It’s still not the whole picture though. Instead of focusing on one statistic he’s focusing on the other. Spending as a percentage of GDP is good for what he articulated above, essentially budget priorities compared to other programs and other nations. But it doesn’t address the question of “how much is needed.” Is 3% too high or too low for the US? Would 10% be too high or too low for South Korea? Those question can’t be answered based on looking at only the percentages. You have to look at total spending of each country and their adversaries.
If the US can spend over a trillion dollars on the military and it only consume 3% of GDP that just means our economy is great compared to other countries, but that doesn’t mean the spending is not excessive. Since we are in fact spending more than the next several nations combined that is significant evidence that yes we are spending excessively. We can cut our military budget in half and still be the top military spender.
Using his same example, if we spend a $1 billion on chewing gum, its still probably excessive even if it is only .001% of the GDP. Because looking at the percentage of the GDP is not what you use to determine how much benefit you get from that spending.
Now then Dimitri. You know how we’ve always talked about the possibility of something going wrong with the bomb. The bomb, Dimitri. The hydrogen bomb. Well now what happened is, one of our base commanders, he had a sort of, well he went a little funny in the head. You know. Just a little… funny. And uh, he went and did a silly thing. Well, I’ll tell you what he did, he ordered his planes… to attack your country. Well let me finish, Dimitri. Let me finish, Dimitri. Well, listen, how do you think I feel about it? Can you imagine how I feel about it, Dimitri? Why do you think I’m calling you? Just to say hello? Of course I like to speak to you. Of course I like to say hello. Not now, but any time, Dimitri. I’m just calling up to tell you something terrible has happened. It’s a friendly call. Of course it’s a friendly call. Listen, if it wasn’t friendly, … you probably wouldn’t have even got it.
The Air Force leadership in particular makes really bad decisions from a military-wide systematic level due to their need for feeling like awesome fighter jocks. For example, their drive to get rid of the A-10 (which is very efficient for the types of wars we fight with air supremacy and relatively weak but dedicated opponents dug in on the ground) in favor of the F-35 (the biggest boondoggle in military acquisition history).
However, I think some waste in inevitable at that scale. While we should have better processes for cleaning it up, the US military is the critical asset to world peace. The reason we spend so much money is because we are the world’s hegemon, just like the British were during the 19th century. By having the “big dog that no one wants to mess with”, it keeps the ambitions of other nation-states in check. Historically, when the Great Powers are more on equal footing, there is much more military competition and the world is generally less safe. Right now, the competitors to the United States only have regional ambitions because that is the only venue in which they have a chance to compete (e.g. China can compete with the US Navy in the Taiwan straight or South China Sea, but definitely NOT in the south Atlantic.