This morning the Associated Press got it wrong on defense spending. Base budget Department of Defense (DoD) appropriations are not being cut as they claim in their article, “Spending Cuts Bill Hits Defense And Foreign Aid.” The lede: “Tea partyers insistent on cutting military spending and foreign aid will find plenty to like in the spending deal struck by President Barack Obama and congressional leaders.”
The AP reporter, Donna Cassata, claims there is a cut because what Congress has appropriated is less than what the White House wanted. The big problem? The White House, House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Leader Harry Reid have agreed on $513 billion for DoD: $5 billion MORE than last year’s amount. It may be the only major department that got a bump up in funding in the discretionary part of the federal budget (some agencies, such as Securities and Exchange Commission, did get an increase). This is hardly a cut.
The second place where the AP gets the story wrong is the claim that House GOP freshmen “led the charge” against the alternative engine for the Joint Strike Fighter. The AP says “the alternative engine was the target of a battle cry for cost-cutting Republican newcomers in February.” As we discussed here in March, a close analysis of the House vote on an amendment introduced by second term Republican Rep. Tom Rooney of Florida shows that a massive shift in the way the Democratic caucus voted was just as big of a factor in killing funding for the engine than voting patterns of GOP freshmen. Furthermore, we pointed to a Heritage Foundation analysis that shows GOP freshmen in the House are less likely to vote for defense cuts than veteran GOP lawmakers.
The AP has a reputation for playing it right down the middle, but you get an erroneous picture of reality from reading their story. A reader who quickly skimmed the story might think DoD got hit with cuts and that the tea party was the reason. The reality is quite different.
Not everyone’s gotten it wrong. Over at DoD Buzz, Phillip Ewing had a brief blog post today entitled “Will Washington End DoD’s Budget Holiday?” Its lede: “For all the gnashing of teeth and pulling of hair, the Defense Department so far has escaped this year’s budget-cutting fervor relatively unscathed.” Ewing wondered if Obama would push for DoD cuts recommended by the his Fiscal Commission at a speech today.
Nick Schwellenbach is POGO's Director of Investigations. Follow Nick on Twitter.
Image: Flickr user Bobby Chromik