Massive military spending in the age of espionage

An article on the discussions of actually putting the sacred cow of defense spending on the table got me to thinking. A 60 Minutes piece from earlier in the year talked about just how much of our military technology the Chinese have. The short answer? Most of it. Yet they spend 1/10th on defense that we do. It seems pointless for our country to continue pouring so much money into something with such limited benefit. Why just limit it to a 10% cut? In these times of obvious fiscal crisis, why not consider a 20 or 30% cut, which would free up trillions in less than a decade? We could invest some of that savings into a world class espionage program of our own, which would help us more against the current Islamic extremist threat and the less than simmering cold conflict with China than armed conflict, while still freeing up hundreds of billions to stabilize our economy and free up some money for domestic programs (or just save them from drastic cuts).

Where is the profit, the scope for bribery and ‘consultancy work’, in espionage?

What percentage of military expenditure is currently spent on intelligence and espionage?

Frankly, I’m skeptical. What does ‘most’ really mean? Have they stolen the technology in development, or stolen technology that’s already been deployed and in many cases outdated by new developments.

Regardless, what can they/have they DONE with it? AFAIK, they have yet to produce a tank (for instance) that rivals the Abrama…a tank deployed over a decade ago. They aren’t producing jet fighters that rival even the 3rd generation fighters in the US or Europe.

They do. And their military gives them perhaps a tenth of our military capabilities (to be generous…I actually think their military is less than a tenth as capable as the US’s military, looked at as a whole and depending on what the mission is).

I don’t see how you arrive at this conclusion. Let’s say that the Chinese are indeed stealing our closest military secrets. So what? Does that suddenly mean we don’t need a military?? That we don’t have any military commitments or requirements for a military with the capabilities to project power beyond our own shores??

That’s really the crux. If we NEED a globally capable military then it’s going to cost money. China doesn’t need one, so it doesn’t cost them the same amount. They need a military that is mainly for self defense and perhaps regional power projection (though frankly even there they don’t have it). Even stealing our military secrets is only going to get them so far, since R&D is only part of the costs (and even in the US it’s not even close to the larges part). All other things aside, they would still need to figure out how to build whatever they have stolen…something that is seemingly being handwaved away, but that is a bit more challenging than it seems.

If you want to cut the military, then that’s fine, as long as you realize the consequences. But why make up a bunch of bullshit reasons like ‘Well, China is stealing our secrets??’ to justify it? If you can demonstrate that the US doesn’t need a globally capable military anymore (:dubious:), then the requirements for that military change, and you can justify making larger cuts. Of course, what you will REALLY be cutting is military jobs and benefits, since that’s what a large percentage of the budget goes too. A relatively small percentage is tagged for R&D…certainly not ‘trillions in less than a decade’. If you want to save that kind of scratch you will have to either make huge cuts in maintenance of equipment and new procurements or have less soldiers/benefits. Both are Bad Ideas™, IMHO.


First of all, if everyone is spending all their money on espionage, who’ll develop the technology for them to steal?

Second of all, having the technology is not the same as havig the materiel. Sure, it costs a lot to develop the stuff, but it costs much more to actually build it, maintain it and train people to use it. So sure, the Chinese may have the technology to build an M1A2 Abrams tank, but they have’t built 10 armored divisions of them - and that’s why their military budget is so small. They might be able to build a modern fighting force, but they haven’t done so yet.

There’s a coherent logic between cutting defense and reducing the deficit or spending more on domestic programs. One can disagree, but at least the proposition is logically sound.

But I don’t see “people are stealing our technology” as a reason to cut the military budget as being sound. If someone is stealing my cable or internet from my house, that doesn’t mean I should move into an apartment. It just doesn’t follow.

And what makes the OP think that we haven’t already stolen huge amounts of military technology from other countries?

You’re also missing that we have our defence forces not just for what we face now, but also for the medium term future. Aircraft carriers don’t get built overnight. Civilians don’t turn into soldiers overnight.

There are probably 30 nations in the world - at least - who could have an arsenal of nuclear weapons ready to go in 12 months. The same nations could probably also develop Abrams-like tanks (which have been around closer to 30 years than 10), top notch fighter aircraft, and all manner of neat military doodads.

