Rebuttal of Ben Freeman’s lies about the defense budget



The crappy, leftist DefenseOne website has recently (on March 14th) published a ridiculous article by anti-defense hack and former George Soros paid anti-defense propagandist Ben Freeman, now a “Policy Analyst on National Security Issues” at the “Third Way” think tank.

In his ridiculous screed, Freeman attacks what he claims are “Three Myths About the Defense Budget”, but in fact, it is his attacks on these supposed “myths” that are lies.

Firstly, Freeman denies that the defense budget proposed by Obama is small. Obama’s requested base defense budget is $495.6 bn, less than the amount enacted last year, and he’s also requesting $79.4 bn for the war in Afghanistan, a total of $570 bn.

This, alleges Freeman, is more than the military ever received under Ronald Reagan, so, Freeman quips, Obama cannot be accused of being weak on defense unless Reagan can also be.

But Freeman is lying. His claim is utterly false for two reasons. Firstly, the military actually received much more under Ronald Reagan, and secondly, yes, Obama IS very weak on defense, as evidenced by his structural and programmatic disarmament of the US military ever since taking office in 2009 (see below).

The biggest defense budget under Ronald Reagan, the one for FY1988, was $292.9 bn in FY1987 dollars (i.e. the dollars of the year in which it was enacted). Adjusted for inflation (using the DOL’s Inflation Calculator), that amounts to $605.30 bn – over $30 bn more than what Obama has requested.

And the cuts won’t stop there; in successive years, the defense budget will be cut further. OCO supplementals will eventually end after the Afghan war ends, and base defense spending will be cut significantly further due to the sequester – which, may I remind you, Obama first proposed and insisted on (and threatened to veto any attempts to undo it).

Of course, the gap between Reagan’s and Obama’s financial commitment to the military is even greater when you consider metrics far more accurate than raw dollar numbers.

During the Reagan years, the US spent 6% of its economy, and roughly 25-27% of the entire federal budget, on the military. Today, with war and DOE spending included, that is down to less than 4% of GDP – the LOWEST level since FY1948 – and less than 18% of the entire federal budget.

Freeman is also lying blatantly when he claims that the US spends 3 times more on the military than China and 5 times as much as Russia. His claim is based on OFFICIAL Chinese and Russian military spending figures. But, as anyone with even the smallest knowledge of these countries knows, Beijing and Moscow routinely and vastly understate their military budgets.

Independent analysts estimate China’s actual annual military budget to be $240 bn, double the $119 bn figure Beijing admits to and just two times less than the US defense budget. Russia’s military budget is also far larger than the official $90 bn figure; for example, many Russian ministries buy military-destined goods out of their own budgets and then give them as “free goods” to the Defense Ministry.

Just like the Soviet Union routinely understated its military spending, so do China and Russia today. Which isn’t surprising, given that China is communist, Russia is governed by an unreconstructed KGB thug, and both are on expansionist, imperialist binges.

But it gets even worse: in China and Russia, one dollar can buy several times more than the US. Which means that even if one determines Russia’s or China’s actual military budgets, that would then have to be multiplied by at least 3 to arrive at the real extent of their military buildups.

Which brings me to another lie by Freeman – that the US military is vastly superior to any competitor.

I wish it were true, but it isn’t. And Freeman, by propagating that comfortable lie, is trying to lull the American people into a false sense of security.

In fact, as I have recently demonstrated in an in-depth study of the Chinese military, the PLA, it is vastly superior to the US military by almost all metrics – and so is the Russian military.

Man for man, ship for ship, plane for plane, the Chinese and Russian militaries are far better than the US military – which will learn that rude lesson sooner rather than later.

Chinese troops are better trained, fed, quartered, and led – by true warrior leaders, not by politically correct careerists eager to please their civilian masters in Washington. They, and their Russian counterparts, are also far better equipped – with superior air defense systems (which render their airspace closed to all but the most stealthy aircraft), nuclear missile delivery systems, ultra-quiet, submarines, surface warships, fighters, cruise missiles, anti-ship weapons, and so on.

A few examples will illustrate the point.

