May 24, 2024

Security Spending: How Governments Can Reassess Their National Security Budgeting Strategies



Rising threats necessitate rethinking budget priorities

With growing security  Spending challenges facing nations around the world, governments must thoughtfully re-examine their spending on national defense and homeland security. Evolving threats like terrorism, cybercrime, and climate change are altering risks and requiring new responses. While budgets for the military and law enforcement need to keep pace, greater emphasis should also be placed on non-kinetic approaches. By taking a comprehensive, forward-looking view, leaders can design budget strategies aligned with twenty-first century threats.

Reassessing spending across agencies

When drafting annual security budgets, governments have traditionally focused on funding their largest national defense organizations like the armed forces and intelligence services. However, the nature of threats is shifting, becoming more asymmetric and non-state based. A broader, “whole of government” funding perspective is needed that considers spending across multiple agencies. For example, investments in border control, emergency response capabilities, and counterterrorism initiatives fall under the budgets of different departments. An integrated review of spending across internal security, law enforcement, customs, and partner organizations could reveal opportunities to streamline efforts and close gaps.

Investing in non-military tools

While military dominance remains vital, 21st century threats also stem from non-traditional spaces like cyberspace and transnational criminal networks. Addressing these types of challenges necessitates building up non-kinetic national security tools. Increased funding should be directed to cyber defenses, digital intelligence gathering, efforts to counter propaganda and disinformation, and programs to counter violent extremism. Economic development and international aid spending can also augment security by reducing conditions that terrorist and criminal groups exploit. Adopting a broader view of what constitutes “national security spending” will yield dividends by allowing governments to deploy the right instruments against evolving threats.

prioritizing emerging risks

All national security strategies must balance responding to immediate dangers while also preparing for unknown future crises. Budgets should reflect careful consideration of emerging national and global risks with potentially serious long-term security implications. Issues like climate change, global pandemics, strategic resource competition, rapid technological change, and political upheaval could significantly impact international stability in coming decades. While such outcomes remain uncertain, allocating modest funding now can help build resilience and response capabilities. Neglecting foreseeable emerging threats risks being unprepared for worst case scenarios with massive costs. Proactively assessing and budgeting for potential future risks enhances strategic readiness.

Investing in people and skills

National security increasingly depends on attracting and developing specialized human capital. From technological expertise like cyber skills to cultural competencies needed for counterterrorism and foreign engagement, shortages in critical knowledge threaten capabilities. Governments must consider education, training, and personnel programs as core security spending that yields returns over the long term. Budget strategies should support recruitment, specialized military and civilian education, language training, workforce rotational programs, and skills like data analytics and computer science. Integrating “talent” as a key factor in budget planning ensures a ready national security workforce equipped for both today’s missions and future needs.

Promoting private sector cooperation

With technology evolving rapidly, significant portions of national infrastructure are owned and operated by private corporations in sectors like energy, transportation, and telecommunications. These present attractive targets for adversaries, making public-private cooperation on security issues essential. Budgets can strategically promote partnership between governments and the technology industry through initiatives that incentivize coordination on intelligence sharing, securing critical infrastructure, incident response capabilities, resilience standards, and counter-hacking efforts. Investing in forums for regular exchange and programs to facilitate collaboration strengthens overall national defenses at relatively low cost by harnessing industry expertise.

Regular assessment and adjustment

For budgets to align with constantly transforming security realities, governments must institutionalize periodic review and recalibration. Static long-term plans fail to account for how environments, threats, technologies, and geopolitical dynamics change often unpredictably. Regular assessment allows revisiting past assumptions and shifting limited funds to highest priority needs. Annual or semi-annual evaluation of spending plans against new intelligence and risk assessments ensures flexibility. Lessons from operations, crises, and exercises also inform budget optimizations. Rigorous evaluation and course correction when required characterize nations adept at dynamism—a core attribute for coping with an uncertain future.

In conclusion, with asymmetric dangers like terrorism evolving rapidly, governments must thoughtfully re-examine their strategies for allocating limited national security dollars. A modernized approach considers all relevant spending streams, invests in both traditional military and newer non-kinetic tools, takes account of emerging risks, develops human talent, forges public-private linkages, and institutionalizes ongoing budget calibration. Threats will continue transforming at unpredictable speed. Flexible, future-oriented budget strategies position nations to evolve security responses quickly and stay ahead of those wishing to do harm.


  1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
  2. We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it