politics. Only 58% of voters are aware that the US spends more on defense than any other country in the world. And just 33% recognize that America spends almost as much on defense as the rest of the world combined.