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 You are in: Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs > Bureau of Public Affairs > Bureau of Public Affairs: Press Relations Office > Press Releases (Other) > 2003 > February
Fact Sheet
Office of the Spokesman
Washington, DC
February 6, 2003


Military Expenditures and Arms Transfers 1999-2000

Military Expenditures

  • World military expenditures rose 2% in 1999 to $852 billion, a modest 4% above the post-Cold War low in 1996, but 35% below the level of a decade earlier.
  • The military spending of developed countries also grew 2% in 1999, ending a continuous decline throughout the decade to the 1998 post-Cold-War low. The 1999 level was 45% below that in 1989.
  • Developing countries, on the other hand, reached an all-time high in 1999 with $245 billion spent on their militaries. This was a 3% increase over the prior year and an 18% increase over the 1989 level.
  • North America accounted for the largest regional portion, or 34%, of 1999 world military spending with the U.S. alone accounting for 33%. Western Europe with 22% had the second largest share.
  • Two major shifts in regional shares of world military expenditures occurred over the 1989-1999 decade. Eastern Europe’s share fell from 34% to 7% with the collapse of the former Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact. East Asia’s share more than doubled, from 10% to 21%, primarily because China’s estimated spending grew by 64%.
  • South Asia had the highest average annual growth rate of any region in the decade, with 5%. Its share of world military spending more than doubled (from 0.8% to 2.0%), reflecting the military build-up between India and Pakistan.

Arms Imports
  • World arms trade grew 8.5% in 1999 to $51.6 billion. This was 19% above the post-Cold War low in 1994, though still 40% below the all-time high reached in 1987.
  • Developed countries’ arms imports rose to $29.5 billion in 1999. Since 1995 they averaged a hefty 13% annual growth, while developing countries’ imports declined 6%.
  • Reversing the traditional predominance of developing country imports, the developed countries raised their share of total arms imports from 35% in 1989 to 57% in 1999, while the developing share declined from 65% to 43%.
  • Western Europe was the largest arms importing region in 1999, with $15.1 billion or 29% of the world’s total. Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development countries accounted for nearly half, or 49% of total arms imports. The top three regions--Western Europe, the Middle East, and East Asia—accounted for 78% of the world’s arms imports.
  • The top five importing countries in 1999 -- Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Japan, China-Taiwan, and United Kingdom -- accounted for 37% of world arms imports.

Arms Exports

  • World arms exports ($51.6 billion, equaling arms imports) rose 8.5% in 1999 after a spike in 1997 and a downturn in 1998 influenced by the Asian financial crisis.
  • Developed nations’ arms exports in 1999 were 96% of the world’s, 20% above the 1994 post-Cold-War low, 24% below the 1989 level, and 36% below the all-time peak in 1987.
  • North America led the regions in 1999 with 65% of the world, while Western Europe had 23% and Eastern Europe, 8.5%. The U.S., with 69% of the total export agreements signed from 1997-1999, is likely to dominate the world arms market in the near future.
  • A tendency toward greater collaboration and interdependence in arms production is apparent, as half of U.S. arms imports came from five of the other top exporters and the majority of their imports came from the U.S.

Other Indicators

  • The number of people serving in the world’s armed forces fell 26% over the decade to 21.3 million in 1999. The six largest forces (in thousands) were China – 2,400, United States – 1,490, India –1,300, North Korea – 1,000, Russia – 900, and Turkey – 789.
  • The world’s military burden ratio, military expenditures to GNP, fell sharply from 4.7% in 1989 to 2.4% in 1999. The developed nations’ ratio fell from 4.8% to 2.3% and the developing nations’, from 4.1% to 2.7%. The Middle East ratio in 1999 was 6.8%.
  • The world’s average military expenditures per capita ratio, a general measure of security costs, fell 43% from $254 in 1989 to $142 in 1999. Developed countries spent an average $517 per capita in 1999, 10 times the average $51 spent in developing countries.
  • Military expenditures per member of the armed forces, which may serve as an indicator of technological preparedness levels, in 1999 averaged $92,600 per serviceman in developed nations and $16,600 in developing nations, with a range of $189,000 in the U.S. to less than $1,000 in several low-income countries.

Released on February 6, 2003

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