From a thread I posted at PoliticalForum.com Why U.S. Defense Spending Is So High? A constant line of attack on U.S. defense spending is that the U.S. spends more on defense than all the other nations combined and that even the top spenders among other nations are allies of the U.S. This is somewhat misleading on its face as the United States has a poor history of determining how much other nations spend on their military. Just because China announces an official defense budget of 80 billion dollars doesn’t mean that their budget isn’t three, four, or five times as much. This is especially true considering their economy if fully capable of supporting such levels. Yet for the purpose of argument lets focus on U.S. defense spending. 1) The U.S. military is an expeditionary military. That is it is designed to go overseas and fight. This means by ship or plane. Expeditionary forces cost, man for man 5-7 times more than a regular military. Nations like China, Russia, North Korea, and Iran can simply drive or walk to any potential combat region where they might face U.S. troops. American forces have to fly or sail. 2) The U.S. military spends lavishly on its personnel. Many other nations from China to North Korea can compel its citizens to serve in the military under pain of death. The U.S. military has to compete with the largest economy in the world for people. 3) Beyond just direct personnel expenses, the U.S. values its soldiers lives far more highly than most nations. This means spending far more on everything from medical evacuation of wounded troops to more weapons and equipment for the average soldiers to investing in higher technology that minimizes the individual risks to soldiers. 4) The U.S. defends not only United States territory, but basically all of North America. We have direct treaty obligations to defend Canada (and even provide military support in case of a civil or natural disaster) but inferred obligations to do the same for Mexico. 5) The U.S. provides a nuclear umbrella for a host of other nations from Australia to South Korea to Germany to Japan. In general, the U.S. thinks it’s a good thing that the fewer nations have nuclear weapons the better. And let’s put it this way, consider just how quick it would hit the fan in Europe and Asia respectively if Germany and Japan started building nuclear arsenals. 6) The U.S. military basically has to support its allies in most military operations. This is in fact a Cold War legacy. It was long assumed that if a major conventional World War Three was fought in Central Europe, nations like West Germany, Great Britain, and Italy would “provide the battlefields” as part of their contribution to the war effort. Thus, their militaries (and others) were designed to operate within a larger U.S. led effort. This has had the effect such as in the air campaign against Serbia in the late 1990s where it was estimated that every allies combat sortie by U.S. NATO allies required the support of THREE U.S. aircraft. In other words, it would’ve been cheaper for the U.S. to simply fly the combat missions themselves. 7) And the big thing is as follows: The U.S. has more direct obligations and interests than that of any other nation on Earth. The U.S. has to maintain sufficient forces to defend South Korea from North Korea thanks to treaty obligation AND the direct U.S. interests of protecting 100,000 American civilians who live in the Seoul, South Korea metropolitan area. Yet the U.S. also conducts things like anti piracy patrols in the Indian Ocean which as far as I know is not a major concern of the South Koreans. Likewise the U.S. protects and patrols maritime trade routes that benefit not only us but all nations that use them. Want to cut back on American overseas obligations, take a shot at it but you do that BEFORE you start to scale back defense expenditures just as you don’t cut back the police until crime actually declines. One big thing to remember is that foreign nations have a huge advantage of the U.S. in that they can damage our economy and kill large numbers of our citizens at a very low cost while defending both can be costly. Just as it is much easier to cause a car tire to go flat rather than to repair the flat. Iran can fire missiles into a few tankers in the Strait of Hormuz and send oil soaring to 300 dollars a barrel and produce an instant recession in the U.S. and Europe. North Korean can fire a dozen missiles into Seoul and kill 1,000 Americans (and tens of thousands of South Koreans) and even a massive retaliation strike by the U.S. and South Koreans wouldn’t cost the North as much. Could U.S. defense dollars be spent more efficiently and wisely? Of course, but that is true of any big budget organization. The same could be said of the Social Security Administration or the Education Department. Cutting the defense budget will not miraculously reduce waste or corruption. In fact it could make it worse as there is a scramble for a shrinking pie. The U.S. spends what it does on defense because it has obligations and interests around the world and to maintain a world geopolitical structure that benefits us the most. The idea that it is for the benefit of defense contractors is ridiculous given how many of those contractors have disappeared since the end of the Cold War.