The McClatchy Magazine has been caught blathering nonsense about defense spending

In a September 25th article on the website of the McClatchy Magazine, three of its writers (Rob Hotakainen, Adam Ashton and Curtis Tate) have been caught blathering nonsense about defense spending. In an article titled Specter of big defense cuts prompts big worries, the authors wrongly and ridiculously claimed that:

“The boom times are over for the nation’s military.

After more than doubling in the past 10 years, Pentagon budgets are in for big cuts from Congress in coming years. No one yet knows exactly what will be cut or how deeply the cuts will go, but everyone knows they’re coming.

In North Carolina, where military communities already are preparing for the drawdown of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, officials wonder what cuts will mean for defense contractors and the size of the state’s force structure.

Across the nation, it’s a similar story, reflected by simple numbers: Defense spending hit a record high of $553 billion this year, excluding the cost of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.”

What’s the garbage here? Firstly, the last decade was NOT a “boom time” for the military. Defense spending increased by only 35% in real terms, the size of the military has actually shrunk during the last decade, no real investment has been made in modernization, and tens of crucial weapon programs have been cut or closed. Meanwhile, commitments have been added one on top of another, overstretching the military.

Secondly, contrary to their claims, defense spending has NOT doubled over the last decade, regardless of whether you count the spending on Iraq and Afghanistan or not.

The FY2001 defense budget was $297 bn in nominal terms. Adjusted for inflation, that’s $390 bn. The defense budget for FY2011 (the current fiscal year, which will end in five days) is $529 billion ($528.9 bn, to be exact). The growth since FY2001 has therefore been $139 bn, which is just 35.64% of the FY2001 DOD budget (in real terms). So the defense budget (not including Iraq and Afghanistan) has grown by only 35.6% since FY2001. It hasn’t doubled, or even grown by half, since 9/11. Not even close.

The total military budget hasn’t doubled since FY2001, either. The total military budget for FY2011 is $688 bn. But to double, the FY2001 budget would have to grow to 390*2, that is, to $780 bn. Of course, the FY2011 military budget is not $780 bn, it’s $688 bn.

Similarly, the new SECDEF, Leon Panetta, obviously not yet well versed on current DOD budgetary issues, made this factual error while testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee recently:

“We are going to have to look at how we turn a corner. We have — we have gone through a decade of war in which the defense budget has more than doubled (…).”

The only problem with that statement is that it isn’t true, because as I’ve proven, the defense budget has NOT doubled since FY2001.

Last, but not least, the authors falsely claimed that the defense budget for the current FY is $553 bn. It is not. It is $528.9 bn. The defense budget for the next fiscal year, FY2012, will not be $553 bn. $553 bn is what the DOD requested as a core defense budget for FY2012 in February, but this has never been approved. No one yet knows what the defense budget for FY2012 will be, because the Congress has not passed any budget resolution or any appropriation bill for the next fiscal year (or the current one), relying on Continuing Resolutions. Currently, the Congress is pondering a Continuing Resolution that would fund the federal government for FY2012 (FY2012 is scheduled to begin on Oct. 1st). What amount of money will be allocated to the DOD by the Congress for FY2012, we will see.

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