There is no generally agreed definition of military expenditure (Milex) worldwide. According to SIPRI, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, “media reports on military expenditure, including in specialist publications, tend to report simply the defense budget of the country in question, although many countries have significant military expenditure in other budget lines”. In other words, military expenditure has a broad scope and covers a complex reality, and that is why military-related expenditures’ review is facing many obstacles.
The SIPRI Military Expenditure Database, the one used by GCOMS campaigners, provides a historically consistent series of military expenditure data with global coverage. The database is made from open sources that can be independently checked, and it is updated annually. SIPRI data on military expenditure includes all current and capital expenditure on the armed forces, including peace keeping forces, spending on ‘defence ministries and other government agencies engaged in defence projects’; ‘paramilitary forces – such as gendarmerie forces, border and coast guards, and interior ministry troops – when judged to be trained, equipped and available for military operations, and military space activities’. These expenditures include all expenditures on current personnel, military and civil (retirement pensions of military personnel, social services for personnel and their families, etc.), operations and maintenance (general supplies, fuel, repair and maintenance, travel, rent, utilities and payments for services), procurement, military research and development, military space activities, military construction (expenditure for military bases and other military infrastructure), and military aid (in the military expenditures of the donor country). However, and for the sake of of comparability between states, SIPRI data on military spending does not include civil defense, current expenditure for previous military activities, veterans’ benefits, demobilization, conversion of arms production facilities or destruction of weapons.
In addition, military spending is not only about arms procurement: it covers more than just military. In fact, military spending falls within a large interconnected ecosystem: there is no military spending without military policy and production, and there is no military production without military personnel. This constitutes what is called the military-industrial complex (MIC) – or the “military-industrial-political complex” – which consists of a framework and swivel door between the military industry, high ranking of the army, politics, and financing groups that benefit from Defense.
According to April 2017 SIPRI data, and stimulated by the war on terrorism, military spending has continued to increase. The World’s military spending in 2016 amounted to USD 1686 billion compared to USD 1088 billion in 2001. The total military spending accounted for 2.2% of the global GDP in 2016, or USD 227 per person. The 15 largest spenders accounted for USD 1360 billion, which is the 81% of total global spending” in 2016.
However, official military spending data from many governments is usually lower than SIPRI data. This, as already mentioned, is in part due to the fact that most reports on military expenditure – including those in specialist publications – tend to simply report the defense budget of individual countries. The consequence is that we face a lack of reliability, transparency and democratic scrutiny of military expenditure data. This is true for all countries, including those having open political and parliamentary systems. But it is especially dramatic in authoritarian and autocratic regimes, in which access to military data is drastically limited.