Note: this is not an April Fools joke.
Republican Senator from Kentucky Rand Paul has recently introduced a plan which is supposed to balance the federal budget during the next 5 FYs (FY2012-FY2016), without any cuts or reforms of entitlement programs. It will not accomplish that, even if it’s passed by the Congress (which it is unlikely to), because: 1) the annual budget deficit is LARGER than the entire annual federal discretionary budget; and 2) entitlement programs already constitute 56% of the federal budget, so without at least a significant reform of these programs, you cannot balance the budget.
But this post is not about the Senator’s budget plan itself, but rather the laudation of it written by Julie Borowski, a media spokesperson for the pseudoconservative FreedomWorks.org organization. In a post on the blog of that organization, Borowski hailed the defense spending cuts included in the Senator’s budget plan (6% from the proposed FY2012 defense budget request) and invoked the usual liberal (and by now, already refuted and utterly discredited) talking points (including straw man arguments) about the DOD and defense spending. Specifically, Borowski claims that:
1) That defense spending and the DOD as an agency should not be spared from scrutiny. But they are not, and no one is arguing that they should be. Defense spending is debated extensively every year by the Congress (during public hearings and public debates which CSPAN records), not to mention the media and the public. Earlier this year, Gates and his deputy were grilled exceptionally harshly by Rep. Randy Forbes and others. Congressman Forbes, not satisfied with their answers and the DOD’s track record, convinced the House to pass legislation cutting the SECDEF’s party fund. What kind of scrutiny does Freedomworks.org want? Do they want Gates and other DOD officials to be waterboarded to get the answers they want? Probably not – for them, “scrutiny” is a mere euphemism/codeword for “budget cuts”. Well, let it be clear to everyone: scurity is one thing, a budget cut is another.
2) That one cannot credibly claim that there is no waste in the annual defense budget, i.e. that every single penny in the annual defense budget is being spent wisely (to say nothing of the GWOT budget). But no one is claiming that. Certainly not me. I’ve written, by myself, the most comprehensive DOD reform package ever written by anyone, one which, if passed, would eliminate over $23 bn per year worth of wasteful/unnecessary DOD spending (on bureaucracies, unneeded bases, duplicative agencies, etc.).
3) That Secretary Gates claimed that the DOD must make sure that every taxpayer dollar entrusted to the DOD is spent wisely and must eliminate all wasteful expenses. This is true, and Secretary Gates did say this. But he did not argue for cuts of the overall size of the defense budget; quite the contrary. He has proposed growing defense budgets: $549 bn for FY2011 (later downgraded to $540 bn), and $553 bn. Under his FYDP, defense spending would not be frozen until FY2015. Secretary Gates, like myself, has repeatedly stated that the defense budget topline must not be reduced and that any savings made in the DOD must be reinvested in the DOD – specifically, in military capabilities, i.e. the defense “tooth”. Too bad Freedomworks (like many other groups) has decided to quote just one of his sentences out of context and misinterpret it.
4) That defense spending has doubled since 9/11/2001. This claim, repeated by Secretary Gates and his deputy, has been widely repeated in the media, but it’s false. It’s a blatant lie.
This year’s defense budget, under the CR, is only $525 bn, and is therefore $25 bn smaller than the previous defense budget, the one for FY2010, which was $534 bn in nominal dollars and $550 in inflation-adjusted dollars, but for the sake of the argument, let’s use the budget for FY2010 (the bigger budget) for comparison.
According to a 2000 Air Force Magazine article by Robert S. Dudney, the defense budget for FY2001, proposed and passed in CY2000, was $291.1 bn in CY2000/FY2000 dollars. Adjusted to CY2011 dollars, i.e. today’s money, that’s $374.12 bn.
The defense budget for FY2010 was, as stated above, $550 bn in today’s money, which means the difference (the growth of defense spending since FY2001, over 9 FYs) was $175.88 bn. That’s 47.011% of the FY2001 defense budget. So no, defense spending has not doubled since FY2001, not even close. It hasn’t even grown by half.
To double since FY2001, defense spending would have to amount to $748.24 bn today. But it doesn’t. Even if you count all military spending, including GWOT spending, the total military budget for FY2010 was $674 bn and for FY2011, under the CR, it’s $685 bn.
So the claim that defense spending has doubled since FY2001 or since 9/11 is a blatant lie. It hasn’t. It hasn’t even grown by half since then. Borowski is therefore a liar.