Competitive development of new weapons

Other Names:
Waste of resources on armaments research
Nuclear weapons research
Weapon experimentation
Military research and development is concerned with stimulating the advancement of scientific knowledge and cultivating technical progress for military purposes. It is immediately directed, for the most part, at the creation of new and improved weapons, counter-measures and other military systems and equipment. Such research results in the replacement of existing offensive and defensive systems by generations of successively more complex, costly and lethal types; and is a direct incentive to the arms race, since each qualitative improvement in a weapon system by one country is a spur to further effort by the other. Military research and development has seriously distorted the whole pattern of world research and development away from the pressing needs of, for instance, agriculture, pollution and medicine. This includes the diversion of educated manpower from constructive civilian activities into the development of destructive weaponry, particularly of the more indiscriminate and inhumane variety.
Estimates of R and D expenditure during 1970-1980 were US$ 117 billion for the USA, and US$ 36 billion for the EEC/EU countries. The world total may have exceeded US$ 250 billion in that decade (putting USA expenditure at approximately 46.8% and EEC/EU countries at approximately 13.4% of total) compared with US$ 187 billion from 1961 to 1970. The USA, the UK, France, and the Federal Republic of Germany accounted for over 90% of Western expenditure. It is estimated that the USSR outlay was 30-37% of the world total. In 1984, expenditure on military research and development was estimated at US$ 70 to 80 billion world-wide, increasing at twice the rate of military expenditure as a whole.
If even a fraction of military research and development funds were provided to attack some of the main economic and social problems of the world, much larger benefits of the peaceful uses of science could be expected, given a powerful sense of purpose and the same institutionalized techniques of organization and management which military research has stimulated. It has been estimated that at the beginning of the 1980s about one-quarter of the global expenditures for R and D was accounted for by military programmes. If countries are prepared to set the right priorities, they ought to be able to achieve even more rapid technological progress, without war or an arms race.
Counter Claim:
All countries want to be as secure as possible; they have no interest in pursuing policies that would weaken them in relation to potential enemies. Good will and mutual confidence are sorely lacking between superpowers of differing political ideologies; armaments provide a sense of heightened security. They are a necessary tool for negotiation and, as such, may be considered to be of high priority.
Narrower Problems:
Nuclear weapons testing
Problem Type:
C: Cross-sectoral problems
Date of last update
01.01.2000 – 00:00 CET