08 April 2009

Defense Spending UP from $513B to $534B--Tell Your Friends

That's right, defense spending in fiscal year 2010 is scheduled to INCREASE by 4%. Here's the actual pitch (.pdf, but only 3 pages and quite readable) from the government. The increase, to my thinking, is a good* thing as long as it's done right. The White House and the defense secretary seem to actually be in quite good communication so far and of like minds about where to increase and where to trim spending along the "spectrum" of needs, all while ensuring that the U.S. defense budget actually is up to the task of meeting all the nation's defense needs.

Given that coordination and clarity, it is repellent to me that the message heard nationwide is "Obama cuts defense budget." TPM offered a great rundown of this phenomenon in the media yesterday. To be sure, even, I think the TPM post was too critical of the media coverage. It's fair game to use the word "cut" and variations thereof in a discussion about budget rejiggering. Yes, some programs see cuts--see here for a comprehensive list. But TPM's chief complaint--and Steve Benen hits on this again today regarding the Republican (and "conservaDem") response to the defense budget--is that the narrative reaction is designed to put Gates and the White House in the hot seat on a hot button topic, and, most of all, to fight for a continued unchecked flow of contract dollars into the congressional districts that have enjoyed unprecedented defense spending since 2001.

So tell your friends: no one has cut the defense budget, period. Defense spending in the U.S. is scheduled to rise in the coming year. Spencer Ackerman wrote about this in February, and the numbers published this week are only a little off the early mark: higher than the $527B first anticipated, lower than the $537B Ackerman cites. And Ackerman's main observation, that conservatives will cry foul unless the Obama defense budget looks exactly like the Bush wishlist defense budget (at $584B in 2010), appears to be playing out right now.

*On further thought, maybe not "good," per se, but not necessarily bad, either. Word choice could probably be better. The point is, targeted increases are good compared to the all comers welcome and no offer declined approach of the previous years.