The United States military budget is, in its simplest form, the amount of money the United States government allocates to any defense-related spending. More specifically, it is the amount of money that Congress sets aside for the Department of Defense to carry out its duties.
Military Budget Basic Facts
The United States’ military budget takes up approximately 19% of its overall spending for the year and an estimated 28% of its tax revenues. It has grown substantially over the past decade, however, with the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. Because of its fluctuating needs, the military budget is appropriated via a discretionary spending account, which allows for more flexibility in spending each year.
The United States spends more on its military than any other nation in the world. In 2009, the United States military budget accounted for almost 40% of the world’s military spending. Its defense budget is nearly six times larger than that of China, even though China’s army is almost double the size of the United States’. The United States is infamous for its vast amounts of military spending.
How the Budget is Decided
The Military Appropriations Act and the Military Authorization Act must be passed each year by Congress, then signed off by the President. The Military Appropriations Act gives a certain amount of money to the Department of Defense, while the Authorization Act tells them how the money must be spent by the department. The amount of money allotted to the military is often a cause of contention in Congress, leading to extensive amounts of debate. Once Congress’ committees agree on a number, the President has the power to either reduce or increase the amount of money appropriated to the military and send it back for debate.
What Does the Budget Cover?
The United States military budget pays for the salaries, health care, and training of all military personnel as well as their dependents and some civilian personnel. The budget also pays for the maintenance of weapons and other equipment, the upkeep of different facilities, operations funding, and goes towards the development of new technology. The military budget goes towards all five branches of the U.S military: Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard.
More specifically, the budget covers:
- Department of Defense spending
- Defense related spending in the Energy Department
- Pensions for veterans
- FBI Counter-terrorism
- International Affairs
- Veterans Affairs
- Interest that has accrued on debts from past wars
Recent Budget Breakdowns
In 2010, the base budget for the United States military reached a grand total of $663.8 billion. The budget came out to be roughly $16 billion more than President Barack Obama had hoped for. The budget was raised due to the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, which were added onto the federal budget after being deemed “Overseas Contingency Operations” in 2010. Before this development, the wars had been taken care of, in large part, through spending bills outside of the federal budget. 2010’s military budget breakdown is as follows:
- Operations and Maintenance: $283.3 billion, a 4.2% increase from the previous year.
- Military Personnel: $154.2 billion, a 5% increase from the previous year.
- Procurement: $140.1 billion, a 1.8% drop from the previous year.
- Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation: $79.1 billion, a 1.3% increase from he previous year.
- Military Construction: $23.9 billion, a 19% increase from the previous year.
- Family Housing: $3.1 billion, a 20% drop from the previous year.
Below is how much of the budget was spent on each of the four main branches of the military:
- Army: $243.9 billion, 31.8% of the total budget
- Navy: $149.9 billion, 23.4% of the total budget
- Marine Corps: $29 billion, 4% of the total budget
- Air Force: $170.6 billion, 22% of the total budget.
An additional $50 billion was spent on Defense intelligence. However, since the contents of the intelligence budget are kept confidential, their figures are approximated. Furthermore, $118.7 billion was spent on Defense Wide Joint Activities.
The Military Budget for 2012
In 2012, the main focus of the military budget will be operations taking place in Afghanistan and Iraq. Approximately $118 billion is scheduled to be allotted to the military for both operations, almost $40 million less than the $159 billion spent on Afghanistan and Iraq in 2011. Spending in both countries will center on their national security priorities, namely cyber-security, satellites, and nuclear security. The budget will also focus on buying military equipment, including $2.2 billion spending on nuclear weapons. The United States is placing a notable emphasis on weapons research and cyber-security in 2012. It is also looking to reform its spending through acquisition reforms and changes in management. These changes should save the United States roughly $78 billion dollars through the year 2016.
The Military Budget and Military Contracts
A large portion of the military’s budget is allotted to different military contracts. A military contract is an agreement between the Defense Department and a private business organization wherein the business organization agrees to provide goods or services to the government. Goods often include military aircraft, ships, vehicles, weaponry, and a variety of electronic and technological systems. Services include logistics (maintenance and transportation of military material), technical support, training communications support, and team-based engineering. Most military contractors do not generally provide direct support of military operations, since doing so can lead to them becoming legitimate military targets.
Some of the government’s most notable Military Contracts Include:
- Lockheed Martin
- Northrop Grumman
- General Dynamics
- BAE Systems (of the United Kingdom)
- General Electric
- L-3 Communications
- ITT Corp
The military budget can be one of the most hotly debated aspects of government spending. Much debate has arisen about how much is too much when dealing with defense spending. The two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have added to the debate, drawing protests from American citizens about the massive amounts of money being devoted to overseas operations instead of domestic projects such as welfare and education. With the massive size and strength of the United States’ military, however, it is difficult to find areas to cut with regards to spending.