Military Expenditures

The History of US Military Spending

The American government used to spend very little on security—roughly 1% of the country's gross domestic product—during times of global peace. (GDP). Due to the government using all available resources during times of conflict, military spending in the United States has never been lower than 3.6 percent of GDP since World conflict 2. (Preble, 2015).

Because of the tensions with the Soviet Union, military spending was elevated before the Korean War, but the conflict increased it. After the Korean War, the United States spent 15% of its GDP on the military, but during the Cold War, that percentage fluctuated to 10%. (DeGrasse & Thurow, 2016).

Throughout the 19th century, the defense expenditure surpassed ten percent of the gross domestic product for a sole year and nineteen years in the 20th century. Moreover, the American military budget in 1968 during the Vietnam fight was about ten percent of the GDP, but it started to decline rapidly to six percent in the mid-1970s (DeGrasse & Thurow, 2016).

Before 1979, the expenditure on the military was 5.5 percent but started a massive increase to 6.8 percent of the GDP in 1986. However, the defense spending after 1986 resumed its decrease, and by 2001, it moved down to 3.5 percent of the GDP. Nevertheless, the military spending was increased after the Iraq war in 2001 to the peak of 5.7 percent GDP by 2010 although it is expected to decrease up to 3.8 in 2020 (Preble, 2015).

Defense Spending Share of Federal Budget

Besides, the defense share of the federal spending amplified to almost 72 percent at the time of Korean battle. However, the expenditure declined to 52 percent of the federal spending share during the cold war in 1969. Likewise, the Vietnam battle made the defense share of the national investment to drop rapidly to about 28.5 percent between the 1980 and 1979 (DeGrasse & Thurow, 2016).

During the early 1980s, the military spending recovered a huge proportion of the central expenditure since it reached 32 percent by 1987 although it declined to 20 percent by the late 1990s. Furthermore, the fight on terror that started in the 2000s saw the increase of the military spending share to 24.5 percent in 2010, but it is expected to decline to 17.4 percent by 2020 (Preble, 2015).

Veteran Spending

The veteran spending rose by two percent of the GDP in 1950 but later decreased slowly to 0.7 by 1966 although it augmented to one percent of the American GDP during the Vietnam War in the mid-1970s. All the same, the veteran expenditure declined slowly between the 1990s and 1980s and reached almost 0.42 percent of the GDP in early 2000s. However, the military spending on the veterans has amplified in the late 2000s reaching 0.82 percent of the gross domestic product in 2011 and is projected to be 0.9 percent by 2020 (DeGrasse & Thurow, 2016).

Recent Trends in US Military Spending

The United States military expenditure had reduced in the 1990s after the terminal of the cold fight but enlarged in the 2000s at the time of the war on terror. At the time of Reagan security buildup, the military spending was 6.8 percent of the GDP but started to decrease up to six percent in 1990, 4 percent in 1996 and 3.5 in 2001. However, the 9/11 terror attack changed the military expenses where it augmented to 4.6 percent in 2005 for Iraq attack and 5.0 percent in 2008 due to a course in Iraq (Preble, 2015).

Moreover, the armed expenses amplified to 5.7 percent of the American GDP in 2011 when the government stepped up endeavor in Afghanistan. In 2015, the military spending was 589.60 billion dollars and 595.30 in 2016. By 2017, the total of the American administration expenditure for the military is budgeted to be 617 billion dollars and 599 by 2018 (DeGrasse & Thurow, 2016).


DeGrasse, R. W., & Thurow, L. (2016). Military Expansion, Economic Decline: Impact of Military Spending on United States Economic Performance. Armonk: Taylor and Francis.

Preble, C. A. (2015). U.S. Military Spending: A Lot? Or a Lot More? Cato@Liberty, 1(1), 49.

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