Ruth Leger Sivard's
The origin of World Military and Social Expenditures
This report first appeared in 1964 with the title Worldwide Defense Expenditures when Ruth Leger Sivard was in charge of international economic studies at the Arms Control and Disarmamant Agency (ACDA), the United States government agency responsible for overseeing the country’s armament and disarmament. William M. Sprecher assisted in producing this publication which received wide attention and became an official ACDA document.
In response to requests from the State Department and members of the government who needed accurate information in this field, Mrs. Sivard began collecting statistics on national spending. This was before the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) began to publish an annual newsletter, and there was no other annual issue of detailed information on world military spending.
As she responded to official requests, Ruth Sivard, who was a sociologist as well as an economist, realized that figures on arms spending would be even more eloquent if they could be set against the amounts devoted to spending in the social sector and other priority needs. This is why the first report prepared by Mrs. Sivard’s staff and published in January 1966 by her agency included data concerning not only military spending on ‘defense’, but also funds devoted to education, health, and economic aid to other countries.
In 1968, the report’s title was changed to World Military Expenditures, but it continued to compare social spending with military spending and it became the most frequently requested of all the agency’s publications.
In 1973, however, the agency decided to exclude from the report any mention of social needs either in the United States or elsewhere. This radical change was made following complaints by the United States Defense Department.
Melvin Laird, the Secretary of Defense, sent a memorandum to Richard Nixon, President of the United States, emphasizing that the comparisons shown in the report made it difficult for him to obtain congressional approval for the provisional budget prepared by his department. Please see the New York Times article of June 9, 1970.
Mrs. Sivard was convinced that it was more vital than ever to warn the public against the social and economic consequences of the arms race. Following the change in government, she decided to resign from her official duties in order to continue bringing out her report on a completely independent basis.
Ruth Sivard formed a non-profit publishing company, World Priorities Inc., in order to produce her book. Her new report, published in December 1974 and now entitled World Military and Social Expenditures, sharpened the analysis and gave a broader international range of social indicators.
Since then Mrs. Sivard has been both author and publisher of her report, but she wishes to point out that this independent project would never have seen the light of day if it had not been for the generous assistance of several groups which provided her with very detailed data and the organizations which supported her venture. Eminent specialists and members of international institutions also gave their support to the project.
UNESCO was her first professional partner; in April, 1974, she started to receive statistical data concerning education. Since then, thanks to Carceles Breis, Mrs. Sivard received increasingly detailed data from this organization yearly.
The 16th edition (1996) of World Military and Social Expenditures was the final one published. Click here for a free download of this report.
The report was distributed worldwide, with more than 20,000 copies printed in English each year. It has also appeared in other languages: French, Norwegian, Swedish, Dutch, Finnish, Japanese, German and Spanish.
Awards and Commendations for Ruth Sivard
1985 The Committee for National Security, Washington DC
1987 Center for Defense Information, Washington DC
1989 American Association of University Women, Washington DC
1991 NGO Committee on Disarmament (UN), New York NY
1991 SANE-FREEZE: Campaign for Global Security, Washington DC
2013 International Peace Bureau, Geneva, Switzerland