Center for Arms Control

Security Spending

by Laicie Heeley [contact information]

U.S. Defense Spending vs. Global Defense Spending

April 24, 2013

In 2012, the most recent year for which complete data is available, the U.S. approved $645.7 billion in defense budget authority (fiscal year 2013 dollars). This figure includes funding for the Pentagon base budget, Department of Energy-administered nuclear weapons activities, and the war in Afghanistan.

This number is six times more than China, 11 times more than Russia, 27 times more than Iran and 33 times more than Israel. Though China is often cited as the country’s next great military adversary, U.S. military spending currently doubles that of all of the countries in Asia combined. In 2012, the U.S. consumed 41 percent of total global military spending. The U.S. also remained in the top 10 highest spending countries as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), one widespread measure of military spending, trailing behind countries such as Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, and Israel, all of which have a significantly lower total military expenditure as well as a lower total GDP.I

2012 Defense ExpenditureII
(budget authority in billions of current U.S. dollars)

Country or Region 2012 Spending
United States (including war and nuclear) 645.7
Asia 314.9
Europe 280.1
Middle East and North Africa 166.4
Russia and Eurasia 69.3
Latin America and The Caribbean 68.8
Sub-Saharan Africa 19.2
Canada 18.4
Global Total 1,582.8

Total Global Spending for 2012

Top Five Defense Budgets
(budget authority in billions of current U.S. dollars)

Top Five Global Defense Budgets

U.S. vs. Global Spending
(budget authority in billions of current U.S. dollars)

U.S. Defense Spending vs. Next 15 Countries and Rest of World

Countries of Interest
(budget authority in billions of current U.S. dollars)

Country 2012 Spending Percent of GDP
United States (including war and nuclear) 645.7 4.12
Canada 18.4 1.04
China 102.4 1.24
Russia 59.9 3.06
United Kingdom 64.1 2.63
France 48.1 1.86
Germany 40.4 1.20
Japan 59.4 0.99
India 38.5 1.98
Italy 23.6 1.19
Brazil 35.3 1.45
Australia 25.1 1.63
Saudi Arabia 52.5 7.99
South Korea 29.0 2.52
Israel 19.4 7.85
Taiwan 10.3 2.21
Iran 23.9 4.95
North Korea ** **
Pakistan 5.9 2.55
Venezuela 6.1 1.80
Iraq 14.7 11.28
Afghanistan 2.1 10.54
Oman 6.7 8.42
Jordan 1.8 5.6

IU.S. figure includes funding for the Pentagon base budget, Department of Energy-administered nuclear weapons activities, and the war in Afghanistan. Data from Congressional Research Service, Office of Management and Budget, and International Institute for Strategic Studies.

IIUnfortunately, there is no such thing as an agreed-upon international definition for “defense expenditure.” Many countries count spending differently and, in some cases, transparency is an issue.
The analysis above uses data from The Military Balance 2013, the authoritative reference almanac produced annually by the International Institute for Strategic Studies. Defense spending estimates for China and Russia, both of which regularly underreport their annual military budgets, have been reported using a methodology known as Purchasing Power Parity (PPP). The Military Balance typically uses market exchange rates to convert countries’ defense spending figures into U.S. dollars. In the case of China and Russia, however, the market exchange rates fail to fully reflect the purchasing power of the yuan and the ruble, respectively. To compensate for this, The Military Balance 2013 uses PPP. This allows for a more balanced calculation of the numbers. All of the figures for China and Russia in the analysis above use PPP figures, which are significantly higher than both officially reported and market exchange rate figures.
The bottom line is that this analysis uses the highest possible defense spending estimates for China and Russia.

**The U.S. State Department estimates North Korean military spending at as much as a quarter of Gross National Product (GNP), with up to 20% of men ages 17-54 in the regular armed forces. Any publicly available estimates on DPRK defense spending are unreliable.

Laicie Heeley 202-546-0795 ext. 2105 lheeley@armscontrolcenter.org

Laicie Heeley is Senior Policy Analyst at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, where her work focuses on weapons proliferation, military spending and global security issues.

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