Do we spend $1 trillion a year on foreign policy? That was a claim recently made by Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX). The statement got the attention of the folks over at Politifact. They reviewed it, and they found it to be true:
We consulted numerous defense budget experts on the issue. They all agreed that it depends largely on how one defines “foreign policy.” Changing the definition means changing the programs that one includes in the calculation, which impacts the total amount.
Winslow Wheeler from the Center for Defense Information sent us a table which details the “U.S. security” expenses for 2010. The total comes out to $1021.3 billion, slightly over $1 trillion. The calculation includes the interest on the Department of Defense Retiree Health Care Fund and on debt-financed defense spending.
Cindy Williams, a principal research scientist at the MIT Security Studies Program told us to check out her presentation on historical U.S. defense and foreign affairs spending trends. Looking at projected spending for the year 2010, summing up national defense programs, homeland security programs, and international affairs initiatives totals $841 billion. Add in the VA budget of $125 billion and we get $966 billion. Williams said that she wouldn’t include the interest payments attributable to past debt-financed defense spending in her own analysis, “since there is no good way to judge whether debt accumulated because we spent too much on security, or because we raised too little in taxes.”
We also checked with Stephen Donahoe from the Friends Committee on National Legislation, an anti-war lobby. Donahoe told us that their own calculations do not include the entire State Department budget. Still, taking into account Pentagon spending and money that goes into nuclear defense programs, Veterans Affairs, interest payments on defense-related debt, and other related expenses that are scattered throughout the budget, the group arrives at about $1 trillion. The committee acknowledges on its website that the number varies across groups that track defense spending.