CHART: U.S. Spends Six Times More On Defense Than China, Iran And North Korea Combined

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta is bringing out a full court press to prevent further Defense Department cuts beyond the $350 billion in reductions that are part of the debt ceiling deal. Panetta, with help from various hawkish pundits and op-ed writers, is doing all he can to present the U.S. defense budget as a completely justifiable expenditure to ensure American security and balance various strategic rivals.

Panetta and others have said Congress should not take from the Pentagon’s coffers because of threats from Iran, North Korea, and China. Indeed all of these countries have shown a commitment to military spending and U.S. forces are often seen as balancing Chinese and North Korean regional ambitions.

But absolute defense spending for the U.S., China, Iran, and North Korea reveals that U.S. expenditures are dramatically more than any of its rivals combined. See the chart below:

U.S. defense expenditures are six times the combined defense expenditures of Washington’s major strategic rivals. While Panetta is attempting to preserve his department’s budget — and it’s safe to assume that most government agencies are eager to protect their budgets from major cuts — his warning that defense cuts might hamper America’s ability to “make sure that rising powers understand that the United States still has a strong defense,” comes off as a fabricated scare tactic.


Numerous examples of defense spending cuts ranging from $400 billion over the next four years to $1 trillion over the next decade have been proposed by politicians and experts from across the ideological spectrum. There is an emerging consensus that the U.S. has a significant military advantage over its nearest rivals and defense spending can be reduced without hurting U.S. national security.