According to The New York Times, Defense Secretary Robert Gates has just announced a plan “to cut billions of dollars from the Pentagon budget.” Great! With states running massive budget deficits and the official unemployment rate hovering around double-digits, what better time could there be to “trim back on unaffordable defense spending,” as the Times puts it in its lede, right?
Except, of course, no one’s talking about actually cutting the amount spent on the Defense Department. In fact, all Gates is proposing is basically reshuffling the money the Pentagon spends on its army of private contractors and retired advisers so it can spend more on its military occupations overseas. The Times, though, waits until the 12th paragraph to inform us of that:
The goal is to convert as much as 2 percent or 3 percent of spending from “tail” to “tooth” — military slang for support services and combat forces. Mr. Gates argued that if Congress guaranteed a 1 percent increase in real defense spending over years to come, the savings he seeks would be reinvested in the combat forces and would be sufficient to pay for national defense.
The budget measures go beyond what many previous defense secretaries have done to cut redundancies and inefficiencies.
But they do not represent an actual decline in year-to-year total spending.
So despite the fact Gates is not actually slashing spending — the announced cuts merely intended to insulate his department from calls for real reductions at a time when cities are turning off their streetlights in a desperate attempt to save money — the paper of record acts as if the big story is that a few DOD bureaucrats and contractors may lose their jobs rather than the offensive reality that the department is immune from budget cuts during the worst recession in decades, presenting the Defense Secretary as a stern, committed budget-cutter while neglecting the crucial detail that his vaunted cuts are simply part of an attempt to free up more tax dollars for killing people in Iraq and Afghanistan (and for not-so-covert ops in Iran, Yemen and Somalia).
Perhaps the most depressing aspect of it all? I fully expect to see a press release from the Republican National Committee tomorrow and impassioned speeches on the floor of Congress denouncing the Obama administration for “cutting defense spending” and putting us all at risk of Another 9/11 (TM); real men know that if you aren’t going to increase war funding by at least 10 percent a year you might as well wave the white flag and surrender to the terrorists, after all. And so the charade continues.