June 1, 2022

The United States Spends More on Defense than the Next 9 Countries Combined

Defense spending by the United States increased by $22 billion from 2020 to 2021, according to recently released figures from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). That increase was outstripped by growth in spending from other countries, and as a result, the United States now spends more on defense than the next 9 countries combined (down from outspending the next 11 countries combined in 2020). That shift is in part due to a relatively larger increase in defense spending by China and the United Kingdom.

The United States spends more on defense than the next 11 countries combined

TWEET THIS

SIPRI’s definition of defense spending is broader than the definitions that are most frequently used in fiscal policy discussions in the United States, and according to their calculations, the United States spent $801 billion on national defense in 2021. SIPRI includes discretionary and mandatory outlays by the Department of Defense, Department of Energy, Department of State, and the National Intelligence Program. By contrast, the national defense budget function ($754 billion in 2021) excludes outlays by the Department of State and certain programs of the Department of Energy. Nonetheless, the SIPRI comparison provides useful insights on the sheer scale of U.S. defense spending relative to other nations.

Defense spending covers a wide range of activities

TWEET THIS

Although the United States spends more on defense than any other country, the Congressional Budget Office projects that defense spending as a share of gross domestic product (GDP) will decline over the next 10 years — from 3.1 percent of GDP in 2022 to 2.7 percent in 2032. That is considerably lower than the 50-year average spending on defense of 4.3 percent of GDP.

Defense spending is projected to stay below its historical share of GDP

TWEET THIS

Defense spending accounts for a sizable portion of the federal budget and the United States vastly outspends other nations. In determining the appropriate level of such spending in the future, it will be important to evaluate whether it is being used effectively and how it fits in with other national priorities.


Infographic: The Facts About U.S. Defense Spending

Related: Budget Basics: National Defense


Expert Views: Inflation, Interest & the National Debt

We asked experts with diverse views from across the political spectrum to share their perspectives.

National Debt Clock

See the latest numbers and learn more about the causes of our high and rising debt.