The official Pentagon budget for 2009 runs to $515bn, or around 4 per cent of America's total economy, and about the same size as the entire output of the Netherlands.
Throw in an expected $150bn of supplementary outlays and you've got defense spending larger than Australia's entire gross domestic product.
Add in various "black items", such as military spending tucked away in other parts of government, and some claim that America's total annual spending on the military now exceeds a trillion dollars – roughly half the entire British economy.
President Eisenhower famously referred to a "military-industrial complex". A better term, however, is perhaps an "Iron Triangle" whose three corners are the Pentagon, arms manufacturers, and – most important – Congress.
Arms manufacturer Lockheed operates in 45 of the 50 states, where its factories provide jobs, and the Congressmen and Senators from those States will do anything to keep them. Far from voting less money for the Pentagon, they often provide more than the President of the day is seeking, to finance extra projects – needed or not – if that will keep the money flowing into their district. And, fearful of appearing soft on defense, few will oppose them. Thus the spending merry-go-round continues.
[Excerpt of an article by Rupert Cornwell, The Independent]