Peripheral Revision

Unfiltering history as we live it

Gates on China’s military development: “history’s dustbins are filled with countries that underestimated the resilience of the United States.”

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At almost 15% of the U.S.’ military budget, The Brisbane Times explains that China’s (relatively meager) defense expenditures are seen as a threat to U.S. regional hegemony by U.S. Defense Secretary Gates:

“Certainly China’s defence spending is far above the $US45 billion or so it declares in the state budget, probably double. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute puts the figure at just under $US100 billion in 2009, or about 2 per cent of China’s gross national product. That is still dwarfed by US defence expenditure of $US661 billion, or 4.3 per cent of gross domestic product.


This excellent piece by Robert Higgs shows that, after including defense spending the is allocated outside of the defense budget through NASA, the Department of Treasury, etc., the 2009 National Security spending by the U.S. totaled 1.027 Trillion dollars:

“When President Obama presented his budget recently for fiscal year 2011, he proposed that the Pentagon’s outlays be increased by about 4.5 percent beyond its estimated outlays in fiscal 2010, to a total of almost $719 billion. Although many Americans regard this enormous sum as excessive, few appreciate that the total amount of all defense-related spending greatly exceeds the amount budgeted for the Department of Defense.

In fiscal year 2009, which ended last September, the Pentagon spent $636.5 billion. Lodged elsewhere in the budget, however, other lines identify funding that serves defense purposes just as surely as—sometimes even more surely than—the money allocated to the Department of Defense. On occasion, commentators take note of some of these additional defense-related budget items, such as the Department of Energy’s nuclear-weapons program, but many such items, including some extremely large ones, remain generally unrecognized.


National Security Outlays in Fiscal Year 2009
(billions of dollars)
Department of Defense 636.5
Department of Energy (nuclear weapons & environ. cleanup) 16.7
Department of State (plus intern. assistance) 36.3
Department of Veterans Affairs 95.5
Department of Homeland Security 51.7
Department of the Treasury (for Military Retirement Fund) 54.9
National Aeronautics & Space Administration (1/2 of total) 9.6
Net interest attributable to past debt-financed defense outlays 126.3
Total 1,027.5
Source: Author’s classifications and calculations; basic data from U.S. Office of Management and Budget, Budget of the United States Government, Fiscal Year 2011 and U.S. Bureau of the Census, Historical Statistics of the United States, Colonial Times to 1970.



So how can it perceived that the U.S. needs to “counter Chinese arms buildup” as the New York Times asserts?  This modest increase in Chinese military expenditure pales in comparison to the continued ballooning of the U.S. defense budget. What we are being served is just another case of a country’s response to external threat being labeled as provocation.  See North Korea.

Concerning what “Newsweek describes as the risky rush to cut defense spending,” Gates intends to reduce the Pentagon’s budget by $78 billion over the next 5 years.  This is actually a completely inconsequential measure, averaging to less than $16 billion per year.  Instead of reducing the budget, the cuts result in only a slower growth. What we are left with is a hollow gesture to attempt to ease the growing criticism of ineffective distribution of federal resources to the military-industrial complex.

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Written by peripheralrevision

01/10/2011 at 3:59 am

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