International Defense Budgets and Nuclear and Tactical Forces

CDI researched a wide variety of available sources to estimate the size and nature of the world’s nine nuclear arsenals, including warhead yield, delivery systems, and other data for each of the nuclear powers, including Israel, Pakistan, and North Korea. Click here to view an Almanac chart that shows a synopsis of the warhead inventory of each nuclear nation; this is the first of 21 pages of discussion of the available information on this subject in the complete Almanac.

The CIA, in its unclassified World Fact Book (2007), London’s International Institute for Strategic Studies, and the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) each release annual estimates of the size of defense budgets throughout the world. A comparison across sources shows significant variations on what is estimated for certain nations; for example, the data for China’s defense budget varies from $44.3 billion (SIPRI) to $81.4 billion (CIA). It is also remarkable how small the defense budgets are for many nations, especially some of those that are considered a serious threat to the United States. For example, the CIA estimates Iran’s defense budget at $4.3 billion and North Korea’s at $5 billion. The Pentagon’s budget, by comparison, is two orders of magnitude larger, and then some. Click here to find a one-page example of the many pages of budget data in CDI’s 2007 Military Almanac.

Another measure some use to estimate military strength is the size of major tactical weapons inventories. This “bean count” reveals something about a nation’s armed forces, but it does not take into account certain factors that can be far more powerful in determining winners and losers in a military conflict. Such factors include unit training and cohesion, morale, the strategic competence of the national leadership, and popular support for conflicts advocated by that leadership. These factors cannot be quantified. With those cautions, the CDI 2007 Military Almanac includes the “bean count” of over 20 significant countries, click here to find it.

Winslow Wheeler, Director, Straus Military Reform Project, Center for Defense Information at the Project On Government Oversight

By: Winslow Wheeler, Director (2002-2014), Straus Military Reform Project, CDI at POGO

At the time of publication Mr. Wheeler's was the director of the Straus Military Reform Project of the Center For Defense Information at POGO.

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