The premier air superiority fighter of China and Russia, the Flanker, is newer, better armed, more maneuverable, better equipped with sensors and missiles, and much cheaper than the old, outdated F-15 Eagle (to say nothing of the small, uncompetitive F-16 Crappy Falcon, inferior even to its Chinese clone, the J-10). Their missiles are longer-ranged than any air-to-air missile in US inventory and have diverse seekers, unlike the AIM-120 AMRAAM.

Russia’s and China’s fifth generation fighters, scheduled to enter service later this decade, are all-aspect-stealthy, can carry large weapon loads over long ranges, are highly maneuverable and capable of sustained supersonic speeds, have excellent sensor aperture, and can evolve into other roles than air superiority and theater strike.

None of this can be said of the sole fifth-generation “fighter” the US is developing for its Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps: the grossly overweight, sluggish, unmaneuverable, underpowered, underranged, underarmed, non-stealthy (contrary to what Lockheed Martin claims), and hacked (by Chinese hackers) F-35 Junk Strike Fighter, AKA the Jet That Ate The Pentagon Budget. It can’t turn, climb, nor run away from a fight. In any combat situation, US and allied F-35s would be massacred like pigeons in a pest eradication program. Indeed, Freeman’s former employer, POGO, and Freeman himself have sharply criticized the F-35.

China has modern frigates, designed primarily for anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare, and Russia has the Admiral Gorshkov class. What does the USN has? A dwindling fleet of aging, obsolete Perry-class frigates and the Little Crappy Ship (LCS) that is easy to sink and has meagre weaponry.

The USN does have a good class of air defense destroyers – the Arleigh Burke class – but even here China outperforms the US with its Type 052C and D destroyers, AKA Chinese “Aegis class” DDGs.

Russia has 6,800 nuclear warheads, including 4,000 tactical ones. The US has 5,113 warheads, of which only about 400 are tactical. Nothing has been done to address Russia’s huge advantage in that area.

China and Russia have far better combat rifles – various variants of the famous AK-47 Kalashnikov (you can bury it in sand or mud and it will still fire). The standard rifles of the US military are the M16 and its shorter M4 variant – both of which are famous for their propensity to jam. These rifles have literally gotten thousands of US troops killed.

China alone has 100,000 naval mines, and Russia has further thousands. The USN is completely unprepared for this, with only 13 minesweepers, all operated by the Naval Reserve because the USN is completely uninterested in counter-mine warfare. The UK Royal Navy alone has more minesweepers than that (15) – all operated by the REGULAR Royal Navy.

China and Russia also have many kinds of weapons the US military simply doesn’t have at all: anti-satellite weapons, supersonic anti-ship missiles, and short- and medium range ballistic missiles.

China has a wide range of supersonic anti-ship cruise missiles: the Russian-imported SS-N-22 Sunburn and SS-NX-30 Sizzler (3M54 Klub) and the indigenous Yingji family of missiles. A single Sunburn would suffice to sink an American aircraft carrier. It also has DF-21D anti-ship ballistic missiles, each of which, again, is enough to sink a USN carrier. The US has no weapons of this kind.

As for short- and medium range ballistic missiles, Russia has the Iskander-M and K, the R-500 GLCM, and the Yars-M IRBM, all fielded in flagrant violation of the INF Treaty. These missiles can reach any point on th Eurasian continent. China has DF-11, DF-15, and DF-16 short-range ballistic missiles, and the DF-21, DF-25, and DF-26 medium-range ballistic missiles, along with the CJ-10 and DH-10 cruise missiles, which can strike any target in the Western Pacific, with nuclear and conventional warheads alike – out to Guam and well beyond.

The US military USED to be the strongest martial force in the world. But alas, it no longer is. It is now DECISIVELY inferior to the Chinese and Russian militaries – by a large margin.

Shame on DefenseOne for publishing Freeman’s screed, and on Freeman for lying to the American people so blatantly.


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  1. Even putting aside the ad hominem open… If our equipment is so inferior and bad, where’s the wisdom in spending MORE on it?

