How Much the US Will Save by Canceling ‘War Games’ in South Korea

How Much the US Will Save by Canceling ‘War Games’ in South Korea


When President Trump canceled joint military exercises with South Korea as part of his effort to denuclearize North Korea, he claimed that in addition to the diplomatic benefits, the move would save a “tremendous” of money.

Critics had their doubts about the cost savings, though, since the Pentagon isn’t famous for sending out refund checks and the money will likely be spent elsewhere in the vast reaches of the American military establishment. This week, the Defense Department provided an estimate of the savings involved: $14 million, or about .002 percent of the Pentagon's roughly $700 billion budget.

The Wall Street Journal pointed out that the savings are less than the cost of one fighter plane, and may be illusory in any event, since the cancellation of next month’s Freedom Guardian exercises likely involves costs in terms of training and readiness. “It’s penny wise and pound foolish. It doesn’t save you as much as you think and may cost you more,” said Lawrence Korb, an assistant secretary of defense under President Ronald Reagan.

On the other hand, if the cancellation of what Trump called “war games” plays a positive role in reducing or eliminating North Korea’s nuclear arsenal, the ultimate savings could measure in the billions. Recent statements by North Korea, however – the country condemned American negotiating tactics for being “gangster-like” – suggest that a diplomatic deal remains a long shot.