Forces: EU Gets Less Bang for the Buck


December26, 2006: According to a European Union (EU) study, the 24 nations of the EU, in 2005, spent, altogether, 48 percent of what the U.S. did on defense. By EU calculations, American defense spending was $504 billion. Thus the United States spent 4.06 percent of GDP on defense, while the EU spent 1.81 percent. Defense spending per capita in the United States was $1,690, which is 3.2 times as much as the EU figure.

The EU has more troops on active duty (1.8 million) than the U.S. (1.37 million), thus the defense dollars per soldier was $367,200 for the U.S., 2.85 times as much as the EU. Of more interest is the fact that the U.S. spent five times as much ($118,400) on procurement and R&D per soldier. In Europe, the military is seen as another government jobs program, rather than a state-of-the-art combat organization. This is why, even with a larger number of troops, Europe is not able to send as many overseas as the United States.

Europe does have some effective combat units, but they are a smaller proportion of the entire force. This is the case for all the services (navy, air force and army). As a practical matter, the Europeans can muster about a third as much "combat power" as the United States. Seen in that light, the Europeans are spending about 40 percent more than the United States. But for the Europeans, the make-work angle is very important. The European economy is much less effective than the American one, and the Europeans have a much higher unemployment rate (about twice that of the United States). Thus their armed forces play a vital role in keeping the unemployment rate down. Since there really aren't any enemies (with large armies) the Europeans have to worry about (since the end of the Cold War), they can afford to go easy on the military aspect of their armed forces.


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