Key findings: There are no frameworks that estimate a ‘legitimate’ annual percentage of military expenditure for countries. Legitimacy is often highly contested, and arms-importing and -exporting countries can differ, quite significantly, in their opinions on whether an arms transfer is legitimate and justified, or not. An internal needs assessment may outline different priorities compared to an external needs assessment, which would, in many cases, be costly and difficult to undertake. However, without an externally verifiable needs assessment and an agreement on legitimacy, it is not possible to identify and quantify illegitimate arms deals and compare them to total military expenditure.
To estimate legitimate annual percentages of military expenditure, a better approach may be a case-by-case approach. This report provides suggestions for what could make up the criteria for such an approach. The first part of the report looks at an approach focusing on the process involved in military expenditures. With this approach, in cases when the military expenditure process is undertaken correctly, military spending would be considered legitimate. The second part of the report looks at a number of factors that have been linked to military expenditure. There does not, however, seem to be a comprehensive framework that assesses legitimacy based on such factors and it is likely that any framework based on them would be questionable.