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Policy Area Papers on Defence

The Diseconomies of Terrorism
Peter J. Phillips, World Economics, December 2011
The Global Terrorism Database (GTD) contains many active and inactive terrorist groups. The defining characteristic of the terrorist groups contained in the GTD is smallness. Unlike the modern business enterprise, for example, there appears to be no trend towards ‘bigness’. This paper presents an analysis of the size distribution of terrorist groups and the implications of this size distribution for the technological conditions under which the output of terrorism may be increased. With net internal and external diseconomies to larger-scale production of terrorism, we should observe relatively small terrorist groups and little or no tendency for the number and size of terrorist groups in the ‘terrorism industry’ to increase. These facts do characterise the empirically observed size distribution of terrorist groups, and imply that the technological conditions under which the output of terrorism may be increased are characterised by internal and external diseconomies to larger-scale production of terrorism.
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Defence R&D Spending: A critical review of the economic data
Keith Hartley, World Economics, March 2011
A nation’s defence R&D determines the international competitiveness of its defence industries and the technical superiority of its military forces. Whilst there is much secrecy, there are published data on defence R&D for many nations. Exceptions include China, Iran, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan and Russia. Defence R&D has led to rising unit costs of equipment and questions about the long-run affordability of some weapons. There are also external economic benefits but a lack of any measures of defence output. This article reviews what is known, what is not known and what is needed to be known for an informed debate and policy choices.
It’s Time to Retire the US Military’s Retirement System
Chris Springer, World Economics, December 2010
The author outlines a retirement system for the most expensive government organisation in the world – the US military. The plan incorporates positive aspects of both defined benefit and defined contribution plans that cost less and are more valuable to service members than the current system, which was put into place in 1947. The paper uses previous studies that reflect service members’ ‘value’ of retirement pensions and US Department of Defense net present value assumptions to prove his case and demonstrate how the DoD can save tens of billions of US dollars, while increasing the value of the plan in the eyes of those who serve.

This paper builds on previous work done in 2006, when the author wrote a paper titled ‘Is It Time to Update the Army’s Retirement System?’. However, this paper focuses more broadly on the overall military retirement system and takes into account the changes that have occurred since 2006 regarding the general debate on retirement pensions, the macroeconomic conditions that have changed drastically in four years, the political reality of future government budget cuts (such as with the military retirement system), and the fact that anything related to military compensation being a target because US military benefits (primarily health care, pay, and bonuses) have increased steadily over the years since 2001.

Weapons Exports: The bogus moral dilemma
Samuel Brittan, World Economics, June 2003
The commonly held view that an ethical approach to arms sales is desirable but ‘unaffordable’ because jobs and exports are at stake is challenged by Samuel Brittan. He argues that it arises from a failure to understand the circular flow of income, the fallacy of a ‘lump of labour’ and a long discredited mercantilist view of trade. The author contends that on moral and economic grounds, arms sales should not be subsidised or officially promoted in any way, and governments should be much stricter in enforcing bans on sales to dubious regimes.
A Hard Look at the Costs of Peace
Jacques Fontanel & Michael D. Ward , World Economics, June 2002
The United States has emerged as a hegemonic, dominant military power exactly during the period when its military expenditures have grown least. The end of the Cold War did indeed deliver a huge dividend to its largest beneficiary, the United States. During this same period, the US economy has also doubled, fueled by the rapid increases in productivity brought on by the information economy. These two stylized facts stand in sharp relief to a 40-year period in which there was a bipolar balance of power and much more modest economic growth in industrial as well as developing societies. As beneficial as these changes are, it must be recognized that they also undermine the political and economic status quo ante. In this article the authors speculate about the importance of legitimacy in a global political economy dominated by a single major power. New organizational forms of conflict management may actually be fostered by such a disequilibrating state of affairs.
The International Arms Industry Since the End of the Cold War
Ron Smith, World Economics, September 2001
This article surveys the evolution of the international arms market since the end of the Cold War. It begins with the policy context, the choices made by the national Ministries of Defence and the constraints they faced. It then looks at the choices available to the arms producers: convert, diversify, divest, co-operate or concentrate. These choices, by governments and firms, produced a large increase in the degree of concentration. The share of the five largest firms increased from just over 20% in 1990 to 45% in 1998, and it has increased further since then. Finally, the author looks at the economic adjustment in response to these shocks.