R & D defence spending falls

OECD countries tend to spend less on defence than they have in the past. Or at least that is what the trend in government appropriations for research and development in the defence sector would suggest. The volume of funds earmarked by central or federal governments for R&D to be carried out in the public or private sectors, at home or abroad, fell from 0.32% of OECD-area GDP in 1991 to less than 0.25% in 1998.

As a proportion of total budgetary appropriations for R&D, the amount spent on defence declined from 37% to 30% between 1990 and 1998. Military spending has not kept pace with economic growth, but the decline also shows how government socio-economic priorities – between defence, healthcare, environmental and education issues, etc. – have shifted.

The United States still heads the list, putting some 0.48% of its GDP into defence-related R&D, or more than twice the proportion allotted by the United Kingdom or France. This represents 55.3% of total government-financed R&D, but the percentage is not really comparable because it includes funds that some other countries would classify as industrial development support.

Japan is one of the only countries to record a steady increase in defence budget R&D as a percentage of GDP. But it is starting at a low base, since among large OECD countries Japan remains towards the bottom of the ladder with a ratio of only 0.03% of GDP allocated to defence R&D, or 5.8% of aggregate R&D spending.

©OECD Observer No 220, April 2000

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