By Kufre McIver


U.S. Military Spends More than the Next 9 countries in 2023

Bar chart with 3 bars. Green bar shows U.S. military spending in 2023 at $916 billion. Multi-color bar shows the next 10 countries with combined military spending of $882 billion. Orange bar shows the next 144 countries (the rest of the world) with combined military spending of $645 billion.

The United States broke records last year by continuing to ramp up its military spending. Consistently spending more than 50% of its discretionary budget on militarism, the United States funds war at a level much greater than that of any other nation.

Globally, 2023 proved to be a record breaking year for military spending. In a new report published by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, global military spending reached a new peak of $2.4 trillion, an increase of nearly 7 % from its level of 2.24 trillion in 2022. Largely propelled by the war between Ukraine and Russia and the United States’ ramping up of tensions with China, nations around the world are spending more on their militaries than ever before.

While the United States military budget continues to be the largest in the world, other countries increased their spending to an even greater degree than the U.S. The biggest outliers were Ukraine and Russia, each increasing their military spending by 51% and 24% year-on-year respectively. As the war between the nations enters its third year, Ukraine and its western allies have increased their military spending and aid. The United States recently approved a massive foreign aid bill which included $14 billion for Israel and $60 billion in aid for Ukraine, nearly half of which is for purchase of arms, military training, and intelligence sharing between Capitol hill in Kyiv.

Despite these increases in spending, the U.S. is still number one in military spending by far. In 2023 the U.S. spent nearly 8.5 times as much on its military than Russia does. U.S. spending was slightly more than 3 times that of China amidst an atmosphere of growing hostility with the United States. The recent TikTok ban as well as growing conflict in the green energy and semiconductor industries have slowly been warming the cold war between the two nations.

Faced with a world in which our elected officials seem unwavering in their commitment to ever increasing violent conflict with each other, it’s important to remember that it doesn’t have to be this way. Nations such as Italy decreased their military spending by 5.9% and Australia decreased their military spending by 1.5% between 2022 and 2023.

The United States is already struggling with the growing cost of the climate crisis and nations around the world are faced with housing shortages and costly climate disasters. Shifting our focus away from a ceaseless arms race and prioritizing a rapid renewable energy transition and an equitable housing system are just some of the first few things we can do with the Everest that is the Pentagon’s budget.

-Kufre McIver is the New Mexico Fellow with the Institute for Policy Studies.