Subtraction by Addition

The Gates/Obama budget provides for the end-strength of the United States Army to increase, which makes it difficult to characterize as a cut. Nonetheless, Pete Hegseth at The Corner gives it the old college try:

However, for me (and fellow infantry grunts), the most disturbing portion of the budget is the de-facto cut (or non-increase, increase) in Army end-strength. Secretary Gates announced, “we will stop the growth of Army Brigade Combat Teams (BCTs) at 45 versus 48 while maintaining the planned increase in end strength of 547,000.” Gates cited “better manned units” and “an end to stop-loss” as the reason for this change.

There are two important parts on this: 1) the “planned increase” to 547,000 soldiers in the Army was proposed under Bush, and will now be funded under Obama. This is a good thing, but not really a new increase; 2) cutting the number of proposed BCTs from 45 to 48, in order to fully staff them, is an admission that we don’t have enough soldiers to fully support the needs of the Army.

Look, you can fairly say that this is “not really a new increase.” But it’s still an increase. There will be, in the future, more BCTs than there are now. And they’ll be better-staffed. This isn’t like one of these things where you enact a deep cut in inflation-adjusted per student spending and call it a “spending freeze” and try to deny that you’re cutting anything. Gates and Obama are proposing to increase the number of soldiers, they’re just planning a smaller increase than some might like to see. But it’s definitely an increase.