John T. Correl & the Question of Integrity? 

October 11, 2000

Comment: #391

Discussion Thread:  #s 386, 381, 364, 169


[1] John T. Correll, Editor in Chief , "Budget Truth," Air Force Magazine, October 2000.

[2]"Global Vigilance, Reach, and Power," Air Force Association 2001 Statement of Policy, September 10, 2000 (See below )

[3] Franklin C. Spinney, "The Real Cost of Spending 1 Percent More of GDP on Defense," Defense Week, September 5, 2000, pages 7-8. (Attached separately to this message in Adobe Acrobat PDF format)

John T. Correl, the editor-in-chief of Air Force Magazine, has written an editorial in the October 2000 issue entitled pompously as "Budget Truth."

Correl's evident objective is to make a case for higher defense budgets.

While Correl does not say so explicitly, he is clearly writing to amplify the Air Force Association's recent call for a defense budget increase from its current level of a little under 3% to 4% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Reference 2 is the Air Force Association's policy statement passed on September 10 by the delegates to its national convention. Among other things, note its call for an increase in the defense budget to 4% of GDP. Since AIR FORCE Magazine is the monthly journal of the Air Force Association, one would expect its editor-in-chief to be a mouthpiece for the policy statements just passed by the association's national convention.

As readers of this list know, I have argued that the 4% Solution (see Comment #s 381 and 386) will put the Defense Department on a reckless pathway into a budget war with Social Security and Medicare. I have also stated this level of spending is totally unjustified in view of the diminished threat as well as the fact that the corrupt bookkeeping system makes it impossible to determine how to fix our problems

Corell's editorial, however, goes beyond being a mere mouthpiece for his masters in the Air Force Association. He begins his "argument" for "budget truth" by telling a grotesque untruth aimed specifically at discrediting me (probably because of my opposition to the 4% solution, although this is not so stated). He packages his attack with two sly debating tactics: 'guilt by association' and 'name calling.' Specifically, Correl tries to discredit a true statement in the New York Times by segueing into a false statement he attributes to me. He embellishes this attack with a 'name calling' strategy by labeling me as a "gadfly" who is making assertions that "go further afield." [The dictionary defines a gadfly as "a fly that irritates livestock by biting them and sucking their blood."]

I do not mind name calling - it goes with the territory in Versailles. But since he attacked me by name in print, a failure on my part to respond to his false statement would be tantamount to an adoptive admission that his characterization of what I said is correct. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, his statement is so outrageously false, I find it difficult to see how it could have been unintentional.

But don't trust my judgment. I am, after all, an interested party. Just compare his words to my words, and then judge for yourself if Correl speaks the TRUTH, or is deliberately lying , or is merely an ignoramus.

Exhibit A

Correl sets the stage for his argument about the nature of budget truth by saying --

"The New York Times then informed us that, 'adjusted for inflation, the United States still spends about 95 percent as much for defense as it did during the Cold War, though it now faces sharply reduced threats.'"

"The things you read in the newspapers are breathtaking, but some assertions go further afield. Pentagon gadfly Chuck Spinney is circulating a chart that depicts the current defense budget as almost four times as large as during the Vietnam War. (Spinney leaps to his conclusion by ignoring the effects of 525 percent cumulative inflation since 1968.)"

"Here's what really happened. Figures are fiscal year Department of Defense budget authority, and to allow comparison, all are expressed in constant Fiscal 2001 dollars."

End Correl's Words

My charts and analyses of the 4% Solution were easily available to Correl well before he made this statement. If fact, his wording indicates he had access to them. For the record, he did not contact me to ask me what I was trying to say.

My arguments were readily accessible in a Defense Week commentary, not to mention numerous emails, as well as the charts posted separately on this Website.

In fact, on September 5, 2000, five days before the AF Association passed its resolution calling for an increase in the defense budget to 4% of GDP, and 25 days before Correl published his claim that I was drawing conclusions by ignoring the effects of inflation, I published a commentary in Defense Week comparing the 4% Solution to past defense budgets (The attached Adobe Acrobat PDF file in Reference 3 is a scanned copy of that commentary - read it for yourself).

Note that the chart I used in Defense Week had the effects of inflation REMOVED!!!!. In fact, my numbers are portrayed in exactly the same Fiscal 2001 dollars that Correl uses!!!!. Nevertheless, he had the audacity (or stupidity) to say I ignored the effects of inflation.

