|Military spending nears $1
By Thalif Deen
YORK - After declining in the post-Cold War era of the
early 1990s, global military spending is on the rise
again - threatening to break the US$1 trillion barrier
this year, according to a group of United
Nations-appointed military experts.
16-member group estimates that military spending will
rise to nearly $950 billion by the end of 2004, up from
$900 billion in 2003. By contrast, rich nations spend
$50 billion to $60 billion on development aid each year.
The 2004 estimates would be "substantially
higher if the costs of the major armed conflicts in
Afghanistan and Iraq were included", the experts say in
a 30-page report released in New York. The US Congress
has authorized spending of about $25 billion for
Afghanistan and Iraq in 2004, but that is expected to
more than double by the end of the year. US Deputy
Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz told the Senate in May
that war spending in Afghanistan and Iraq was
approaching about $5 billion a month. He predicted that
total costs for 2005 would be $50 billion to $60
"At a time when global
poverty-eradication and development goals are not being
met due ... to a shortfall of necessary funds, rising
global military expenditure is a disturbing trend,"
warns the UN study. The report, titled "The Relationship
between Disarmament and Development in the Current
International Context", will go before the 59th session
of the UN General Assembly beginning mid-September.
"With the end of the Cold War, global military
expenditure started to decrease," the report said. "Many
expected that this would result in a peace dividend as
declining military spending and a less confrontational
international environment would release financial,
technological and human resources for development
But that never materialized, say the
experts, who included retired Brigadier Richard Baly of
the UK Department for International Development;
Friedrich Groning, deputy commissioner of Germany's Arms
Control and Disarmament Department; Catharina Kipp,
director of the Department for Global Security in
Sweden; and Prasad Kariyawasam, director general of the
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Sri Lanka.
"Despite decades of discussions and proposals on
how to release resources from military expenditure for
development purposes, the international community has
not been able to agree on limiting military expenditure
or establishing a ratio of military spending to national
development expenditure," they write.
height of the Cold War between the United States and the
Soviet Union in the 1970s, global military spending rose
above $900 billion. But with the fall of the Berlin Wall
in 1989, it kept declining, to about $780 billion in
1999. The recent increases are due primarily to a
significant rise in the US military budget.
United States now accounts for about half of world
military spending, meaning that it is spending nearly as
much as the rest of the world combined," said Natalie J
Goldring, executive director of the program on global
security and disarmament at the University of Maryland.
"This is difficult to justify on the basis of known or
anticipated threats to US national security."
The world's top five spenders are the US, Japan,
the United Kingdom, France and China.
"war on terrorism" - after attacks on New York and the
Pentagon in September 2001 - has triggered a dramatic
increase in US military spending, boosting overall
global figures. US spending alone has risen from $296
billion in 1997 to $336 billion in 2002 and $379 billion
in 2003. In contrast, Japan spends an average of about
$44 billion annually on its military, France about $40
billion, the United Kingdom about $35 billion and China
about $26 billion.
Goldring noted that US
President George W Bush this month signed a military
appropriations bill that provides about $417 billion for
the Department of Defense in 2005. "But this is just the
down payment on the year's military spending," Goldring
said. The figure, she pointed out, does not include an
estimated $10 billion for military construction, nearly
$20 billion for Department of Energy military programs,
and perhaps another $50 billion for additional costs of
US military actions in Afghanistan and Iraq (beyond the
$25 billion already authorized).
The final tab
for this year, Goldring said, is likely to be about $500
"Despite President Bush's rhetoric
about realigning military forces, the new military
budget still funds Cold War weapons designed to counter
expected Soviet developments. But the Soviet Union
hasn't existed for more than a decade," she said.
On Monday, Bush announced a major deployment of
US military forces worldwide, but it is not expected to
reduce the overall size of the country's armed forces.
Goldring predicted that if Bush is re-elected in
November, the upward trend in the military budget is
likely to continue. "But even if Senator [John] Kerry is
elected, the United States will still be paying the
costs of the Bush administration's invasion of Iraq and
commitment to poorly conceived military programs, such
as ballistic-missile defense. As a result, military
costs are likely to be difficult to control," she said.
Frida Berrigan, a senior research associate at
the World Policy Institute's Arms Trade Resource Center,
said that according to the 2005 budget, the US will
spend about $1.15 billion a day, or $11,000 a second, on
defense. "In comparison, we spend half that on public
education per year per child in the United States," she
Under the Bush administration, Pentagon
spending has increased more than 23% (in adjusted
dollars). But while many Americans think that money is
for the "war on terrorism", that is not the case,
Berrigan said. The defense allocation does not include
the costs of ongoing fighting - about $5 billion each
month - in Afghanistan and Iraq.
are paid through emergency supplementals. So far, the US
Congress has signed off on $190 billion in supplemental
spending for war and occupation in Iraq and
Afghanistan," she said.
The Congressional Budget
Office projects that between fiscal year 2005 and the
end of the decade, the US will spend $2.2 trillion on
the military, feeding the already spiraling global
defense spending, Berrigan said.