  2. The answer is simple: the vast majority of the military budget is spent on a) personnel pay and benefits, and b) training, maintenance, and operations. Only a small portion of the budget is spent on developing and acquiring new equipment.

    If nothing changes, by FY2024 100% of the military budget will be spent on categories a) and b), and by FY2039, the entirety of the DOD budget will be spent solely on personnel pay and benefits, crowding out everything else.

  3. Grade A vitriol, but the research could use some work.
    >>>It’s not vitriol. It’s a facts-based rebuttal of your garbage.

    A few things a half-decent fact-check or edit (like they have at Defense One) would have caught:
    1. 495.6 + 79.4 = 575 not 570, as you wrote.
    2. 1988 wasn’t even the highest Reagan defense budget in constant dollars. Try 1985.
    >>>I know that, but FY1988 is far more useful as an example, given that it was the third consecutive DOD budget under the 1980s’ (Gramm-Rudman-Hollings) sequester, and still, when enacted, it was over $30 bn larger than Obama’s requested FY2015 budget.
    3. I did not use the DOL inflation calculator, and neither does any respected defense analyst. Stick to the OMB calculators if you want to make apples-to-apples comparisons (but perhaps you don’t).
    >>>LOL! “Respected defense analyst”? You don’t even know what that term means, for you are yourself not respected by anyone except your fellow leftist anti-defense hacks. The DOL’s inflation calculator is accurate and very useful for the sake of apple to apple comparisons. It tells its user what a dollar from a previous year would be worth in a later year.
    4. Your statement that “In successive years, the defense budget will be cut further,” is simply not true. Under Obama’s plan the defense budget would increase every year until 2019, when the base budget will be $559 billion, $64 billion higher than 2015.
    >>>It’s your claim that is untrue. Under the BCA, the base defense budget will shrink to $493 bn (in real terms, not in nominal dollars) in FY2021, $3 bn less than the BCA allows for FY2015. That is a net spending cut.
    >>>As for “Obama’s plan” – that only proves that you know ABSOLUTELY NOTHING WHATSOEVER about defense issues, let alone defense budgets. Presidents’ budget plans are utterly irrelevant. Not only are they not the law of the land (and are not supposed to be, under the Const.) – they are often very far from what is eventually enacted into law. As the Air Force Magazine has rightly remarked, the defense budgeting history of the last few decades is one of conflict between the Executive and Legislative Branches. Presidents Reagan and Bush saw all but one of their precious defense budget “plans” cut significantly by lawmakers (the difference would be worth hundreds of bn of dollars today). Conversely, Carter and Clinton were forced to spend more on defense than they requested. Obama’s budget “plan”, such as it is, will soon end up in dusty archives. For more on why presidential budget requests are virtually irrelevant today, see here.
    Obama’s “plan” hyperoptimistically assumes that the sequester will be repealed and therefore he can add $115 bn to defense budgets from FY2015 thru FY2019. Ain’t gonna happen. Just like with his “GSO” initiative: DOA in the Congress.

    5. The F-35 is not the U.S.’s “sole fifth-generation fighter.” Heard of the F-22?
    >>>Have written more, and know more, on this aircraft than you will ever know. I didn’t say the F-35 is America’s sole 5th generation fighter, I said that it is its sole 5th gen fighter now in development (the F-22 is neither in development nor in production). What I said was:
    “None of this can be said of the sole fifth-generation “fighter” the US is developing for its Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps”
    You are simply falsifying my words, thus proving yourself to be a liar.

    6. Finally, this section: “Man for man, ship for ship, plane for plane, the Chinese and Russian militaries are far better than the US military – which will learn that rude lesson sooner rather than later.”

    This is woefully inaccurate by any reasonable metric (not the cherry picked examples that you use to “prove” your point). Absolutely no one–and I mean NO ONE–with any credibility would claim that the Chinese and Russian militaries are far better than the US military.
    >>>Wrong. I have made such claim and have documented it well in several articles over the last few years (to start with, here and here). The examples cited here are merely illustrative. It is one thing to repeat ad nauseam “we have the best military in the world, by far, because no one dares to say otherwise!!!!!!!!!” It is quite another to look at the specific facts on the ground, compare the US military with the PLA or the Armed Forces of the RF weapon type after weapon type, quality and quantity, troop training, doctrine, and capabilities, and then make claims about superiority.

