Fox News Insider’s fact check was anything but

Oh dear, oh dear. It looks like CNN isn’t the only news network that can’t get the facts straight. Looks like Fox News, which is supposed to be a conservative network, has the same problem.

After the debate, it wrote and published a supposed “fact check” which was anything but. In it, it makes the following false claims (disguised as “fact checks” of Mitt Romney’s and Barack Obama’s claims):

1) That it is “probably true” that the US spends more on the military than the 10-12 countries combined. They rated Obama’s false claim that “We spend more on our military than the next 10 countries combined”  as probably true.

Furthermore, they say that

“If war spending is included, then the U.S. military budget is larger than those of the next 12 countries combined, [an anonymous Obama Administration official – ZM] said.”

This is not true. America does NOT spend more on its military than the next 12 countries combined.

America’s military budget in FY2012 was $645 bn, per the FY2012 NDAA. This included ALL of America’s military expenditures, including the base defense budget, spending on the Afghan war, and spending on the DOE’s defense-related programs, including nuclear weapons, defense environmental cleanup programs, and Naval Nuclear Reactors.

The second largest military spender is China. Its official FY2012 military budget was only $100 bn, but China routinely understates its military spending by huge amounts every year by not counting most military expenditures. How much is China hiding and not counting towards the total? The majority of its military budget. Hence, the DOD estimates China’s real FY2012 military budget to be between $160 bn and $250 bn, while even the PDA’s Carl Connetta (a strident liberal who supports deep defense cuts in the US) estimates that China’s real military budget this year is $240 bn (including PPP differences), as Fox News Insider admits. The DOD’s estimates do not include PPP differences, so $250 bn x 3 would be $750 bn.

SIPRI, for its part, estimates China’s military budget to be $143 bn in FY2012, but their figure is likely understated, and they greatly exaggerate America’s military spending.

Thus, in FY2012, America’s military budget was $645 bn, China’s was $240 bn (accepting Carl Connetta’s figure), and for the next eight biggest spenders, let’s accept SIPRI’s figures: Russia, $72 bn; Britain, $62.7 bn; France, $62.5 bn; Japan, $59.3 bn; Saudi Arabia, $48.2 bn;  India, $46.8 bn; Germany, $46.7 bn; Brazil, $35.4 bn. The sum of all of these countries’ military budgets, other than America’s, is $673.6 bn. Even without Brazil, the sum is $638.2 bn, almost as much as the US spends.

So no, the US doesn’t spend more on its military than the next 10 (let alone 12) countries combined. Not even close. This claim, although it’s a popular one, is a blatant lie.

Furthermore, here the next two biggest spenders: Italy spends $34.5 bn on defense; South Korea, $30.8 bn. Adding their budgets (and thus rounding out the “Top 12 but the US” military budgets) adds up to $739.9 bn, way more than the US spends on its military in any given year. The US has never had such an annual military budget. Not even close.

2) That under President Obama, the base defense budget has increased every year.

This is false. The presidential base defense budget has been as follows: for FY2009 (Bush’s last), $513 bn; for FY2010, $534 bn; for FY2011, $530 bn; for FY2012, $530 bn; for FY2013, a requested $525. (All figures are in nominal dollars.) So base defense spending peaked at $534 bn in FY2010, then began declining.

Under Obama’s plans, even without sequestration, defense spending will be cut in FY2013 and not recover in inflation-adjusted dollars until FY2018. With sequestration, which was Obama’s idea, it will be cut to $469 bn and not recover for at least a decade, if ever.

3) That President Obama did not dictate to the Navy to drop the 313 ship goal and he plans to grow the Navy’s size.

Fox News claims that:

“President Obama has never said that the Navy’s size should be at 282 ships, and the size of the Navy will increase, not decrease.”

While he has not said that publicly (although who knows what he may have said to Navy admirals privately), the fact is that he has done NOTHING to stop the decline of the Navy’s size, plans deep cuts in the Navy’s cruiser fleets, and his anemic, pathetic shipbuilding plan will result in a significant decline of the Navy’s submarine, cruiser, and destroyer fleets, as documented by Ronald O’Rourke of the Congressional Research Service. The decline will be so deep that the Navy won’t be able to meet its force structure goals for these types of ships: for example, its submarine fleet will decline from 53 boats today to 43 in the 2020s and the 2030s, and below its stated goal of a minimum of 48 subs. The decline of the cruiser and destroyer fleets will be even steeper when Obama’s plan to decommission 7 young cruisers prematurely (with 20 years of service life remaining).

Fox News touts the Littoral Combat Ship program as an increase of the Navy’s ship size and shipbuilding programs, but the LCS is a mere figleaf which Obama has embraced as such to mask the decline of the Navy’s size and power. Littoral Combat Ships are small, pathetic, poorly armored, poorly armed (their most potent weapon is the Griffin missile with the range of a paltry several miles) boats which cannot defend themselves, cannot take even mild damage, cannot even survive in the combat environment they’re designed for (as documented by the CRS), and would not stand a ghost’s chance even against Iranian missile craft, let alone the Chinese navy. The LCS program is, moreover, so troubled, so overbudget, and so dysfunctional (like the F-35 program, if not more so) that it deserves to be terminated. Romney supporter and former Pacific Fleet commander has already recommended its termination and the construction of large surface combatants instead.

Even with these pathetic LCSes, though, the Navy’s size will remain flat for many years before reaching a still-inadequate, small size of just 301 ships (barely 16 more than what the Navy has now) in the 2020s. And many of these “ships” will be those pathetic LCSes inflating the numbers and masking the Navy’s weakness.

Moreover, Romney is right that the Obama administration has ordered the Navy to drop the goal for 313 ships, a goal which the Navy previously held – as even Fox News admits – since at least 2006. This had previously been the goal of every Chief of Naval Operations since Adm. Mike Mullen; his predecessor, Adm. Vern Clark, wanted  a 375-ship Navy. 10 months ago, the Navy was STILL saying that it needed 313 ships. It was not until February/March 2012 that the Navy, due to the budget cuts mandated by the Budget Control Act (whose defense cuts were demanded by Obama himself), dropped the goal for 313 ships.

Moreover, Fox News’ claim that the Obama administration has requested 10 ships for FY2013 is false; it has requested only 9, and some of them will be these weak, pathetic Littoral Combat Ships. In any case, 9-10 ships is a small, pathetic number: during the Reagan years, the Navy was ordering 24 ships per year on average.

Which brings me to shipbuilding. Fox News claims that President Obama has increased shipbuilding programs. They claim that under his administration, ship numbers  and ship orders have increased. But the money for these ships and ship orders was budgeted for by the Bush Administration. In other words, Bush Admin DOD Comptroller Dov Zakheim was right when he said “Sure, shipbuilding has increased – I gave them the money!”

Fox News cites the following ship numbers:


See? Ship numbers began to rebound in the Bush years, in FY2008, and continued to do so thereafter, including shortly after Obama took office, and began to decline again in FY2011. That’s because the Bush Administration budgeted for ship orders, but most of the procured ships were not completed until after Bush left office. (Building ships takes several years.)

The Bush Administration was bequeathed a declining Navy and inadequate shipbuilding programs from Clinton. It began work to turn this around. Now Obama is SLASHING shipbuilding programs (except the pathetic LCS, which poses no threat to anyone).

Last but not least, Fox News says that “The Navy is conducting a force structure assessment, to be completed later this year”. No prizes for guessing what the results of that “force structure assessment” will be if Obama is reelected (God forbid). I suspect it will “find” that the Navy can afford to cut its force structure further. Obama has already stated he plans to do the same to America’s nuclear deterrent.


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