The United States today has the most superior military and strongest army the world has ever known. It can boast the most advanced military hardware, the best-trained men and women, and the option of demolishing cities and annihilating millions just by pressing a few buttons. With all this might and the world’s highest defense expenditure, one has to ask are Americans really feeling more secure than they have in the past. Recent research indicates they are not.
On June 7, 2005 the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) released its yearbook on Armaments, Disarmament and International Security showing that the United States far and away tops the world in military expenditures. During the same week, The Gallup Organization released the results of Gallup’s February World Affair survey that was titled “More Americans Seeing vulnerability in U.S. Defense.” 
When put together, these two different pieces of recent research show that despite growing military budgets since 2002, more Americans are feeling insecure than in the past. And despite the surge in military spending, many Americans do not seem to think that their government is spending “too much” on the military. If the world’s strongest military cannot make people secure, then security must lie elsewhere and not with growing military expenditures.
According to the SIPRI report world military expenditures exceeded $1 trillion in 2004. The USA accounted for 47 percent of this spending, that is, approximately $467 billion, nearly $53 billion more than in 2003. This staggering amount of money is almost equal to the entire military spending by the rest of the world. In fact, what the US spends on its military is more than the entire GDP of many countries. 
Yet, the American public’s perception of its own government’s spending on the military is far removed from this reality. According to the Gallup survey, three in ten Americans (30%) think the government is spending “too little,” nearly four in ten (38%) report that the government is spending “about the right amount” and only a third of Americans (30%) feel the government is spending “too much” on national defense. In other words, the majority of Americans do not think their government is spending “too much” money on defense, despite nearly spending more than the rest of the world combined.
According to SIPRI, US military spending has increased continuously. For example in 2002, military expenditure was 3.4% of GDP, while in 2003 it was 3.8% of GDP.
The Gallup survey, however, found that the number of Americans who feel the government is spending “too little” on the military has increased by eight percent since 2004 (from 22% to 30%). In other words, despite the surge in military spending, more Americans think it is not enough.
If one reviews older data from the same Gallup survey one is astounded to find that even at the height of the Cold War, when the US-Soviet arms race was spiraling (1985-87), approximately one in ten Americans only reported that the government was spending too little and nearly half felt the government was spending too much on the military. This shows that even with the Soviet nuclear threat many Americans felt that their government was spending too much, a stark contrast to 2005.
Yet this huge increase in military spending is not buying security at home. According to the same survey, the number of Americans who feel their “national defense” is “not strong enough” has increased from 34% in 2004 to 40% in 2005 and those thinking the defense is “about right” dropped from 54% in 2004 to 49% in 2005. Only about one in ten in both years think defense is “stronger than it needs to be”. This raises several questions: Does more military spending create security? What is the cost of feeling secure? Do Americans truly understand the extent of how much their government is spending on its military? Why are Americans feeling more and more threatened? Are there better alternatives to military buildup?
Imagine that if the US cut its military expenditure by just five percent, that is nearly $24 billion dollars, and invested this money on something that could benefit people around the world, it could halve the number of hungry people.  Imagine what that would do to America’s image in the world? Security does not come just by building massive arsenals, but by other means as well.
In short, yes there are alternatives to increased military spending that can increase security, but Americans need to realize that security does not come from building the most sophisticated military arsenals. First perhaps, Americans need to understand how much money is being poured into the military. And if all this spending is not making America strong enough, than what else will?
Tamer M. N. Anis has an MA in political science and is a researcher.
“More Americans Seeing Vulnerability in U.S. Defense” by Joseph Carroll,
June 8, 2005, Gallup Poll News Service (www.gallup.com).