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March 19, 2009
11:52 AM

Despite Economic Slump, Global Defense Spending Soars

Key Countries Modernize Militaries, Increase Expenditures

WASHINGTON - March 19 - Despite the damaged state of the global economy, governments around the world are planning to pump billions of dollars into their militaries this year, an analyst at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation said today.

The United States is a case in point. Last month, the Obama administration released a budget blueprint for the upcoming fiscal year that included $534 billion for the Department of Defense, as well as $130 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. At $534 billion, President Barack Obama's Pentagon budget is $9 billion, or 1.7 percent, greater than the previous year's budget after adjusting for inflation.

While the Obama administration has made clear that it plans to shift resources toward U.S. troops and away from high-priced weapons systems, its first budget nevertheless perpetuates the decade-long uptick in Pentagon spending, which has increased by approximately 40 percent since 2000.

The United States remains far and away the global leader in overall defense spending. Consider that in 2007, the most recent year for which accurate data is available, the United States spent more on defense than the next 14 highest spending countries combined; accounted for 43 percent of the world's total defense spending; and spent five times more on defense than China, eight times more than Russia, 85 times more than Iran, and 100 times more than North Korea.

This year, China also announced it would increase its defense budget, up 15 percent over last year's level. India said its increase would be a staggering 34 percent. France plans to double its domestic arms purchases to $26 billion in 2009. And Russia plans to spend $111 billion on military modernization by 2011, at which point President Dmitry Medvedev said even more accelerated "large-scale rearming" would begin. "During a severe economic downturn, countries might be expected to focus on fixing their economies and repairing their financial infrastructure," said Travis Sharp, military policy analyst at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation. "But the global recession does not seem to have redirected money away from defense spending at all."

The ongoing surge in international military spending may be explained by the more prominent international roles played by both previously inward-focused countries, such as China and India, and non-state actors, such as Al Qaeda.

"As countries survey the security environment today, they see more sources of potential danger than ever before," remarked Sharp. "This fear is easy to act upon in the globalized international defense market, where armaments can be obtained from various state and private sources."   Will global defense spending slow down if economic conditions do not improve?

"Even if other types of spending, such as for infrastructure or education, are ultimately more effective ways to create long-term economic growth, the 2009 defense budgets already released suggest that the overall growth in global military expenditures is unlikely to cease anytime soon," added Sharp.

For more information, see:

Travis Sharp, "U.S. Defense Spending vs. Global Defense Spending," Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation (February 26, 2009)

Travis Sharp, "The Worst Kind of Stimulus," (March 2009)

The Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation is a Washington, D.C.-based 501(c)3 non-profit, non-partisan research organization dedicated to enhancing international peace and security in the 21st century. The Center is funded by grants from private foundations and the generosity of thousands of individual donors.


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