As the House debates the FY18 National Defense Authorization Act this week, the conservative Heritage Foundation has just released an influential report that argues defense spending should be “sized to our obligations” and underwrite the capabilities needed to meet those obligations.
Some excerpts of “Putting Defense Spending in Context: Simple Comparisons Are Inadequate” are outlined below:
“…Maintaining a force of the size and strength necessary to protect U.S. interests and uphold international obligations understandably necessitates a larger budget than is required for other nations with regional or local forces. However, statements such as “the U.S. spends more on defense than the next eight countries combined” evoke an appearance of excess, but give no consideration to the decisions driving defense spending or the factors contributing to costs across national economies. Claims that the U.S. spends too much, as measured against the defense expenditures of other countries, are disingenuous. The security environment in which the U.S. military is expected to operate has grown increasingly complex, and national defense resourcing warrants more than a solitary sentence of discussion.”
Defense spending levels should be determined based on U.S. national security requirements, not arbitrary spending comparisons.
Differences in personnel costs and purchasing power between countries can contribute to forces of widely disparate size and strength at equivalent spending levels.
Although still the largest spender, the U.S. has decreased defense spending as a percentage of global spending, while adversary spending has rapidly increased.
America’s defense needs are dictated by its interests, alliances, and goals. Head-to-head comparisons with other countries omit the differences in defense requirements from country to country and fail to consider significant differences in costs and economic factors. Rather than asking how much we spend, U.S. lawmakers should be asking what we need to do to provide for the common defense—and endeavor to meet those needs. However, the U.S. should not strive to achieve military defense parity with other countries, in either cost or capability. Rather, the goal of the U.S. should be military superiority, so that when the nation must fight, it will win—and win decisively.