What Does the U.S. Military Actually Spend?

The U.S. military budget just keeps going up, year after year, as a percentage of the U.S. economy, and the amount of support the U.S. is sending to Israel and Ukraine is driving it through the roof. Right?

Interestingly, this common take that we read in the press is completely wrong. As the chart shows, as a percentage of the U.S. economy, defense spending has been declining, off and on, since the 1980s, and that trend is projected to continue. However we feel about the support for allies and Russian victims, the idea that the support is eroding the U.S. economy is plain wrong.

That said, it is not wrong to say that U.S. defense spending might be somewhat out of proportion. Look at the next chart, which shows that America spends more on its defense than the next seven countries—combined. Compare that with the so-called ‘general government function’—basically the costs of the branches of government and the federal government staff as a whole: at $133 billion, it’s less than a fifth of what we spend on our military.