More Defense Spending Does Not Equal More Safety
The brutal invasion of Ukraine by Russia has renewed conservatives’ calls for large increases of our defense budget. The extra money, we are told, would fund more weapons to better prepare us to respond to aggression in a world that looks increasingly dangerous. As compelling as these arguments can be in a stressful time, it’s not quite so simple.
Providing military defense is a valid function of the federal government. However, that doesn’t give license to Congress to simply pile on more spending, even when there are dangers out there. Nor does it mean that more spending will result in a completely safe world for us Americans. That’s in part because that world doesn’t exist. There’s only so much safety money can buy.
While I certainly don’t pretend to know what the optimal budget for our military is, we are already spending a large amount on national security and on the Pentagon. In fiscal year 2023, the United States is expected to spend more than $770 billion on national defense, with $729 billion of this amount being for the Department of Defense’s military operations. This enormous sum is more than the next 10 countries spend combined. Russia, for instance, spends close to $62 billion. France and Germany spend almost $53 billion each. Assuming China’s numbers are accurate, it spends $252 billion.
When considering how much more money we think is worth spending, we must keep in mind that not every additional dollar of military spending will result in enhanced national security. That’s because government intentions do not equal results. Elected officials and
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