Report: US military spending remains high despite pandemic

People pass by US National flags in Washington, DC on Jan 9, 2021. (ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / AFP)

STOCKHOLM – The United States continues to increase its military spending despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) said in a report on Monday.

Military spending by the United States in 2020 increased 4.4 percent compared with 2019, reaching an estimated US$778 billion — the third consecutive year of growth, following seven years of continuous reductions, according to the report.

Total global military expenditures rose to US$1,981 billion in 2020, an increase of 2.6 percent in real terms compared with 2019

"As the world's largest military spender, the United States accounted for 39 percent of (the world's) total military expenditure in 2020," according to the report.

"The recent increases in US military spending can be primarily attributed to heavy investment in research and development, and several long-term projects such as modernizing the US nuclear arsenal and large-scale arms procurement," Alexandra Marksteiner, a researcher with SIPRI's Arms and Military Expenditure Program, was quoted in the report.

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Total global military expenditures rose to US$1,981 billion in 2020, an increase of 2.6 percent in real terms compared with 2019 Such an increase was against the background of a shrinkage of global gross domestic product, largely due to the economic impacts of COVID-19.

As a result, military spending as a share of GDP — the military burden — reached a global average of 2.4 percent in 2020, up from 2.2 percent in 2019. This was the biggest year-on-year rise in the military burden since the global financial and economic crisis in 2009.

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"We can say with some certainty that the pandemic did not have a significant impact on global military spending in 2020," Diego Lopes da Silva, a researcher with the SIPRI Arms and Military Expenditure Program, was quoted as saying in the report. "It remains to be seen whether countries will maintain this level of military spending through a second year of the pandemic."

SIPRI's research covers international conflicts, armaments, arms control and disarmament.