Setting a Defence Budget

A country considers its security situation when setting a defence budget: the threats that it faces and its foreign policy objectives.

A country’s assessment of how strong it needs to be, to defend itself, is directly related to its lack of confidence in other countries’ observance of international law and its lack of confidence in the UN’s willingness or ability to keep the peace.

Formal alliances ( and ad hoc coalitions ( can increase the effectiveness, and share the cost, of self-defence.  Some countries have reduced military capabilities because they can rely upon being protected by others, but alliances demand that their members spend enough on defence.  American presidents have criticised some NATO members for not spending enough, for example.

Countries must assess the threats facing them, and the likely value of increasing their defence capabilities, when setting a defence budget:

●  Military force might be of limited utility in a war amongst the people (7.4.1).

●  Deterrence (7.4.2) is ineffective against terrorist threats.

●  Gathering intelligence ( might be more cost-effective than increasing a military capability whose use could be avoided if there were more time to find a political solution.

●  As noted at the end of this chapter, adopting a posture of being militarily powerful is likely to lead to symmetrical responses by other countries and is not conducive to long-term security (7.4.7).

Additional economic aspects of defence spending are considered below: internal use of defence forces (, the economic impact of defence manufacturing (, arms sales (, sub-contracts ( and the true cost of war (



This page is intended to form part of Edition 4 of the Patterns of Power series of books.  An archived copy of it is held at https://www.patternsofpower.org/edition04/7461.htm.