As Congress Debates Military Budget, U.S. to Spend More Than Next 10 Countries Combined

The House of Representatives on Tuesday passed the Defense Authorization Act, allowing for a military budget of $740 billion for the coming fiscal year – a $2 billion increase over the amount approved last year.

Although the legislation is now in the Senate for further discussions, and President Donald Trump has threatened to veto the legislation if it passes Congress with requirements to change the names of military bases named after Confederate officers, the U.S. appears likely to continue spending more than the next 10 or more countries combined on its military in 2021.

China, with a population more than four times larger than the U.S., currently spends the second-highest amount on its military of any nation, totaling about $260 billion in 2019. That was nearly three times less than the amount spent by the U.S. in the same year. The amount China will spend in 2020 has not been released publicly, as the country typically diverts more money to its military than approved in its annual budget – which set the amount at just $178.6 billion in 2020.

In 2019, the U.S. spent $732 billion on the military, which was more than China, India, Russia, Saudi Arabia, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Japan, South Korea and Brazil combined. That's more than the 10 next highest-spending nations combined, three of which (France, Germany and the U.K.) are allied to the U.S. through the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and three of which have long been strategic regional allies (South Korea, Japan and Saudi Arabia).

The Pentagon
This picture taken December 26, 2011 shows the Department of Defense headquarters (the Pentagon) building in Washington, D.C. STAFF/AFP/Getty

Besides China, only Russia, which spent just $65.1 billion, is a historical rival of the U.S. If China's and Russia's military spending were combined, the U.S. still spent well over twice as much in 2019 compared to the two nations.

Newsweek reached out to the Department of Defense for this story, but they declined to comment.

The military budget generally passes with broad bipartisan support. The highest budget in recent years came in 2010 during the tenure of former President Barack Obama, a Democrat. That year, the Pentagon spent nearly $850 billion, over $100 billion more than the current legislation under discussion proposes.

Proponents of high military spending argue this amount is necessary to preserve the strategic military advantage of the U.S. around the world. Critics argue that the amount could be reduced significantly while still preserving that advantage, with some pointing out the drastic disparity between how much the U.S. spends compared to its rivals.

"I cannot in good conscience vote to spend billions more on defense than we do on all other non-discretionary programs combined. We should be using some of this money to address the housing shortage in this country," Representative Ilhan Omar, a Democrat from Minnesota who sits on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a July 12 statement.

"We should be investing in education, expanding health care to everyone, and tackling the existential threat of climate change. We cannot prioritize our needs at home without reining in our war spending," she said.

Former Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, an independent, has proposed an amendment to cut the military budget by 10 percent, arguing that the funds could be used for social programs within the U.S.

"A 10% cut to the Pentagon could provide high-quality childcare to every family in America, regardless of income," Sanders tweeted on Wednesday. "It's time to put #PeopleOverPentagon."