General Schoomaker on Defense Spending

Peter Siegel should have fact checked the following:

For more than a year, Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker, the outgoing Army chief of staff, has pointed out that defense spending accounts for about 3.8% of the gross domestic product – a figure that is projected to drop over the next five years, to near the lowest levels since World War II, even though the U.S. is involved in protracted fighting. He is calling for a wider national debate on whether that percentage should be significantly increased – and the chiefs of the Navy and Air Force said in interviews last week that they would publicly support that call in upcoming hearings on the defense budget. “In working that [budget] problem, I believe I’m seeing challenges that leads us to the notion that maybe it’s time to have this discussion about a higher percentage of GDP” devoted to defense, Air Force Gen. T. Michael “Buzz” Moseley said in a telephone interview during a trip to Afghanistan and Iraq. “It’s going to be very, very hard to get where we’re going as defined in the [Pentagon’s strategic plans] and to do this business on a global scale with the resources that we have.” Navy Adm. Michael G. Mullen added: “At 3.8%, it just isn’t enough for the strategic appetite, and the strategic appetite is tied directly to the world we’re living in.” According to a senior Pentagon official, the Air Force alone is expected to tell Congress that it will need an additional $20 billion per year over the next five years, on top of the White House funding request, just to meet the strategic plans laid out by the Pentagon and the increasing demands resulting from the troop buildup in Iraq.

Kevin Drum did fact check this:

That’s about 4.9% of GDP. Add in other items that are routinely left out of the “Pentagon” budget even though they’re clearly part of our overall defense expenditures and you get a number well over 5% of GDP. Seems like a pretty fair chunk of change, doesn’t it? Though, no doubt, still not enough to sate the Pentagon’s “strategic appetite.” But what is?

Kevin was referring to the FY2008 budget. If one checks the GDP data in table 1.1.5 from the Bureau of Economic Analysis, it appears that General Schoomaker and Admiral Mullen’s 3.8% figure is a good description of defense spending relative to GDP for a year like 1998 but not for 2006.