[lbo-talk] Porter: Obama's fantasy defense cuts that are really increases

Michael Pollak mpollak at panix.com
Sun Apr 24 03:02:32 PDT 2011


Friday, April 22, 2011


The Obama-Gates Maneuver on Military Spending

by Gareth Porter


But it is difficult to believe that open display of tension between

Obama and Gates was not scripted. In the background of those moves is a

larger political maneuver on which the two of them have been

collaborating since last year in which they gave the Pentagon a huge

increase in funding for the next decade and then started to take credit

for small or nonexistent reductions from that increase.

The original Obama-Gates base military spending plan - spending

excluding the costs of the current wars - for FY 2011 through 2020,

called for spending $5.8 trillion, or $580 billion annually, as former

Pentagon official Lawrence Korb noted last January. That would have

represented a 25 percent real increase over the average annual level of

military spending, excluding war costs, by the George W. Bush


Even more dramatic, the Obama-Gates plan was 45 percent higher than the

annual average of military spending level in the 1992-2001 decade, as

reflected in official DOD data (pdf).

The Obama FY 2012 budget submission reduced the total increase only

slightly - by $162 billion over the four years from 2017 to 2020,

according to the careful research of the Project on Defense

Alternatives (PDA). That left an annual average base military spending

level of $564 billion - 23 percent higher than Bush's annual average

and 40 percent above the level of the 1990s.

Central to last week's chapter in the larger game was Obama's assertion

that Gates had already saved $400 billion in his administration. "Over

the last two years," he said, "Secretary Gates has courageously taken

on wasteful spending, saving $400 billion in current and future

spending. I believe we can do that again."

The $400 billion figure is based primarily on the $330 billion Gates

claimed he had saved by stopping, reducing or otherwise changing plans

for 31 weapons programs. But contrary to the impression left by Obama,

that figure does not reflect any cut in projected DOD spending. All of

it was used to increase spending on operations and investment in the

military budget.

The figure was concocted, moreover, by using tricky accounting methods

verging on chicanery. It was based on arbitrary assumptions about how

much all 31 programs would have cost over their entire lifetimes

stretching decades into the future, assuming they would all reach

completion. That methodology offered endless possibilities for inflated

claims of savings.

The PDA points out that yet another $100 billion that Gates announced

in January as cost-cutting by the military services was also used to

increase spending on operations and new weapons program that the

services wanted. That leaves another $78 billion in cuts over five

years also announced by Gates in January, but most of that may have

been added to the military budget for "overseas contingency operations"

rather than contributed to deficit reduction, according to the PDA.

Even if the $400 billion in ostensible cuts that Obama is seeking were

genuine, the Pentagon would be still be sitting on total projected

increase of 14 percent above the profligate level of military spending

of the Bush administration. Last week's White House fact sheet on

deficit reduction acknowledged that Obama has the "goal of holding the

growth in base security spending below inflation."

The "fundamental review" that Obama says will be carried out with the

Pentagon and military bureaucracies will be yet another chapter in this

larger maneuver. It's safe bet that, in the end, Gates will reach into

his bag of accounting tricks again for most of the desired total.

<end excerpt>


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