The U.S. military budget is the largest in the world, and by a wide margin. The Biden administration recently submitted a defense budget of $773 billion for fiscal 2023 – which is more than the combined budgets of the next 10 highest-spending countries combined.
While the size of America’s military budget is an enduring subject of political controversy, the latest budget has allocated some funding to initiatives that even some defense industry critics can get behind – such as pay raises for service members, improved housing for military families, and support for Ukraine (Here is a look at how the U.S. is arming Ukraine).
If history offers any lessons, however, it is almost certain that some share of America’s military spending in fiscal 2023 will go to waste and end up as sunk costs – funding for projects that will ultimately go nowhere.
24/7 Wall St. reviewed some of the weapons programs in recent decades that have wasted the most taxpayer money. Programs are ranked on rough estimates of government expenditures, not adjusted for inflation.
Among the weapons programs on this list, estimates of wasted spending range from hundreds of millions to tens of billions of dollars. In most cases, the wasted money resulted from research and development projects that did not achieve their desired results. Notably, the fiscal 2023 military budget includes $130 billion for research and development – the highest amount ever allocated to R&D in a single year.
While there will always be some risk of waste associated with R&D, in many of the programs on this list, the wasted spending was often avoidable, resulting from any number of problems, including unrealistic goals, corporate influence in Washington, short-sighted strategic thinking, and evolving geo-political goals. Ironically, several of these projects were initially pursued as a way of saving taxpayer money in the long term. Here is a look at the companies profiting the most from war.
It is important to note that while each of these weapons projects did not turn out as planned, not all of them were for nothing. In several cases, lessons and technological developments that emerged from them proved useful in other applications.
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