The issues, though, are politics and cost. Canada doesn’t have any nukes because (a) they’re too expensive and (b) the citizenry would go apeshit. Japan doesn’t build a fleet of aircraft carriers because of… well, (a) and (b).

The U.S. spends what it does on the military at least in large part due to politics. The citizenry LIKES having a really gigantic armed forces. And, at least so far, politicians can afford to give it to them.

Cite, please. I count less than a dozen nations that have, are known to have, or strongly suspected of having the capability to produce weaponizable nuclear fission or thermonuclear fusion devices in the near-term. Developing “Abrams-like tanks” isn’t just dependent on having the design details, but also the technology, engineering skills, and manufacturing base to produce and support such weapons. The reason that there are only a handful of nations that can build such weapons is because of this investment.

It has less to do with the citizenry per se as it does with the fact that military contractors and supplies represent a huge labor base of skilled and semi-skilled jobs which elected officials are understandably reluctant to cut (at least in their respective districts). There is also the practical matter that having a second best military force in a conflict is like being the runner up in vying for a woman’s hand in marriage; getting the silver medal is no better than coming in last place.


Right. Now add in the time - and funds - necessary to build up a sufficient number of those forces, train your military in their use, and so on.

It’s in America’s interest to remain on the cutting edge of military capabilities that we hold a decided advantage in. The Air Force, for example. In any conflict, we’re almost assured to have air superiority. I don’t think that advantage is a simple matter of outspending everyone, and I don’t believe espionage against us will allow a rival nation to make up the difference.

Probably more like 8: Russia (T-90), Israel (Merkava4 ), Britain (Challenger 2), China (Type 99), Germany (Leopard 2), Japan (Type 90), France (Leclerc) and South Korea (XK-2). Those are the only countries that make tanks comparable to the M1-A2 Abrams. Just about all these countries have a long history of tank warfare dating back to WWI or WWII and they are already fielding the best tanks their economies can produce…

Well that’s obvious, isn’t it ? Spies will have to move on to stealing the other side’s spying tools. We can not allow a gizmo gap !

Trouble is, if they start spying on our spies and getting all our spy secrets then logically we’d need to slash our spy budget (what would be the point, after all, since they would have gotten our spy secrets already??)…so, no more spy gizmos either. Since they have presumably already gotten our industrial secrets as well (they can’t do anything on their own, after all), we might as well cut our losses there too. And I believe they have universal health care and tons of social programs so…

Hell, it looks to me as if we could cut the entire budget! Think of the money we will be saving!!


Regarding Chinese acquisition and use of stolen weapons tech…their use of such technology has been rather ho-hum to date. They have some domestically developed stuff that can probably dance with the stuff that the US and other western militaries have been using for the past 15 years (J-10 comes to mind…) and have imported and modified a number of Russian biggies such as the J-11 and most of their Navy and armoured force.

The J-XX is apparently their shot at a 5th generation fighter but won’t be flying for awhile and ever so often one hears about a never-tested mysterious “carrier-killer” missile that gets the US Navy’s knickers in a knot (apparently) but they don’t seem to be creating anything new out of this stolen tech. That’s the problem when you steal tech…you are always going to be behind and most likely will never get ahead because you are too busy stealing and trying to figure out/screw up that new tech you just got.

Plans for replacing the F-22 are already being drawn up and the USAF has some pretty wild ideas regarding stealth combat UAV’s.

Not really true; you just need to be strong enough that it wouldn’t be worth it to conquer you. And more importantly, if you have nukes then for defensive purposes the strength of the rest of your military matters little.

I disagree: when you’re talking about nations like India and China, getting hit by one or two nukes - or even several - has little impact. So you lose 100 M people; that’s nothing - even to your benefit - when you have 1.3 Bn. So to really threaten you, your opponent has to be willing and able to hit you with a much larger quantity of nukes, else they must have a considerable conventional force.

A hundred million people is most certainly not “nothing”. Especially since the victims would disproportionately be from cities and industrial centers.

Besides, it’s at least as important that they can be used on any invading armies, since a nation that can’t fire one against, say, America can still use one on an American army that tries to invade.

I really liked that movie, “why we fight” that was when i first found out taht “military industrial complex” wasn’t something hippies made up to criticize a pro-military society.

And THAT is why everyone wants nukes. It makes you immune to military threats.