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“Military Expenditure – The Case for,”

Military Expenditure - The Case for

Book-3: War, Conflicts, Security, and The Military -1.0


Need for Military Expenditure – Controlling it yet keeping the Military Effective – Deterrence.

Quotations for consideration:

  • “Let not thy WILL roar, whilst thy POWER can but whisper.” – Anon.
  • “The problem in defense is how far you can go without destroying from within what you are trying to defend from without.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower
  • “…my greatest fear is that in economic tough times people will see the defence budget as the place to solve the nation’s deficit problems… that would be disastrous… Defence is not like other discretionary spending. This is something we’re got to do and that we have a responsibility to do… our military must remain strong enough and agile enough to face a diverse range of threats, from non-state actors… to the more traditional threats of… conventional forces developing new capabilities that target our traditional strengths. We shrink from our… security responsibilities at our peril… we should learn from our (past) experience… that drastic reductions in the size and strength of the… military make armed conflict all the more likely with unacceptable high cost in… blood and treasure.” – Robert Gates .
  • “In war there is no prize for runners up.” – General Omar Bradley .
  • “To win a War may take billions; but losing the War takes all that you have got” – Anon

Key Metrics:

  1. Total global Military expenditure in 2009 was US $ 1531 bn: – USA- $ 661 bn, China – $ 100 bn, France-$ 66 bn, UK- $ 65 bn, Russia- $ 59 bn, Germany- $ 47 bn, Japan- $ 46 bn, Saudi Arabia- $ 38 bn, Pakistan – $ 18.16 bn, likely to go up by another $ 2.0 bn, expenses for SWAT Operations and USA aid are not included, and India- $ 30 bn only, which also includes expenditures not really for the Military.
  2. Per Capita Military expenditure in 2009 in US $ was highest in the USA at $ 2151.71, China at $ 52.07, France at $ 752.03, UK at $ 718.95, Germany at $ 424.79, Japan at $ 358.80, Saudi Arabia at $ 833.75, Pakistan at $ 25.31 and India at only $ 13.17.
  3. As percentage of GDP the Military expenditure was USA- 4.3%, China- 2.0% though the actual spending is estimated to be 1.75 to 2.5 times the official figures, France- 2.3%, UK- 2.5%, Russia- 3.5% , Japan- 0.9%, Germany- 1.3%, Saudi Arabia- 8.2%, Pakistan- 5.8% and India- 2.6% only.

The Objective of Military Expenditure:-

Military expenditure is a balancing act between controlling the size of the military and yet keeping it effective to meet the expected threats.

There is always a protest when the expenditure allocation for Defence is announced in the Budget. ‘This expenditure is not required for a Country which has no imperial ambitions or acquisitive intentions’, they say, ‘the money can be better spent on many of the essential social needs crying to be addressed’.

All such people should recall and reflect on the following:

  • Military expenditure is like paying for Insurance, hopefully never claimed or called on, but desirably adequate when the calamity / adversity strikes or the need arises. It can never be cost effective or, even if at all possible, be adequate for all possibilities and eventualities, but should definitely be adequate for all reasonably probable scenarios and also allow for an effective deterrence.

Chanakya said,

“A Soldier does not build, make or create, he does not teach, nor heal nor grow anything, he does not trade nor does he entertain – he only, by his very presence, ensures that all those who do such things can continue to do!”

“There will always be a Soldier on the Land – the people have the choice of whether that Soldier will be theirs or someone else’s”.

Similar to ensuring commitment of the premium cost for adequate Insurance to cover all reasonably probable contingencies, the Country has to ensure that the budget for the Military allows for comprehensive preparation and readiness to adequately meet all probable (not all possible) scenarios however unlikely they may seem at first glance. Relatively a small amount every year for protection against the real possibility of a catastrophic loss, of what you cannot afford to lose. Just as insurance offers a good price for peace of mind, so does a good defence budget. A catastrophe by definition is one that happens unexpectedly and whose exact nature and scope cannot be clearly foreseen, and the effects of war can be quite catastrophic in many dimensions. (See ‘War & Domestic Conflicts – Economics & Costs’) One can therefore only make plans and preparations and be ready to react appropriately to its effects when it does occur.

