- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Pentagon’s intense public relations campaign is designed to sell Congress and the public on how the first year of “sequester” budget cuts is leaving the U.S. military unable to train or deploy overseas.

Public warnings from the top brass generally have garnered media sympathy as air shows, ship cruises and college tuition fall victim to $46 billion in cuts targeted at day-to-day operations and maintenance.

But there have been signs in recent weeks of a backlash from the Washington press corps. It is not the kind of saturation coverage like that of the Reagan administration’s $2.5 trillion military buildup of the 1980s, when an overpriced toilet seat made the front page.

Still, Pentagon overspending has become a hot topic for reporters, analysts say.

“The press corps finally realized that the ‘back office’ is the problem,” said Gordon Adams, a White House budget official in the Clinton administration.

The “back office” consists of the myriad infrastructures that make up the military’s “tail” to support war fighters, or the “tooth.”

“The way they’re going to have to deal with sequester is by becoming a lot more efficient than they’ve been. They’ve got to beat the bloat now,” Mr. Adams told The Washington Times. “You can’t pay for it anymore by getting our budget increased. You’ve got to pay for it now by becoming a lot more managerial agile. You’re going to have to cut back on the size of the back office.”

Said Winslow Wheeler, a Center for Defense Information analyst who has long accused the Pentagon of wasteful spending: “Nothing has changed except the press becoming aware of it. Department of Defense excess parading as military capability is certainly nothing new.”

The press focusing anew on Pentagon spending habits “would not surprise me,” said James Carafano, vice president for foreign and defense policy studies at the Heritage Foundation. “This assuages people’s guilt about gutting the military.”

While the Pentagon ramped up the public relations campaign in January and February to warn of “devastating cuts,” Bloomberg News service produced a series of stories about the Pentagon’s most expensive weapons systems — their flaws and growing costs.

DoD Buzz focused on the missile defense system that the Pentagon does not want but that Congress keeps funding, and on a botched contract to buy aircraft for the Afghan National Security Forces.

Once spending cuts began March 1 and the military services announced a series of cancellations, news organizations stepped up stories about Defense Department mismanagement.

“Defense Cut Damage Viewed as Overblown,” said the Boston Globe.

Pentagon Spends Nearly $1 Billion a Year on Unemployment,” said the Associated Press.

Pentagon Urged to Stop Stalling, Start Planning Defense Cuts,” blared Reuters.com.

Story Continues →