The Future Affordability of US National Security

That’s the title of a timely paper by MIT researcher Dr. Cindy Williams [.pdf]. The summary points:

1. The United States currently devotes about 4.7 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) to national defense and another 1.5 percent to broader security efforts, including international affairs, homeland security, veterans’ affairs, and intelligence.

2. What share of GDP will be affordable for security over the long term depends on a variety of factors, including:
– Public perceptions of the security threat;
– The degree of debt-induced fiscal and economic risk policy makers are willing to run;
– The level of taxation the public is willing to bear;
– Whether and how much the costs of federal entitlement programs, particularly Medicare and Medicaid, can be reined in; and
– How much money is devoted to running the rest of the federal government.

3. Putting federal budgets on a sustainable path will require shifting about six percent of GDP into revenues or out of spending, relative to their likely current course, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

4. Depending on how that shift is distributed among taxation, entitlement spending, defense spending, and nondefense discretionary spending, an affordable long-term level for national defense will be between 1.6 percent and 2.6 percent of GDP.

5. An affordable long-term level of total security spending might thus be between 2.1 percent and 3.4 percent of GDP.

Read the rest here. (Via Carl Conetta of the Project on Defense Alternatives.)

2 thoughts on “The Future Affordability of US National Security”

  1. What share of GDP will be affordable for security over the long term depends on a variety of factors, including:

    Dr. Williams omitted the most obvious and important factor from her list: the long-term viability of the U.S. economy in the face of continuing economic meltdown.

    Obviously the underlying assumption of this paper is that the Amerikan Empire is a legitimate entity and that its global depredations have some moral imperative to continue. It would also appear that Dr. Williams' concept of "national security" is the one held by the reigning kleptoplutocracy: that is, incessant political-military meddling in all corners of the globe while neglecting events in our own backyard.

    Here's two steps toward "affordable" national security for you:

    1. Withdraw ALL U.S. troops from ALL locations overseas, along with the shutting down of ALL "intelligence operations" (read: black-cloth crimes) except those involved in passive information gathering.

    2. Disband the current standing U.S. military, in accordance with Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution ("[Congress shall have the power to] raise and support Armies, but Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years") and leave defense of American soil to the militias of the respective states.

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