Admiral Mullen said: "Already, the president has reduced the fiscal year '13 defense budget by almost a half a trillion dollars." He clearly meant to say the 10-year defense plan, but, in reality, there was no cut in that plan, at all. The "budget" he talks about was the Pentagon's own 10-year wish list, provided last year, laying out the funds it hoped to receive over the next decade. The wish list included a lot of projected real growth (that is, growth beyond inflation). Then, fiscal reality hit, and the budget the president sent up to Congress this year presented a different wish list for the decade, one that was a cumulative $487 billion lower than last year's.This kind of budget math is disgusting and so widespread. It is impossible to believe politicians who claim they will cut the deficit or balance the budget, when tricks like the above, public debt vs. intra-governmental debt (which allowed Clinton to claim surpluses), and baseline calculations are used to mislead and support any number of claims.
What Mullen did not say is that this new 10-year projection still hoped for growth in defense funds, but only to keep up with inflation. By any budget analyst's definition, this is not a "cut." It is a more realistic projection. But it is still a "wish list," because the chances are there will be real cuts -- that is, less funding than in the previous year for several years to come. But reporters, politicians, and the admiral go right on spreading the notion that the defense budget has already been, somehow, "cut."