It is as necessary to be able to intervene and act physically on the ground (against Enemy Forces, Terrorists, Naxals, Insurgents) as it is to be able to strike and destroy the enemy at a distance. To react against Super empowered individuals whose low cost strikes within the Country can cause exceptionally large damage and when the attempts to prevents such damage calls for many fold times their costs, we need to have very extensive and effective intelligence capability ( Electronic – ‘ELINT’, Human – ‘HUMINT’ and other sources).

Remember it cost the 9/11 Terrorists less than US $ 1.0 Million to strike such a devastating blow in the USA, and it now continuously costs the USA more than $ 1.0 Million an hour to try to prevent such attacks in future, even as it recognizes that such preventive attempts can never be 100% successful. So, also for the 26/11 attack at Mumbai.

In addition we all also bear the even greater continuous and distributed costs of the many, and ever increasing security measures in terms of; the costs finally passed on to each of us at every public place we go to (Hotels, Hospitals, Malls, Parks etc), the time lost in security procedures and even indirectly through the economic loss of diversion

of productive man power to such unproductive functions. It is a given that once such security procedures are established it becomes a near impossibility to remove them. Only greatly increased and effective intelligence gathering and preventive measures by the police, acceptance thereof by the judiciary, better balanced coverage of such incidents by the Media bearing in mind the comparative actual casualties and damage of other incidents such as accidents and stampedes, and finally the willingness of the Public to understand all such issues and not fall prey to ‘fear psychosis’, and, thus resolve to address them cost effectively.


  1. By clearly specifying and declaring our vital National interests and by demonstrating an appropriate Military capability and the determination to use it, if such interests are ever threatened.
  2. Also as Joseph Cooper Ramo writes in “The Age of the Unthinkable” – by creating an environment and a context of influence, Political / Cultural / Economic, with our potential adversaries / enemies over the years that will enable us to so shape the environment between us and leverage the influence of the relationship and webs of contacts to manipulate, so quietly as to be unnoticed, any crisis in such a manner as to give us the result we want: especially for problems that we may never be able to attack directly. Such ‘effects diplomacy’ cannot always be replacement for hard and violent action, but in many situations it may be an effective option.

War – Waging it Economically:

“The utilization of resources in a theatre of war, as in everything else, calls for economy of strength. The less one can manage with, the better, but manage one must, and here, as in commerce, there is more to it than mere stinginess” – Carl Von Clausewitz

Do not over economize but also do not be a spend thrift.

War is a balance of ends and means. Plan to work with what you have to attain realizable objectives in a time bound and cost effective manner. Several tactics lend themselves to economy in fighting.

First, is the use of deception. It can be a great equalizer for the weaker side. Its arts include the gathering of intelligence, the spreading of misinformation, and the use of propaganda to make the war more unpopular within the enemy camp.

Second, fight economically, look for easy victories, which enhance morale and reputation and add momentum, and most important, do not cost much. We all have limitations – our energies and skills will take us only so far. Danger comes from trying to surpass our limits. Not only is it important that you know your limits and pick your battles carefully, but you must also know when to accept your losses and quit. Pride, anger and frustration often overtake powers of reason. Do not fall into such a trap; know when to stop. Do not soldier on, or be provoked into hasty actions, out of frustration or pride. Too much is at stake. Remember discretion is the better part of valour and allows you to live to fight more effectively on another day. This is even more important in conflicts against Insurgents.

There can never be any value in fighting uneconomically, but it is always a wise course to make your opponent waste as much of his resources as possible. This can be done through hit and run tactics, forcing him to expend energy chasing after you.

