Media Reports Major Defense Budget Cuts As Obama Proposes Increase In Defense Budget

The big news from yesterday (still settling in across Washington) is that President Obama and Defense Secretary Robert Gates teamed up to propose a sweeping overhaul of the defense budget–calling for the elimination of unnecessary systems and spending the savings on special forces, intelligence equipment, and other tools of counterinsurgent warfare.

In other words, by retooling the Pentagon, Obama and Gates plan to move a lot of money around, but they also plan to increase the overall defense budget. In the final year of the Bush administration (and excluding the costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan) the defense budget was $513 billion. In FY 2010, if Gates and Obama get their way, it will be $534 billion–$534 billion that will be spent much differently than last year’s outlays were.

But you’d never know that from the news coverage.

Here’s how Politico reports it:

Now that Defense Secretary Robert Gates has rolled out major cuts to some of the Pentagon’s largest weapons systems, the decision to accept or reject those changes falls on Congress….

With all the advance speculation about Gates’ cuts, Rep. John P. Murtha (D-Pa.), chairman of the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee, has already put forward a few recommendations of his own….

Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and other influential members of Congress are lining up for their turn to swing the budget ax. They may not have a lot of sway with two wars under way. But the group’s strong demand to reduce spending could lay the groundwork for cuts in years to come, particularly as U.S. troops begin to redeploy home from Iraq.

Frank has been adamant in pushing for deep reductions, calling for a $100 billion cut by ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Frank estimates he could whack another $60 billion from Defense….

On the other end, a number of pro-military Democrats — particularly those on the Armed Services committees — are not expected to push as hard for cuts to defense while the nation is still fighting wars.

But Michigan Sen. Carl Levin, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services
Committee, and Rhode Island Sen. Jack Reed, an Army veteran and member of both the Armed Services and Appropriations committees, may be receptive to cutting deals instead of budgets.

McCain, the ranking Republican on the Armed Services Committee, has aligned with the chairman to co-sponsor an acquisition reform bill…. But don’t take that to mean McCain wants to cut to the bone. He remains an advocate for robust defense spending.

If you’re noticing a pattern here, you’re not alone.

By the same token, here’s Time reporting “deep cuts to some big weapons programs” with a link to this Associated Press article, which pulls a Politico of its own:

Defense Secretary Robert Gates is proposing deep cuts to some big weapons programs such as the F-22 fighter jet as the Pentagon takes a hard look at how it spends money.

Gates announced a broad range of cuts Monday to weapons spending, saying he plans to cut programs ranging from a new helicopter for the president to ending production of the $140 billion F-22 fighter jet. The Army’s modernization program would be scaled back, while a new satellite system and a search-and-rescue helicopter would be cut.

Gates says his budget will “profoundly reform” the way the Pentagon buys weapons and does business.

To fight new threats from insurgents, Gates is proposing more funding for special forces and other tools.

Kudos to the AP for that last line, but nowhere does the article mention that the defense budget is increasing. Whether you agree with the increase or not, that’s what’s happening. Not a cut.

We’ll keep our eye out for more examples of this sort of thing–the media is pretty well trained to paint anything other than major spending increases on the same old Pentagon programs as “budget cuts”. So it could be a busy day.

Late update: The Wall Street Journal gets it right.

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