    >>>So, since you think the US military is so overwhelmingly superior, tell me, genius:
    a) How much will the USN’s 10 CVNs that you extol be worth when Chinese DF-21Ds and Sunburns send them to the bottom? (Need I remind you China can build hundreds of DF-21Ds for every US CVN?)
    b) Of what value will the US military’s satellites (on which the US military is totally dependent) be when China’s ASAT weapons shoot them down? (I’ll be merciful enough not to mention US cybernetwork vulnerabilities 😛 )
    c) How will Burke class DDGs and Tico class cruisers defend themselves, or other ships, against Chinese or Russian anti-ship missiles when their Aegis combat system, according to YOUR (former) POGO colleague Winslow Wheeler, has repeatedly failed even against its own meager test criteria?
    d) Of what good will all US bases in the WestPac be after China destroys them (and the a/c stationed there) with ballistic and cruise missiles?
    e) How will the USN detect Chinese submarines when it has repeatedly failed to detect, in time, 1960s vintage Canadian submarines (in the 1980s), Akula class Russian subs, and AIP-equipped submarines from the navies of many foreign nations? When the number of ASW assets the US Navy has (aircraft, frigates) is dwindling fast and replacements (if LCSes can even be called that way) are arriving too slow and in insufficient numbers?
    f) How will the USN combat Chinese and Russian naval mines when it has only 13 obsolete minesweepers, none of which is operated by the regular Navy?
    g) How will the US military gain air superiority in future conflicts when the F-35 is such a sluggish, underarmed, slow flying pig that it’s inferior even to the old MiG-21 and J-7? With old F-15s that are falling out of the sky (and mostly lack modern radar)? With uncompetitive F-16s? There are nowhere close to enough F-22s in the inventory – the USAF says having as few as 250 F-22s would mean “moderate risk” – and the USAF doesn’t even have 250 Raptors. It barely has 184.
    h) How will the USAF defend US and Canadian airspace against Russian (and in the future, Chinese) strategic bombers and their cruise missile payloads? With a small fleet of F-22s or with those old F-15s?
    i) How will the US military destroy semi-, fully-, and super-hardened bases and other targets (command centers, missile bases, naval bases, weapon production plants, depots, etc.) within China, which has one of the most modern air defense systems in the world, and far better than that of the US?
    I could go on and on, but the above examples suffice. Tell me, genius, how is the US military “superior” when its satellites can be easy shot down (thus rendering it blind, deaf, and mute), its bases in Europe and Asia can be easily destroyed with a missile barrage, the a/c it’s pinning its hope on for air superiority is decisively inferior to antique Russian designs, and its air defense ships can’t reliably defend themselves, let alone other ships in the fleet?

    And, to say that “Chinese troops are better trained, fed, quartered, and led – by true warrior leaders, not by politically correct careerists eager to please their civilian masters in Washington,” is beyond inaccurate, it’s a slanderous statement about any officer that has fought for valiantly for the U.S. from Vietnam to Afghanistan.
    >>>It is not slanderous, and it is not aimed at all officers, but at the military’s top brass – which IS composed, for the most part if not entirely, of PC careerists who would do anything, and by that, I really mean anything, to please their civilian masters in Washington. General Dempsey, who made a 180 degrees U-turn on the sequester’s consequences a while back after being reprimanded by the WH, is a classic example. PACOM Admiral Samuel Locklear, who thinks that “global warming” (which is a scam) and not the PRC is the greatest threat to US nat-sec, is another. Ever heard of a Professor Roger Thompson? Of “Lessons Not Learned: the Status Quo of the US Navy” fame? He has nicely documented how the Navy is being driven to the bottom by the Navy’s careerist top brass and its hubris. He has earned accolades for that statement, and its documentation, by one Winslow Wheeler and one Pierre Sprey. Ever heard of them? 🙂 The USAF’s, USMC’s, and US Army’s top brass are guilty of the same thing.