Moreover, examine for yourself the conclusions I drew from the Chart in Defense Week (Reference 2). The last two paragraphs on page 8 are repeated as Exhibit B

Exhibit B

"Under Secretary of Defense Jacques Gansler was correct in Sept 1998 when he said the Pentagon is in a Death Spiral, but it is caused by interaction of three problems: (1) a high-cost modernization program that makes it too expensive to modernize the force on a timely basis, even if current production plans are perfectly executed; (2) a rapidly deteriorating readiness posture brought on by the rising cost of low readiness, which is in part a consequence of the flawed modernization program; (3) a corrupt accounting system that renders it impossible to assemble the detailed information needed to fix the modernization and readiness problems and makes a mockery of the accountability principle that underpins the checks and balances of the Constitution."

"To these problems, the military-industrial-congressional complex's only answer is a question: Can we please have a bailout? If they get one, it will not only continue the Cold War ways. It will spark a new war between America's senior citizens and its military that didn't have to happen."

End of my conclusion

My conclusion does not mention Vietnam. Nevertheless, Correl's clever juxtaposition of words implies I was making some sort of conclusion about Vietnam. Moreover, he says nothing about the substance of my actual conclusion. He just made things up, slyly inserted a ludicrous juxtaposition, and insinuated an implied conclusion attributable to me. This is carefully constructed, first-rate, intellectual slime.

Of course, Correl had to ignore completely the three problems I cited as causing the Death Spiral - particularly the implications of the corrupt accounting system (see Comment #169), because they undermine directly his argument for a budget increase. But as any reader of this list knows, the corrupt accounting system lies at the heart of the critique of modernization and readiness that I have been making for the last twenty years.

Note also that I distributed my 5 September Defense Week commentary in an email blaster, dated September 20, or ten days before Correl said I ignored the effects of inflation.

So, it is fair to say that my inflation-adjusted chart was widely accessible to Correl well before he said I ignored the effects of inflation.

But there is more. In fact, I did do an analysis in current dollars as well as constant dollars, but I NEVER ignored the effects of inflation. On the contrary, I showed WHY including or removing the effects of inflation DID NOT CHANGE my conclusion - namely that the 4% of GDP defense budget will spark a budget war with Social Security and Medicare (i.e., the conclusion Correl chose not to mention). This can be seen, for example, in Comment #381 on August 20 (40 days before Correl's editorial)!!!!

Figure 1 in Comment 381 depicts the defense budget in current dollars (i.e., including the effects of inflation). But note that purpose of Figure 1 is to compare the 4% of GDP Solution to the history of the Pentagon's five-year budget plans (the lines), as well as the budgets that were actually appropriated by Congress (the bars). The comparison in current dollars is necessary, because it is impossible to remove the effects of inflation from the earliest plans, for the simple reason that comprehensive inflation accounting did not begin until 1976 (as explained in Comment #364). Note ALSO, that the third paragraph after Figure 1 says that removing the effects of inflation does NOT change the conclusion!! To see for yourself, click your mouse on the hot link that says "click here" and look at the chart that pops up.

Voila! - the Figure that pops up is the EXACTLY THE SAME constant dollar chart as was published in Defense Week a couple of weeks later on Sept 5. Notice the difference in the constant dollar and current dollar charts: The constant dollar comparison drops the history of past plans (because, as indicated above, the effects of inflation can not be removed from all the plans) and simply compares the 4% solution to past appropriations. Furthermore, note how the following paragraph once again makes it clear that my central conclusion is that the 4% solution will put the Pentagon into a war with Social Security and Medicare.

SO, Correl ducked another opportunity to mention my conclusion; instead he just made up a preposterous reference to Vietnam that has nothing to do with anything I said.

The charts discussing the absurdity of a Defense budget equal to 4% of GDP are outgrowth of an earlier email blaster (Comment #364, June 20) describing how the unfunded budget requirements in the military's Program Objective Memoranda were putting the Pentagon on a collision course with Social Security and Medicare. Included in that comment was an earlier version of the figure comparing the history of our plans to the estimate of the unfunded requirements. It is in current dollars, meaning that it includes the effects of inflation.

But even in this case, I did NOT ignore the effects of inflation. On the contrary, I explained carefully that there were at least three reasons why it was appropriate to include the effects of inflation when one is trying to compare current plans to past plans as well as reality. Correl did not even have the integrity to address the substance of these arguments, he simply blew them off by making the outrageous claim that I ignored the effects inflation.

Correl is free to call me names in print. But there is an elementary standard of integrity that goes along with that right. At a minimum, he is obligated to make a good faith effort to honestly portray why those names are in fact justified. This is particularly true for the editor of magazine when he chooses to make such statements to thousands of readers. Judge for yourself whether or not he chose to make a good faith effort to meet this basic standard of integrity.

Chuck Spinney

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