The United States government has the largest military budget in the world, and amounts to roughly 50% of all military spending worldwide. In 2006 the US military budget was $441 billion. It is worth noting that this does not include spending on the war on Iraq or Afghanistan, nor does it represent nuclear weapons research (part of the US Dept. of Energy budget). The following graph gives a nice summary of how US military spending compares to other countries, including its military "rivals" and members of the "Axis of Evil" (none of these grave threats made the list).
With the US national debt becoming more and more out of control and with lack of funding for education and other social services, responsible citizens should ask themselves whether all this military spending is justified or not. Is it really necessary for us to be able to win a war against the rest of the world, or would it be preferable if our leaders felt a little more compelled to resolve conflicts without resorting to the threat or use of force? Those in favor of this amount of spending might argue that we need a large military because we have taken on the honorable duty of protecting freedom, peace, and democracy around the world. Even without looking at history (which outright refutes this), it seems doubtful that the US government would spend its own money on safeguarding the well-being of foreigners when it doesn't even have the desire to provide health care to its citizens like almost every other country in the first world.
We're certainly seeing the problems associated with the military-industrial complex that President Eisenhower warned against back in 1961. Reducing the federal military budget by just a small amount could mean a huge boost to other social programs, such as education which comes in at only $88 billion.
On the other hand, let's for the sake of argument say that the US spending on defense is justified. Then we must ask ourselves whether we are getting the most bang for our buck. And I think we certainly are not. In 1997 the United Nations Human Development Report stated that the approximate cost of providing basic education, basic health and nutrition, reproductive health and family planning, water, and santitation for ALL in developing countries would only cost $40 billion/year for 10 years. Additionally, for an extra $40 billion/year, poverty could be eradicated completely. Imagine how popular the United States would be if we were to fund this! And this can be done all while maintaining a ridiculously high military budget in comparision to other countries. If the US really wanted to win the war against terrorism, then this would be a simple and sure way to do it. Terrorist organizations wouldn't be able to recruit if the US was seen as being so generous and benevolent towards others.
Unfortunately, I do not think this has a chance in hell of happening anytime soon. The reason that it won't happen is that the ruling interests in the country do not care about national security, nor do they care about peace in other countries. Military spending is a handout to the military contractors and as a tool to further US imperialistic interests abroad. If only Lockheed Martin made bread....
But probably the biggest reason against rising the standard of living in other countries would be the horrible hit on corporate profits. If you had access to food, water, education, and health care for you and your family, would you go to work in a factory for $1/day? Absolutely not. Only someone who is faced with the threat of death would consider throwing away their short life in this way.
I think this issue shows how important it is for American citizens to exert control on the government. The US is by far the most wealthy country in the world, and if allowed to, that wealth could transform the world into a much, much better place.