The independent resource on global security

9. The military sector in a changing context



I. Introduction

II. Military expenditure

III. Arms production, transfers and control

IV. Conclusions


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A critical discussion is now required about the provision and use of quantitative indicators for security analysis, such as military expenditure, military production and arms transfers. A fundamental question for all producers and users of quantitative indicators is: how useful are the data? The purpose of the SIPRI databases on the military sector is to produce the most reliable and consistent global data that it is possible to collect, based on official and other open information. However, there are serious limitations to the use of all of these data sets. The challenge is to adapt the indicators and/or supplement them in the light of changes in the security environment.


The limitations to the use of data on national military expenditure relate not only to reliability and international comparability but also to contemporary changes in the security environment. Three major changes give rise to this challenge: the global pattern of armed conflict; the increased focus on the threat of transnational terrorism; and the trend for a stronger link to be made between military security and economic development—reflected in the new concept of ‘human security’.


While it will continue to be important to provide data on military expenditure, there is also a need to develop alternative measures of the cost of security provision—in particular for non-military activities associated with a broader concept of security. There are also various options for improving quantitative approaches to the study of security-related issues.


The objectives of a broader security agenda illustrate the shortcomings of data on arms production and international arms transfers. New forms of international defence industry cooperation, both horizontal and vertical; new political (national security) as well as commercial demands for arms exports; and less clear borders between certain military and civilian technologies all complicate the production, as well as use of, arms transfers data. There is a need to incorporate ‘internationalization’ and changing circumstances into the methodology of the study of arms transfers. There is no publicly available indicator that takes all these changes into account. Until one is developed, it will be impossible to describe market changes reliably and to devise and evaluate control measures.


Finally, there is a strong national-security linkage between arms production and arms transfers, on the one hand, and arms control, on the other. These two policy ambitions do not necessarily support each other. The way in which this political dilemma is resolved will be important for the achievement of security, in a military or non-military, or a broader or deeper, definition.



Dr Björn Hagelin (Sweden) is the Leader of the SIPRI Arms Transfers Project. Before joining SIPRI in 1998, he was a Researcher and Associate Professor at the Department of Peace and Conflict Research, Uppsala University, for 10 years. Before that he worked as a security analyst at the National Defence Research Institute (FOA). His publications include books, chapters and articles about security policy, the military industry, arms transfers and related topics. He recently contributed to Maciejewski, W. (ed.), The Baltic Sea Region: Cultures, Politics, Societies (Baltic University Press, Uppsala, 2002).


Elisabeth Sköns (Sweden) is the Leader of the SIPRI Military Expenditure and Arms Production Project. She is the author of chapters on the economics of arms production and the internationalization of arms production for the SIPRI volume Arms Industry Limited (1993) and other publications. She is also the author of chapters on military expenditure and their determinants and economic impact, including a chapter in New Millennium, New Perspectives: The United Nations, Security and Governance (UN University, 2000). She has contributed to most editions of the SIPRI Yearbook since 1983.

Dr Elisabeth Sköns