Washington’s Deep Defense Pockets Somehow Aren’t Deep Enough

Washington’s Deep Defense Pockets Somehow Aren’t Deep Enough
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks about security assistance to Ukraine during a visit to the factory that manufactures Javelin anti-tank missiles, in Troy, Ala., May 3, 2022 (AP photo by Evan Vucci).

If there is one thing the United States does better and more of than any other country, it is spend money on defense. U.S. defense spending, currently over $800 billion, is greater than the next 10 countries combined.

Some contend that the high relative price tag for U.S. defense is largely explained by higher costs of both labor and materials in the U.S. compared to, say, China. There is truth to that claim, but even accounting for costs using “purchasing power parity,” U.S. defense spending still exceeds China’s. It is also true that, in terms of spending relative to the size of the economy, Washington actually spends less on defense today than it did during the 1980s or even during the early 2000s. But the $800 billion figure is still a substantial sum.

Somewhat paradoxically, however, the massive level of U.S. defense spending isn’t enough: The U.S. military appears to be running short of ammunition. For instance, in order to assist Israel with its military operations in Gaza, the U.S. diverted shells originally earmarked to help Ukraine in its war against Russia. But supplies to Ukraine were already coming up short in terms of meeting Kyiv’s ammunition needs.

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