U.S. Defense Cuts Lead to First Drop in Global Arms Spending in 15 Years

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Manjunath Kiran / AFP / Getty Images

A U.S. soldier loads a machine gun on an automatic turret over a Mine Resistant ATV prior to a patrol at the forward operating Base Finley Shields in Jalalabad, April 7, 2013.

With battles raging in Congress over the Pentagon’s proposed budget cuts, a new report says the gap in military spending between the U.S. and the rest of the world is narrowing, with Washington’s erstwhile foes — China and Russia — splurging on new weapons systems and several countries from Saudi Arabia to Algeria also spending billions on upgrading their arsenals, according to the yearly rankings of world military spending compiled by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, or SIPRI. “There is a shift globally from the West to other countries,” says Elisabeth Skons, SIPRI’s Africa program director. “It is very much related to economic-growth rates rather than security-related factors.”

SIPRI’s report breaks down country by country the $1.75 trillion (yes, trillion) that the world spent in 2012 on military budgets and reveals some startling figures. Russia’s military spending rose 16% last year alone, and China, which is now the world’s second biggest military buyer after the U.S., increased its spending by 7.8%. Among the Middle Eastern countries that disclose their military budgets, several have hugely ramped up their military capabilities, using rocketing oil revenue to buy high-priced fighter jets and missile systems. Saudi Arabia increased its military spending by 12% in 2012, and Oman’s increase was a whopping 51%.

Despite that, military spending globally dropped for the first time in 15 years. Sadly, SIPRI says the drop does not imply a more peaceful time in the world: the decrease is largely due to the U.S. ending its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and cutting its contingency-operations budgets. U.S. military spending dropped 6% in 2012 to about $682 billion, and there are further cuts of $87 billion planned for 2013. Those cuts have provoked ire in Congress and led Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel to tell the House Armed Services Committee on Thursday that his mission “was not to cut the heart out of the Pentagon.”

Hagel hardly need worry about that, judging by SIPRI’s report. The cuts make little dent in the Pentagon’s dominance among military powers: in 2012, the U.S. still spent more than the next 10 biggest military spenders combined. And although some countries have nearly tripled their military spending in the past decade — Algeria’s purchases have risen 189%, and Saudi Arabia’s military spending has gone up 110% since 2003 — each of those militaries is still tiny compared with that of the U.S. Nonetheless, the shift away from overwhelming U.S. power is real enough. According to IHS Jane’s, the London-based defense consultancy, the top five Asia-Pacific militaries — Japan, China, India, Australia and South Korea — together spent $285 billion in 2011, about 40% of U.S. spending. Yet by 2020, that gap could narrow to 20%, says Paul Burton, the company’s senior manager for aerospace and defense forecasting.

One of SIPRI’s most notable findings is that in 2012, “the U.S. share of world military spending went below 40% for the first time since the collapse of the Soviet Union” 24 years ago. Yet that still means that the U.S. accounts for four-tenths of all global military spending — and it is 69% higher than it was in 2001. “The U.S. is still a vast, vast military power,” Burton tells TIME. “The others are playing catch-up.”

For Western countries, the recession has made that process of catching up intensely difficult. Several countries have cut plans to acquire the Joint Strike Fighter, a U.S. system designed to replace aging fighter jets, says Siemon Wezeman, senior researcher of SIPRI’s arms-transfers program. But the recession has redrawn a lot of long-term military budgets, and Italy, Canada and the Netherlands are all reconsidering their plans to buy the new jets, produced by Lockheed Martin. “A lot of countries have looked at it and thought they need to rethink it,” Wezeman says. “The money is not unlimited.”

37 comments
LOB2065
LOB2065

The Lockheed Martin F35 is going down as the biggest disaster in aviation history and all of America's allies know it.

The America's need to realise that developed countries are never going to be able to afford to spend 2% of their GDP on defence because it is simply affordable.

The US is bankrupt and its allies see it as an empire in serious decline. The US has made a massive mistake by getting involved in all of the expensive wars it has been involved in during the past 12 years.     

TroyOwen
TroyOwen

After we wined down the Afghanistan war, there will be cuts, if anything like the Gulf War they will cut everything to the bone.

Here's to ending another war!

davidpepin
davidpepin

The cost of security in not the issue... the degree of effectiveness of the security is. If you can do it for $0.00001 per day, then great. If, on the other hand, it costs more... then ask yourself, would I rather my country save money, or risk my son losing his live in a stupid war against, say, North Korea?

FbiznotTheanswer
FbiznotTheanswer

Oh dear, oh dear - we here in the US don't want to get behind in the mass murder business!!

AndyMills
AndyMills

Excellent news!


