Getting your head around the Pentagon's titanic, enormous, unauditably large budget


They employee 27% more people than Wal-Mart, and have a 47% bigger budget. Looks like Pentagon employees are working for cheap then.


To make that claim accurately, you’d have to find out what % of each budget is payroll. Wal-Mart has a smaller budget, but they are building fewer weapons. The stuff Wal-Mart buys is infinitely cheaper.


higher highs and higher lows, looks like a fiscally sound company on the move towards greater profits.


This is exactly it. The military, the intelligence complex, all of it is nothing more than an vast, elaborate profit generation mechanism. It doesn’t really need to work properly in any way or do anything correctly in terms of actual foreign policy/security/intelligence gathering. All it is meant to do and all it needs to do to continue indefinitely advancing is make money for contractors and various profiteers of war. That is what it is built for and that is what it does.


Hah - defense money isn’t going to government employees. It’s going to the private defense contractor whose director was college buddies with whomever’s making the purchasing decisions.


But what do we do with all those golf courses?


White collar welfare.


Well, apparently we don’t learn to stay the hell out of sand traps…


If only we could find some money–somewhere–for single-payer healthcare without resorting to dirty, stinking Socialism.


It’s the Republican version of Making Government Smaller. Ain’t gonna drown the Pentagon in no bathtub, y’all.


Sometimes I like to imagine what America would be like if instead of spending $4 trillion on the Iraq war we instead spent that $4 trillion on education, infrastructure, and social programs to help the poor reach a better standard of living.

But then I quickly come back to the reality that the only thing America government is ever willing to spend vast sums of money on is war, bailing out the rich, and itself.


The only number in the summary I’m willing to get mad over at face value is the number of golf courses (assuming they aren’t mini golf readily accessible to all service men and women)

The walmart numbers seem shoking until you realize that if you use them to compare absolute numbers of employees and their salaries, it only becomes apparent that Walmart salaries are atrocious and should be illegally low

Edited for spelling


Don’t have % going to payroll exactly, but walmart is in a pretty low margin competitive business and is famously efficient so I’d bet a lot less of its total expenditures go to paying its employees.

Googling… googling…

In 2013 Walmart’s total sales/revenue was $469b. Cost of good sold was $352b. So a full 75% of revenue passed straight through walmart to whoever it purchased the stuff it sells from. Some fraction of the remaining $117b would be payroll, probably a large fraction. So something less than 25% is payroll. I’d guess at least 12%, though that’s very uninformed.

In 2009 the defense departments total expenditures was $527b, and total payroll was $195b. 37%. 50% higher than it can possibly be for walmart, and probably really more than double the share going to payroll.

Anyway walmart definitely pays a lot less on average given that it has more employees.


The golf course thing isn’t as completely absurd as it at first appears. Most militaries around the world have golf course on or adjacent to their main camps. The reason is to make use of spare land and sport is important to the military and … being realistic … senior officers like to play golf. But the reason they have spare land in the first place is to provide a readily accessible place to surge into if/when the balloon goes up. In an all out mobilisation those golf courses would quickly become covered in tents and dumps as conscripts flood in to train for the fight against … um … the enemy.

Of course, that is totally WWII thinking, and just how plausible it is that any military, let alone the US military, is likely to or even consider going to mass conscription is left as an exercise for the reader. But that is the ostensible reason for all those golf course. (Well, the land that all those golf courses are on).


Shrug. Just guessing. For most businesses payroll is a large expense.

There is literally zero chance the golf courses would be built upon. They would take more land in the event of a war, excepting possibly on the occasional small island (i.e. Diego Garcia).

That said, you Americans are fucking crazy. There quite literally is nobody on the planet with the capacity or interest to actually threaten your territory in any meaningful way. You have massive oceans protecting you from most major powers. You outgun the next 10 militaries combined, most of which are allies.

You could, quite handily, cut your military budget by 70% and still be 100% certain that no significant military power will ever threaten the actual territory of the USA, even the far flung places like Guam.

If you had spent even 1/3 of that budget on education, health, SCIENCE, you would have a fucking paradise of a country to live in. You would absolutely dominate the tech, energy, health sectors in the world. You would probably have a viable colony on Mars and a growing asteroid mining industry. Instead you project power all over the world to no good effect, you have horrific poverty and deprivation within your own borders. The arc of your country is downwards, everyone but the rich is sinking in mire, and you are entering the typical late stage of an empire before the fall.

It’s such a goddamn tragedy.



Maintaining an empire is expensive.


Defence Budget - 652bn
Caring for Veterans - 140bn
Homeland Security - 55bn
CIA, NSA, etc - 53bn

Total - 900bn

More than half of Walmart associates make under $25000. Various estimates of the average for sales associates (~1 million in the US) seem to range between $15000 to $18000.