Charts: Ten Myths About the Defense Budget

Defense vs. entitlement spendingU.S. defense spending is currently around 4% of GDP, having increased since 1998 back to the levels of 1993-94. But that’s not what many people believe — at least based on a 2007 Gallup poll. The chart at left shows that most of the growth in U.S. federal expenditure has been in entitlements [Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, …]. And this post shows the true history of defense spending since 1945. The Heritage Foundation published an issues paper in March 2007 which examines actual spending — attempting to debunk the “ten myths”. Excerpt:

The perception that the nation’s defense expenditures are larger than they really are is the result of a widespread acceptance of 10 myths about the defense budget. These myths range from the assertion that defense expenditures impose a large burden on the U.S. economy to the assumption that the defense budget is skewed in favor of the defense contractors that manufacture weapons and equipment for the Department of Defense.

The Heritage paper does not address a central question: “what national security expenditures are justified” — in both absolute and GPD-relative terms? For a few thoughts on that question, please see the next post Why have Afghanistan and Iraq been so difficult?