FactCheck.org Needs a Fact Check

It appears that “FactCheck.org”, run out of the Annenberg Center at the University of Pennsylvania has really screwed up in some basic ways in their zeal to help Senator Kerry as he tries to extricate himself from his latest self-made disaster, this time about medals.

The self-styled media watchdogs are not always wrong; but this time they let the kiddies write the post and their total ignorance of DoD budgeting and procurement policies and practices is embarrassing.

At: “http://www.factcheck.org/article.aspx?docID=177”

they take issue with the Bush-Cheney ads that criticize Kerry for his Defense budget voting record, and allege that the ads are not truthful because then-SecDef Cheney proposed cancelling the same projects in 1989 (FY90 Appropriation, I believe) that Kerry had tried to kill in 1984 (from the FactCheck post):

——

“Missing Context

“It is true that when Kerry first ran for the Senate in 1984 he did call specifically for canceling the AH-64 Apache helicopter. What the ad lacks is the historic context: the Cold War was ending and the Apache was designed principally as a weapon to be used against Soviet tanks. And in fact, even Richard Cheney himself, who is now Vice President but who then was Secretary of Defense, also proposed canceling the Apache helicopter program five years after Kerry did. As Cheney told the House Armed Services Committee on Aug. 13, 1989:

“Cheney: The Army, as I indicated in my earlier testimony, recommended to me that we keep a robust Apache helicopter program going forward, AH-64; . . . I forced the Army to make choices. I said, “You can’t have all three. We don’t have the money for all three.” So I recommended that we cancel the AH-64 program two years out. That would save $1.6 billion in procurement and $200 million in spares over the next five years.

“Two years later Cheney’s Pentagon budget also proposed elimination of further production of the Bradley Fighting Vehicle as well. It was among 81 Pentagon programs targeted for termination, including the F-14 and F-16 aircraft. “Cheney decided the military already has enough of these weapons,” the Boston Globe reported at the time.

“Does that make Cheney an opponent of “weapons vital to winning the war on terror?” Of course not. But by the Bush campaign’s logic, Cheney himself would be vulnerable to just such a charge, and so would Bush’s father, who was president at the time.”

———- (end of quote)

Only someone who can’t spell “FYDP”, “POM”, or “Inventory Objective” could make such silly charges.

The underlying issue is the fact that Kerry has a 20 year record of opposing military Authorizations and Appropriations. The jockeying before the final Bill is largely parliamentary. One can vote for or against most anything at one point or another, but what counts in the end is a total record, not one parliamentary vote, which is why several different votes are cited to illustrate that total record lacking concern for the US military readiness posture.

The FactCheck “analysis” reveals people who are ignorant of military procedures. To suggest that pulling one good example (body armor) out of a wildly irresponsible vote, as described by Kerry himself on “Face the Nation”, against the $66B in military support funds (out of the Supplemental total of $87B) included is somehow misleading, reveals how either partisan the writer is, or how dumb he or she is. The body armor example is totally appropriate- and Kerry effed up big time when he made that vote. It is easy to see how and why Kerry did it- it was one more short term political calculation to try and stop the Dean juggernaut and peel off a few anti-war votes himself. Now he pays a price for that in the general election- that’s life.

The comparison with Cheney is almost worse, and reveals these people as having rotten egg on their collective face.

It is because of two things: first, in 1990 the Cold War was effectively ended and Cheney was presiding over the drawdown and decommissioning of significant pieces of the force structure. Back in 1985 there was no such prospect on the horizon; we were still preparing militarily for an apparently viable USSR, and Kerry proposed shutting down the most important Army combat aviation asset right in the middle of the Cold War- if that doesn’t reveal his flawed and anti-military view, I don’t know what else would show it better, other than marching through Lafayette Park with his old V-VAW “Band of Brothers” (the real B-O-B shouldbe insulted by the terminology when associated with the Senator) and urging that all weapons be beaten into love jewelry (we don’t do plowshares any more).

Second, this example shows that the writers have no idea how the DoD appropriates funds and runs their programs, and has no interest in finding out before waxing eloquent and self-righteous on the subject.

There is a huge difference between cancelling a program in FY90 (which would be Aug 89) and FY85 when Kerry wanted to kill the Apache. By FY90, the Army had built at least 50 to 100 more Apaches (at an assumed, for lack of budget history specifics, production rate of 1 or 2 per month) than they had in 1985, so the likely revised procurement objective would be about complete at that point. Generally, the argument would be over whether to keep a warm line at a minimum sustaining rate or let the line go down and just provide spare parts. At that time there was a replacement attack helo on the drawing boards and no war on the horizon, so likely all the TDA were filled to support the revised and reduced authorized or anticipated future troop strength. Killing the program at that time would have made sense.

If you had had Cheney on record in 1985 as saying that the program should be ended, then you would have had a disingenuous twisting of fact, criticizing Kerry for proposing killing the same procurement program in the same context. But 1984/5 versus 1989/90 makes a huge difference.

The same thing applies to combat vehicles, such as the Bradleys. By 1990, the Army was consolidating multiple combat vehicle production capabilities- there were BMY in York, PA, the Army plants in Toledo and Detroit, and the FMC plant in San Jose. Eventually the BMY and FMC merged into United Defense Company, so that the readiness objective could be met to keep one warm base to build self-propelled howitzers, infantry combat vehicles, etc., with mod-refurb and spares lines in the government plants (with the usual jockeying by Congress over what is built where because of the district jobs issues).

In the case of the Bradleys, you had seven years of production runs, after Kerry first tried to kill the program, to fill the inventory.

The FactCheck discussion equates Kerry’s Cold War disarmament with the post-Cold War drawdown and treats them as the same. Time to get the grown ups into the media analysis business, because these folks are not up to it.

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