How much does the U.S. spend on the military? A least 24% of the federal budget.

Rep. Adam Smith said in a town hall meeting with Indivisible Saturday (June 19) that 15% of federal spending goes to the military.

I looked at the CBO’s data on federal spending at The Federal Budget in 2019: An Infographic.  For 2019 it says that $676 billion was spent on “Defense” and that total federal spending was $4.4 trillion. If you divide 676/4400 you get 16.5%.

Source: Congressional Budget Office, The Federal Budget in 2019: An Infographic

But the $676 billion excludes the $85 billion for Veterans included in Nondefense and the $115 billion for Veterans included in Other and the $61 billion for military retirement included in Other and the $100 billion (conservative estimate — Tom Dispatch estimates the value as $123.6 billion) included for military in Net interest.  676+85+115+61+100 = 1037.

US Military Budget, Its Components, Challenges, and Growth estimates that military spending is $934 billion for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2021.

If you include Social Security in the denominator, then 1037/4400 or 24% of federal spending is military related.  If you exclude Social Security  — which seems reasonable. because we paid for Social Security from our paychecks, and it belongs to us, not the government — then 1037/3400, or about 30% of federal spending is military related.

So, I’ve revised the image:

We paid for Medicare via our paychecks too, so perhaps we should exclude that from the denominator too.  If you exclude Medicare’s $644 billion from the denominator, then 1037/2756, or 38% of the federal budget is for the military.  The high cost of medical spending is a separate issue.

According to Tomgram: Mandy Smithberger, Letting the Pentagon Loose With Your Tax Dollars, yearly spending on the military is about $1.2 trillion.  They include Homeland Security and other domestic spending in the military budget. Likewise,The Project On Government Oversight  published Making Sense of the $1.25 Trillion National Security State Budget.

According to, 47% of the federal budget goes to current and past military spending.

The U.S. spent over $6 trillion on wars in Iraq and Afghanistan which are now almost universally regarded as disastrous. Yet Congress has now authorized a Space Force, is deploying tactical nukes, and is ramping up preparations for war with Russia and China.  Moreover, billions are being given to military contractors as part of the pandemic bailout.

The National Debt Is ‘Unsustainable’ and the Pentagon’s Finances Are a Total Mess, Federal Audit Says. “Absent policy changes, the federal government continues to face an unsustainable long-term fiscal path,” America’s top auditor warns. But is anyone listening?”

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