Defence spending – too much, too little or just right?

June 27, 2012, 3:39 PM GMT+0

The coalition government is reducing the UK’s defence budget as part of its austerity programme, which will include changes to procurement, and redundancies to lower the number of people on the MoD payroll.

Yet in 2011 the UK spent £39.4bn on defence, making it the world’s fourth highest military spender after the US, China, and Russia.

Here in YouGov’s PoliticsLab, we wanted to hear your views on whether you believe the UK government is spending too much, too little, or the right amount on defence.

The highest proportion of those who took part in the debate said that too little was being spent on defence.

  • Participants who held this view said that a well-funded military was necessary to maintain Britain’s status in the world, as well as to defend its homeland and territories.

A smaller proportion of you told us that the UK spends too much on defence.

  • Those who were of this view said the government was spending on the military for the wrong reasons, and that the money would be better spent on public services, such as the NHS.

A very small proportion of participants said that the UK was spending the right amount on defence.

  • This group said that the budget was about right for the military’s necessities and commitments around the world, but questioned whether the MoD was making the best spending choices.

We also asked you to sum up the UK’s military involvement around the world in one sentence – what you said is reflected here:

Tell us your view: does the UK spend too much, too little, or the right amount on defence?

How would you sum up Britain's military involvement round the world?

Q: From what you know, do you think the government is currently spending too much, too little, or the right amount on defence?

VIEWPOINT: The UK spends TOO LITTLE on defence

“Armies are pricey things to keep, and often seem unnecessary until you trim them down too much. A weak army invites attack. Would Argentina be sabre rattling if we weren't cutting our armed forces?Lee, Southend

“How can we be expected to project power overseas, or even protect our people and interests abroad, with such a small, poorly equipped force? It has nothing to do with warmongering, but security and protection – even humanitarian aid. If we want to compete internationally on technology, aerospace, and defence, we need to spend more, otherwise other European countries and USA will take over – we'll end up spending more buying from the US” Anon .

“As things stand, we have insufficient armed forces to adequately defend the UK mainland, let alone our offshore interests” Anon

The defence of the realm and its overseas interests must be the number one priority for any government. The world is unstable and entering dangerous times, so to be cutting our armed forces is very risky. … Economies and cuts were necessary, but defence cuts should have been kept to an absolute minimum, or increased at the expense of other government spending” Mike, Mansfield

“For historical reasons the UK has a lot of commitments and responsibilities in the world for which we need military forces that are, compared to just about any other nation, out of proportion to the size of the country. Therefore we need to spend much more per capita on defence than just about any other nation. Remember that it was irresponsible defence cuts by the Thatcher government that played a large part in encouraging Argentina to start the Falklands War. To take just one example, the fact that we do not have any aircraft carriers is a disgrace” Anon

“Given the range of the UK's defence commitments – including at least one on-going war and a significant threat to one of our overseas territories – it is frankly criminal to be cutting defence spending. Our armed forces are already overstretched, despite the fact that our deployments are far from huge, and key assets such as carriers and maritime reconnaissance have been put out of action. Added to that, the degree of overstretch means that our infantrymen in particular are spending far too much time in combat, leading to added risks of mental health problems (not to mention physical injuries)Richard, Oxford

VIEWPOINT: The UK spends TOO MUCH on defence

We are far too keen to get involved in other nation's wars – usually because of some financial interest. The present conflicts illustrate well how much involvement in other people's problems causes far too great a loss of human life, quite apart from the vast amounts of money spent” Nicky S, Lincs

I firmly believe that government spending on defence is far too much given the financial mess the country has been in for the past few years. We do not spend enough on health and education, or on public amenities, but the Government thinks nothing of spending billions on defence. Switzerland has never been involved in wars and this makes them a much wealthier country (albeit much smaller) than the UK, so why can't we take a leaf out of their book and do the same?” PT, Keighley

In times of austerity, and when Britain holds no real influence on the international stage, Britain has nothing to gain from imperial interests abroad that are not even directly our own interests. There is also no need for the nuclear 'deterrent’” Anon

There is an over-reliance on outdated defence programs that are obsolete in the post-Communist world and do not make sense in the 21st Century geopolitical landscape. Large scale military intervention is now obsolete and limited to very extreme cases; therefore there should be a cutback to essential defence programs and infrastructures” Rob, Manchester

“Though the current Government proposes to reduce spending on the Armed Forces by around 20%, it also proposes to spend a ridiculous sum on renewing the Trident submarines, and ordering very expensive parts now that will cost a lot whether Trident is scrapped or not by a future government. It is time that the UK admits that it is not a leading power and reduces defence commitment to a small, highly trained force along the lines of the Scandinavian countriesAlison F, Suffolk

We have too many military commitments throughout the world. We cannot afford to keep up with larger, richer countries. I do not agree with selling weapons to other countries, we would be better off putting research and development money into peaceful, life-enhancing technology. It seems that we spend more money on attack, rather than defence!Donna, Hants

VIEWPOINT: The UK spends THE RIGHT AMOUNT on defence

Our troops are still out fighting; if the amount was reduced then our troops may become ill-equipped. However, there has to be a limit and we don't want to be spending too much on buying weapons. So I believe the government are spending the right amount” Anon

I believe the UK's role in projecting military power across the globe is now over, and impractically expensive. Maintaining a strong defensive force is, I feel, our best path. I believe our current level of funding is enough to maintain such a force” David F, Horsham

The Government is spending a necessarily high amount on defence, considering the number of theatres of war we are operating in, and the fact that much of our defence equipment does need to be updated. I do query, however, whether the money that is spent is spent prudentlyAnon

Defence spending should not be the highest priority. Britain will still be among the highest spenders on defence worldwide. More should be done, such as combining the forces to make an American style marine corps instead of having individual forcesJamie, Scottish Borders

The Government should really overhaul how the money is spent, instead of wasting a fortune that could be used more efficientlyM, Lincolnshire

Tell us your view: does the UK spend too much, too little, or the right amount on defence?

How would you sum up Britain's military involvement round the world?