The United States must have a prepared military, but it’s not unpatriotic to say the country is spending too much money on its defense, according to Newark Mayor Cory Booker.
How much money? It’s more than the military spending of up to the next 12 countries combined, the Democratic mayor said.
Booker made that point on the Feb. 1 episode of HBO’s "Real Time with Bill Maher" during a panel discussion about the recent Senate hearing on Chuck Hagel’s nomination to be U.S. Defense Secretary.
"The reality is we have to make sure that we have a military that’s prepared, but right now, we have more military spending than the next 10, 11, 12 countries combined, and we’ve got to start realizing that we can secure and protect ourselves, but also be responsible in the way that we do that," Booker said.
"And it’s not unpatriotic to say that we’re spending too much money," the mayor added. "In fact, to me, that’s the patriotic thing to say."
Booker’s claim is on target: The United States spent more on defense in 2011 than the combined total of other high-spending nations, according to data from two organizations considered to be leading authorities on worldwide military spending.
The first set of figures comes from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, an independent institute dedicated to research into conflict, armaments, arms control and disarmament. The institute maintains an online database of military expenditures since 1988 for 172 countries.
In 2011 -- the most recent year available -- the United States led the world in military spending at $711 billion, marking 41 percent of the world total, according to the institute. The next top 12 spending nations accounted for a combined total of $670.9 billion, according to the institute.
U.S. expenditures were nearly five times higher than China, the second-highest nation with an estimated $143 billion in military spending. Russia was in third place with estimated spending of $71.9 billion.
We found similar results when we reviewed the data released by The International Institute for Strategic Studies, a London-based think tank which tracks military spending in 170 countries for its annual "Military Balance" report.
According to IISS figures released last year, the United States’ defense budget in 2011 was $739.3 billion, making it the largest in the world. The combined total of the next top 9 nations was $486.7 billion, according to IISS figures.
Referring to U.S. military spending, Michael O’Hanlon, a defense expert with the nonpartisan Brookings Institution, explained in an e-mail: "It is large because we have overseas interests all over the world, and we put a high premium on responsiveness and qualitative superiority."
But the United States is poised to restrain its defense expenditures in the coming years.
In addition to reduced costs from winding down the war in Afghanistan, the Budget Control Act of 2011 contains provisions that limit spending increases in defense and other areas over the next decade.
It’s worth noting that calculating military expenditures for worldwide comparisons is inherently challenging, in part because there is no single definition of what constitutes military spending.
As the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute points out on its website, "the lack of sufficiently detailed data makes it difficult to apply a common definition of military expenditure on a worldwide basis."
In a panel discussion on HBO’s "Real Time with Bill Maher," Booker claimed that "right now, we have more military spending than the next 10, 11, 12 countries combined."
The mayor’s statement is accurate, according to data from two leading authorities on worldwide military spending. One set of figures shows that, in 2011, military spending by the United States exceeded the combined total of the next 12 highest nations by roughly $40 billion.
We rate the statement True.
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HBO, Real Time with Bill Maher, Feb. 1, 2013
PolitiFact Ohio, Alan Simpson says U.S. military spending outpaces totals from the next 14 largest nations, combined, Dec. 5, 2011
PolitiFact, Jon Huntsman says the U.S. spends more than all other countries combined on defense, Dec. 13, 2011
U.S. Department of State, World Military Expenditures and Arms Transfers 2005, accessed Feb. 6, 2013
Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, Background paper on SIPRI military expenditure data, 2011, April 17, 2012
Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, The 15 major spender countries in 2011, accessed Feb. 6, 2013
Council on Foreign Relations, Trends in U.S. Military Spending, Aug. 23, 2012
Brookings Institution, The Defense Budget and American Power, March 6, 2012
The International Institute for Strategic Studies, Military Balance 2012: Comparative Defence Statistics - Defence Budgets and Expenditures, March 7, 2012
The International Institute for Strategic Studies, Military Balance 2012, March 7, 2012
Brookings Institution, The Implications of Military Spending Cuts for NATO’s Largest Members, July 2012
Peter G. Peterson Foundation, The U.S. spent more on defense in 2011 than did the countries with the next 13 highest defense budgets combined, April 12, 2012
Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, International comparisons of military expenditures: issues and challenges of using purchasing power parities, 2006
Congressional Research Service, Comparisons of U.S. and Foreign Military Spending: Data from Selected Public Sources, Jan. 28, 2004
United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs, Promoting Further Openness and Transparency in Military Matters: An assessment of the united nations stardardized instrument for reporting military expenditures, November 2010
Washington Post, America’s staggering defense budget, in charts, Jan. 7, 2013
E-mail interview with Michael O’Hanlon, director of research in foreign policy for the Brookings Institution, Feb. 7, 2013
Congressional Budget Office, The Budget and Economic Outlook: Fiscal Years 2013 to 2023, February 2013
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