“War is not a word, it’s an acronym for ‘ Wasting Another’s Resources’” – Ramman Kenoun .

Third – Even as you neutralize your enemy’s strengths, you must also find ways to turn your own weaknesses into advantages. Difficulties with other people are inevitable; you must be willing to defend yourself and sometimes to even take the offensive. The modern dilemma is that taking the offensive is unacceptable today – The counter attack is the answer. Bait your enemy into making the first move, then play the victim and counter attack… When their action ends up in disaster, they will have only themselves to blame, and everyone around them will blame them too. You win both the battle of appearances and the battle on the field. Very few strategies offer such flexibility and power. Can the attack on us by Pakistan on 3rd December 1971 be considered the result of such a strategy?

Where to Economize:

The aim is to have Military that can adequately meet the perceived threats and be recognized as such so as to ensure deterrence.

The problems faced by the Military are not only those of low levels of budgeted allocations but also of convoluted procurement procedures and prolonged delays in decision making, leading to delivery of out dated equipment or armaments at greater costs.

The procurement process should be time bound, and once a Government has approved the Budget, it should be left to the users, whose life depends on the right choice, to make that choice systematically and speedily. ‘The Better is the Enemy of the Good’. Keeping on delaying decisions on ‘Good’ items and then restarting the whole process for the ‘Better’ now available, as is being done today, is very uneconomical and unproductive.

Also for many small and not so critical items, what can be purchased ‘off the shelf’ should be allowed to be so procured at the local level, to avoid costly logistics, storage and transport etc. The money saved will more than make up for any choice that may be less than optimal. Proper procedures and an effective audit system will ensure optimum choice in minimal time. After all, the real user of the product or the person directly answerable to such real users, will be best motivated to procure the best possible product.

Redundancy in training and operational facilities between the Services should be eliminated.

Reorganizing the Forces into more efficient units ready to act effectively in the expected scenarios is another way to economize. Keeping the standing forces as ‘lean’ as practical with the ability to quickly

mobilize extra strength as required from the para military / coast guard, reservists, NCC, Territorial forces etc would also be a great way to economize. (See ‘War – Organizing for, in the 21st Century’).

“It is very difficult for a Nation to create an army when it has not already a body of officers and non – commissioned officers to serve as a nucleus, and a system of military organization.” – Napoleon Bonaparte.

“You should by all means encourage a soldier to continue in the service. This you can easily do by testifying great esteem for old soldiers. The pay should also be increased in proportion to the years of service. There is great injustice in giving no higher pay to a veteran than to a recruit.” – Napoleon Bonaparte.

To reduce the cost of a large standing military and yet be able to protect our Country and respond to any threat, we should consider some of the following measures adopted from those suggested by Lee Kuan Yew for Singapore:

  • Let the strength of the military be adequate to meet any immediate threat. These will be full time soldiers. (Once the minimum period of service as specified is completed, allow soldiers to be absorbed into the Para-Military, Police and Administrative & other Services. They will then be available when needed.)
  • Build a National Reservist or Territorial Force which can be trained and sent back in to the citizenry and be required thereafter to undergo additional annual training for 2 to 4 weeks.
  • Lay down procedures for co-option from administrative and other services for non – combatant duties.
  • Expand the National Cadet Corps into a National Service Corps and also consider introducing a Police Wing in it.
  • Develop procurement procedures to make the maximum use of the readily available ‘Off the shelf’ items and of the civilian manufacturing capabilities as needed.

Remember Defence expenditures, be they ever so small, become a rule, a habit. Our largest expenditures are our most frequent small ones, which hence require regular review to control them or even eliminate those not really essential. (Zero Budgeting).


Military Expenditure for a Country can be compared to the premium paid by an individual for insurance, an unavoidable necessity. However, even as we should first seek to find and fund ways to avoid military conflicts, we should also be always ready for such conflicts because as President Abdul Kalam said – ‘Strength only respects strength’.


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