The United States has contracted to provide Israel with $38 billion in military aid over a ten-year period in a new Memorandum of Understanding. That averages $3.8 billion annually. This is perceived as making Israel the largest recipient of US military aid in the world.
According to the research undertaken by Anthropology Professor David Vine of the American University, when factors such as the stationing of US troops abroad is included in the cost of US military aid the emerging picture is radically different.
Vine aggressively opposes US military involvement in foreign lands. It’s part of his personal DNA. But, by using his figures, we get an insight into where the bulk of the US military aid goes when “boots on the ground” are factored into the US military cost nation by nation.
Using Vine’s statistics, based on 2017 figures of 150,500 American troops stationed in seventy countries, boots on the ground cost US taxpayers between $85-$100 billion annually. This figure does not include military goods and equipment to allied nations.
Vance averaged the annual cost of each thousand soldiers to represent $665 million of aid to the country in which they are stationed.
Taking this equation into consideration, one can extrapolate the benefit to individual countries protected by the presence of US troops and the cost per country to the US military budget.
So which are the countries enjoying US military aid based on costs to the US tax-payer? For that we need Professor Vine’s statistics.
Professor Vine reported his findings in 2017 when Israel was receiving an annual $3.1 billion as US military aid for military equipment and supporting services. US fighting troops on the ground in Israel was, and is, non-existent.
Surprisingly perhaps, according to the professor, Japan is the largest recipient of US military aid. With just under 49,000 American military personnel stationed in Japan, the aid cost to America equates to over $27 billion. In other words, Japan’s US military aid package was nine times greater than Israel at the end of 2017!
There were almost 38,000 American troops stationed in Germany at the end of 2017. This cost the US $21 billion, seven times greater than Israel.
South Korea had over 27,5000 US troops on its soil at the end of 2017. It is certain that figure is greater in 2019 due to tensions between the United States and North Korea but, based on 2017 figures, South Korea received over $15 billion in US aid, almost five times more than Israel.
As a final comparison, compare Israel’s $3.1 billion to that of Italy. The cost of stationing US troops on Italian soil came to $6 billion, almost twice as much aid as Israel received.
Another factor must be tossed into the pot. The cost of stationing US troops in foreign lands does not include the additional and considerable cost of numerous sea and air patrols undertaken as part of the US mission to defend their allies. Neither does it include joint ground, air and naval exercises conducted with the armies of host countries.
No US plane flies to protect Israeli airspace. No US navy ship patrols Israel’s coast. No US military personnel are put in danger protecting Israeli citizens.
The fact that Israel receives nine times less aid than Japan is a direct reflection in the relative power that Israel possesses in the Middle East and its vast potential to independently protect US vital security interests in the region compared to the massive force required to ensure US, Japanese and South Korean interests against China and North Korea.
7,000 US servicemen are deployed to Saudi Arabia and the UAE countries, including Bahrain and Kuwait. The cost equates to $4.6 billion. This does not include the enormous cost in maintain major air and naval bases. The US 5th fleet is based in Bahrain. On May 29, 2019, the United States directed an additional 1,500 troops to the Middle East to be based in Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
One final point must be made. In the past, the military aid package of US weapons, equipment and services was conditional on Israel spending 74% on US manufactured military goods. This condition did not apply to any other nation.
In October 2018, a new Memorandum of Understanding was signed giving Israel $38 billion in military financing to be spent over ten years, averaging $3.8 billion annually. But a condition was imposed that Israel must spend the total amount purchasing US manufactured military equipment and armaments. In other words, it became a total subsidy to the American military industry, ensuring the employment of thousands of American workers in their defense industries.
An additional benefit to the United States is that Israel, an advanced nation in innovation, hi-tech, cyber and human resources in warfare and conflict zones, contributes valuable research and development for American-made, innovations products gained from Israeli soldiers and airmen fighting in real time conflicts and battle field conditions, thereby improving American manufactured military equipment.
The United States military industry, and therefore their own military, benefit greatly from the improved designs to the central control panel in the cockpit of their F35 stealth bombers, the upgraded technology in the helmets of pilots and navigators in their fighter jets and helicopters, in the improved defensive capabilities of their armored personnel carriers, resulting from the battle requirements of the IDF.
This vital military cooperation between Israel and the United States cannot be estimated in the cold figures and the statistics of US military aid to an ally.
Needless to say, the United States gets a lot more bangs for its bucks from Israel than from any of its other allies, or even from all of them combined.
Barry Shaw is the International Public Affairs Director at the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies.