Trying to obtain a realistic view of U.S. Military spending is akin to picking up soft jello. From social media recently came this pie chart:
Which shows current military spending taking up 57% of Federal spending. But this pie chart is only valid for “on budget” – ie: discretionary spending. It does not account for “mandatory” Federal spending which as stated accounts for 60% of all spending, whereas discretionary spending only accounts for 35%. It also does not include items on the “dark budget”, or OCO, (Overseas Occupation Costs), and since the DoD has never, ever provided a detailed accounting of their spending to Congress, which by law they are supposed to do annually, it is difficult to obtain a real picture of the true extent of U.S. Military spending.
Politifacts provided another chart which they claim is more accurate since it shows both discretionary and fixed spending:
However, this chart is fuzzy too for at least two reasons: lumping together Military with Homeland Security disguises actual expenses by each segment – DHS and DoD; and no consideration is given to which are transfers, like Social Security, Education, and Health. For example while the Federal Government pays out money to the Social Security program, the money actually comes from employees and employers, or Education where the bulk of expenses for that segment are paid by State and Local Government, so are not an equivalent “expense” in the same way that DoD expenses are.
Comparing the various figures provided yields an astonishingly murky picture of spending. For example:
- the 2015 Gross Domestic Product, GDP, is tagged at $17.9 trillion
- Federal expenditures for 2015 are estimated at $4.7 trillion
- Federal spending consists of 60% “Mandatory Spending” and “35% “Discretionary Spending”, with 5% assigned to other spending
- DoD was granted a ‘DS’ budget of $495.6 billion
- The DoD funding shown does not include the estimated $58.7 billion on the “dark budget”, nor the $79.2 billion on the OCO, Overseas Occupation-Wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, nor the expenses for veterans, or linked accounts at DOE, State, or other agencies.
- Other reporting shows Military actual spending on the DS budget of $615.5 billion basic, and $181.4 billion veterans
- Combining all fuzzy numbers provided, the actual Net Military Spending is approximately $1 trillion annually, or 12.7% of GDP, or 27.1% of Federal spending.
Yet, when compared with another chart of Federal spending, provided by Forbes, the picture provided above regarding GDP percentages becomes absurd…12.7% vs 3.5%
While it is clear from all numbers provided, the social media pie chart at the top of the page, assigning U.S. military expenses as 57% of total Federal spending must be false as presented, as there is no claim anywhere that the U.S. Military accounts for $2.1 trillion in expenses per annum. By the same token, the Forbes percentage must also be false, since 3.5% of $3.7 trillion is only $129 billion, or about a quarter of the DoD ‘DS’ 2015 budget.
Thus we can safely return to the combination values obtained earlier: the actual U.S. Net Military Spending circa 2015 is approximately $1 trillion annually, or 12.7% of GDP, or 27.1% of Federal spending.