By Tom Cohen Get real, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told America on Monday in proposing a scaled back, modern military that would cut the Army to its pre-World War II size, retire the A-10 “Warthog” attack jet and reduce some benefits for fighting forces.
A real quick thought on media literacy as it applies to defense spending:
Since Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s announcement regarding military spending cutbacks, the response from both right wing and mainstream corporate media has been the standard freak-out one can expect - cutting spending by this (or any) level will be a disaster for America and for “freedom.”
Much of the focus has been on a particular point - that the reduction in the Army’s troop levels will shrink to its smallest size since before the United States entered the second world war. However, when one compares the words and the numbers, a slightly different picture develops.
From the CNN article:
It calls for reducing the Army to a level of 440,000 to 450,000 troops, which would be the lowest total in more than 70 years. At its height, the Army had 570,000 troops after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and currently has about 520,000.
The “lowest total in more than 70 years,” is the type of factoid that makes for the kind of meme every flag waving, red blooded American exceptionalist will not only shout about and share, but practically demand the Defense Department get cut a blank check to avoid. But, when you put the numbers up next to each other over the years however, things don’t seem so hyperbolic. Via a very similar article in Newsweek:
A reduction to 450,000 would be the Army’s smallest size since 1940 - before the United States entered World War Two - when it had a troop strength of 267,767, according to Army figures. The Army’s previous post-World War Two low was 479,426 in 1999.
And though sourcing sites of this nature can be problematic, a chart (via Infoplease):
While what we’re looking at is a difference of semantics in reporting, it’s an important distinction. For anyone who’s familiar with the Price Is Right, the real story here is that we’re reducing Army troop levels to a number slightly below pre-9/11 levels. However, considering decades of Cold War hysteria, it’s not surprising the reaction to such a reduction borders on hyperbole.
One more chart to consider (via CNBC):
The CNN article reports
"For now, the Pentagon budget for the rest of this fiscal year and for 2015 is about $500 billion for each, as set by a congressional compromise in December."
So basically, even when cutting defense spending by more than $100 billion, the United States will still be spending more money on defense than at least the next five countries with the highest defense budgets combined.