In the third quarter of 2007, the nation's gross domestic product ... reached $13.97 trillion. How much of that should be spent on national defense? ...

Sen. Elizabeth Dole, R-N.C., and Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., have introduced a bill that would set a "floor" under the annual defense budget of no less than 4 percent of GDP. For the coming budget year, that would be $558 billion.

The current year's base defense budget, signed by President Bush in mid-November, is $459.3 billion, roughly 3.3 percent of GDP. That doesn't include $6.3 billion spent on nuclear weapons by the Department of Energy or the $144 billion a year being spent off-budget on the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

... Four percent may sound cheap, but ... the military budget ... accounts for nearly half of every dollar the government spends outside of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and other entitlement programs. ...

-- St. Louis Post-Dispatch

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