    >>>Regarding training, tell me, Mr Freeman, when was the last time China or Russia had sequestered its defense budget to the point there wasn’t money for proper training (ship steaming days, a/c flight hours, tank miles, etc.) let alone their version of the Red Flag/Blue Flag exercises?

    Your critiques and reasoned disagreement are welcome, but when you’re accusing someone of “lies” stick with the facts and spare us your vitriol and slanderous comments about our men and women in uniform.
    >>>There is no vitriol here, and no slanderous comments. Only facts. The Reagan defense budgets were far larger, even 3 years into the 1980s’ sequester. Obama is a defense weakling. The Chinese and Russian militaries are superior to the US military. And when China launches an attack on Japan to grab the Senkakus, or on Taiwan to “reunite” that island with the mainland, it will prove me right. Bc the world has an interesting tendency of proving me right time after time.

    1. Addendum: Mr Freeman,

      I’ve downloaded and read OMB’s most recent (FY2014) historical funding tables, and they utterly refute your claims about defense spending figures.

      Before I give the details, I shall caution you, and our Readers, that you have been comparing apples to oranges, thus making utterly irrelevant comparisons:
      a) You have compared the National Defense Budget Function (Function 050) compared to DOD budget requests, whereas the DOD accounts for about 95%, but not 100%, of Function 050 spending; and
      b) You have compared (or rather, you claim to have compared) National Defense OUTLAYS from the Reagan years to the DOD’s (read: the President’s) budget request for a single fiscal year (FY2015). The DOD and the President have requested funding for a single fiscal year, hoping that Congress will authorize and appropriate the amount they’ve requested for that single fiscal year (FY2015). You, on the other hand, claim to have read the numbers for national defense (Function 050) OUTLAYS.

      OUTLAYS, as any REAL defense analyst will be happy to tell you, are a totally different thing: they are the amount of money the DOD (or another govt. agency) actually spends in a given fiscal year. When Congress authorizes and appropriates a given amount of money (say, $495 bn) for a given FY, the DOD doesn’t spend all of that right away in that single FY. Some of it is spend in the next year, and some in the years after that.

      Conversely, in a given FY (say, the current one), the DOD spends money not only from this year’s authorization and approps, but also money left over from previous fiscal years.

      CSBA’s Todd Harrison has nicely explained the BIG difference between authorized one-year budgets and outlays.

      OK, now the defense outlays in the Reagan era (from the OMB’s FY2014 Historical Data book, pp. 59-60, adjusted for inflation using the DOL’s calculator):


      As we see from this data, two of your claims have been utterly disproven:
      a) your claim that outlays in the Reagan era peaked in FY1985, and
      b) your claim that in all Reagan era FYs, defense outlays were lower than Obama’s proposed FY2015 military budget (leaving aside the fact that, as I said, it’s an invalid apples-to-oranges comparison).

      During the Reagan years, the highest defense outlays were in FY1987 and the second highest in FY1989, even though the budget authorized and appropriated in FY1985 was the largest in the Reagan era. But in post-1985 FYs, the DOD still had unspent funds from previous years, thus increasing post-FY1985 outlays until this reservoir ran out.

      As we also see from the above data, in all Reagan era FYs except the first three, defense outlays were HIGHER than Obama’s proposed FY2015 military budget – again, setting aside the fact that you were comparing apples to oranges.

      And as for your claim that the US military is still far superior to those of Russia and China – which I said I WISH were true – that claim is also completely false, as it is based on nothing but human opinion – of yourself and others. You make that claim bc almost nobody else disagrees. But facts are not subject to consensus or a democratic vote.

      History is replete with examples of militaries that were widely, sometimes almost universally, thought to be the known world’s strongest, or the stronger ones in a given war, but still lost miserably. In the run-up to WW2, the French were absolutely sure they had the world’s best military by far… and the rest, as they say, is history. The Germans, for their part, after their initial victories in 1939-1940, came to believe their military was not only by far the world’s best but invincible – but it proved no match for the Red Army.

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