The United States will spend almost $700,000,000,000 (700 billion) on Defense related expenditures in 2010.  That will amount to about 5% of our GDP.  By comparison, France will spend about $67 Billion or 2.3% of their GDP and Germany $48 Billion or 1.3% of their GDP on Defense.  The average of our NATO partners is about 1.7% of their GDP, about one third of what we spend.

I bring this up for two reasons.  Either this indicates that we spend more than is prudent based on what our partners spend, or, we are subsidizing the defense of our partners (and others) to the tune of about (5% – 1.7% = 3.3% of GDP =) $460 Billion.  That is right at $1400 that each U.S. person is paying this year alone, to protect our NATO Allies.  Admittedly there are other reasons for these expenditures, but it is hard to see these numbers and wonder why the U.S. should be spending more defending our NATO partners than they are spending themselves.

How much we spend is a complex matter, tied to diplomatic efforts, protection of our borders, self defense, and the organization of our defense efforts.  I am no expert and don’t even have sufficient knowledge to propose a way to properly organize and administer our defense efforts.  I am, however, fairly certain that we can safely spend less on our defense.

NATO heads of state (28 of them) will meet November 20 in Lisbon to craft a new Strategic Concept.  I know that this is tied to diplomacy, but, I see an opportunity for the USA to strongly suggest to our NATO allies that they might want to do a bit more to provide for their own defense.  The NATO Alliance mandates that each country commit at least 2% of its GDP to its own defense.  Most are not complying.  To me this poses an opportunity for the US to back off from its spending on behalf of NATO.  This may be a good place to start winding back some of our defense spending.

I want candidates who both appreciate the importance of a strong and technologically advanced defense, and, the need to reign in expenditures.  I would like to hear a candidate who is supportive of our military personnel who is also a strong critic of how our defense dollars are spent.  I would love to see a candidate who would propose to completely dismantle our military procurement system and start over using a business model.  The layers of bureaucracy built into the system of military purchasing probably costs the U.S. more than the defense budget of the average NATO ally.

My guess is that about 20% of our Defense Budget is in direct support of NATO goals.  If we cut that by 50%, it would save us $70 Billion a year, more than France spends on its entire defense program.  Have you heard any candidates talking about this issue?