A step in the right direction, however it’s still a behemoth. The US spends more on defence than the next ten countries combined, just the research budget alone is more than the UK spends on its entire military, and the US marine corp. (just the corp.) is bigger and better equipped than most countries entire military.


nikonusa77@gmail.com
nikonusa77@gmail.com

well its about time we stop this waste of our TAXPAYERS money that goes on at our military bases here and the overseas..if we dont STOP this wasteful spending now then our children will surely suffer later.....thank God we started

sintralin
sintralin

I really think that the title is a little misleading...implying that US reductions in defense spending caused other countries to also ease up on military buildups, when that's clearly not the case, even as stated within the article. Yes, the title is *technically* right, but I can't help but think that there could be many more succinct and less ambiguous ways to word it.

DaleRuff
DaleRuff

The DOD budget has been cut by 6%, with a budget of 682 billion.  

Of course, a good part of our security spending is hidden:  200 billion a year is used to repay debt related to previous wars.  That alone is more than any other nation spends.  Homeland Security gets 43 billion. .TheVA gets 70 billion ,and veteran's pensions are another 54 billion, the Dept of Energy gets 20 billion for nukes, and we are still spending money (supplemental war spending) in Afghanistan.  In addition, there are many other huge budgets with NASA, the FBI, military aid as part of foreign aid, etc.  Wikipedia has a chart for the total 2012 budget, which is at a minimum 1 trillion, at a maximum 1.4 trillion.  the entire deficit is the money we spend on defense.  If we had a budget the size of Russia, or China, we would be balancing the budget today.  And, I would argue, we would be safer, since our "wars of choice" have only created enemies.  China can have a defense budget 1/8 our size (with 4 times more people) because they haven't invaded anyone (excepting Tibet) and they don't face a backlash of enemies.  


The more we spend on "security," which mobilizes the war machine, the more insecure we are..and so like a gun addict who thinks that only more guns will end gun violence, we think that the solution to a world of enemies who both fear and hate us (desire to harm us), the family and friends of those we have killed in so many nations, is more weapons.   This is the blood lust of the addict, the path to decline.  The world's most lethal military cannot stop 20 hijackers with box cutting knives or defeat backward 3d world nations without navies or air forces!   




To conclude: half of our Federal revenues: 50% are spent on a foreign policy based on war, which is not working..  Defense hawks like to say it is only 20% of the budget, but they ignore the 300-700 billion also spent for defense not in the DOD budget (like a dirty secret it is hidden) and that 1/3 of the budget is borrowed.  Total revenues are about 2.5 trillion; defense takes about half of that. All wars are fought on borrowed money.  We will be repaying the debt  of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq far into the future.  

We will be paying for past wars, in fact,  forever.  This is the elephant in the room that the sequester cuts (still above 2010 funding)) barely impact.  Other factors ignored are that the other agencies, such as the VA, require more funding each year to deal with the 2/3 of vets who are in need of treatment; this will only get worse, as medical costs for wounded vets spikes 20-30 yrs after injury.  Unnecessary wars bankrupt empires.  Learn from history or repeat it.






drayer_chase
drayer_chase

@TIME @approbst How will this drop in global arms effect the armies of America and the economy of America?

Curly4
Curly4

@FbiznotTheanswer 

We could disarm and then we would be at the Mercie any nation, say, Mexico. There is not any other nation in what has been the western world  that has the resources to conduct world wide combat on a global level. The way to keep it that way is for the US to stay strong causing any and all other nations to think twice before that they start a conflict.

MaximPercy
MaximPercy

@AndyMills Right Andy and the reason why is the world is what - peaceful? In fact it is tearing itself apart as we speak thanks to Oabam the Despot and his views.

Maybe if we had a draft you could experience first hand why and what the Corps is about. By the way, the Marine Corps budget is frugal compared to billions in the US Army budget regardless if projects or programs are failing - Congressmen and companies still get your tax dollars. Maybe is the Army was lean and mean like the Corps we could further reduce spending. 

Americans are getting great return on their tax dollar from the Marines...look elsewhere when making comparisons like the zoomies who have been doing what with that huge budget???

MaximPercy
MaximPercy

@kevin9hot @TIME @TIMEWorld World arms spending has not fallen.

No kidding math wizard...aside from the USA cutting back, the rest of the world is spending more as now Saudi Arabia funnels arms through Jordan to the freedom fighters that Obama has ignored.

DaleRuff
DaleRuff

\Entitlements are rights; rights are not fixed, they are protected.

DaleRuff
DaleRuff

@drayer_chase @TIME @TIMEWorld @APPropst 


Any spending cuts will hurt the economy, but defense spending could in part be switched to infrastructure building and repair and  other areas, like education, which stimulate the economy lmuch more than building bombs, troops in foreign nations, wars, etc.  

DaleRuff
DaleRuff

@drayer_chase @TIME 


The trillion dollar defense budget is driving us into bankruptcy.  Armies do not win wars.

DaleRuff
DaleRuff

@Diesel_H @TIME ,,,,,,,,,,,as long as its not your job that is lost.

TroyOwen
TroyOwen

@MaximPercy @AndyMills So what your saying is EXCEPT for the Marines we should cut more out of the Military spending? I can get on board with that.