Military Spending, by the Numbers

We know this President prides himself on being an MBA president. And he also considers himself a war president. So presumably, he must be some sort of MBA-war president, running the war efficiently, effectively, and on the cheap. Right?

The following tables show the annual percentage change in real spending on defense per capita, the annual chagne in the defense as a share of the budget, and the annual change in defense as a percentage of GDP under various administrations going back to 1952.

____Real $ per Cap___Share of Budget___Pct of GDP

By every measure, defense spending has increased more under GW than under any previous President since Ike took office. And yet, previous wars (or at least spending increases) were geared toward more formidable foes – under LBJ, America was fighting a proxy war against the Soviets, and Reagan was trying to spend the USSR under the table. Neither quite succeeded at increasing spending the way GW has increased spending. Nor did GHW, who also led the country in a war in the same area, even though GHW mobilized a larger force.

Note… real (2000 dollars) spending on defense per capita in 2005 was about $1500, which was quite a bit less than the almost $2100 per person under LBJ in 1968, or the $1823 per person in 1986 under Reagan. Similarly, defense spending as a share of the budget and as a share of GDP have generally been declining since World War 2 ended. Thus, just as with the debt, in absolute numbers, GW is not doing poorly, but the trend he has put in place is rather alarming.

Now why did I use the word “alarming?” Well, there are plenty of people who tell us that Social Security is in trouble, because costs are rising rapidly and revenues are not. But we all know what GW has done to the revenues that go toward paying for defense – we saw 3 consecutive years of decline of tax revenues – something that hasn’t happened any other time for which data is available.

In 2005, spending on Social Security was about equal to spending on National Defense, but the increase in real Social Security expenditures per person from 2000 to 2005 was 1.33%. If Social Security is in trouble, what can be said about defense spending which seems to have even bigger problems on both the revenue and expenditure side?

Defense Expenditures
Population from 1962 to 2005
For population from 1952 to 1961, used
3rd Quarter of the Year

Note… As always, if you want my spreadsheet, just drop me a line.