Monday, April 21, 2008

What's a billion?

Not much really. Just over five percent of the defence budget. It's under half a percent of total federal spending. Yet that billion, the incremental cost of our mission in Afstan, gets this front-page, top of the fold, headline in the Ottawa Citizen:
Afghan bill to top $1B this year
DND report reveals spike in spending...
Total defence spending is not mentioned until almost the end of the story.
The Defence Department's annual $18.2 billion budget is projected to increase to more than $19 billion this coming year.
How's that for providing context? This is what the reporter finds more important, run in the middle of the story:
A Citizen investigation revealed this past November that the military had purchased a record amount of guns and ammunition between February and June 2007. The $54 million the government spent in that brief time frame on small arms, big guns, ammunition, explosives, grenades and other miscellaneous weapons exceeded what the military spent on those items in all of 2005 and 2006 combined.

The Citizen analysis established that for every dollar spent on a gun, at least $20 was spent on ammunition.
What an investigation! What a shock! An army in action fires ammo. Wow. And some five percent of the defence budget for an actual war sure doesn't sound like a lot to me.

And the reporter didn't even dig up the incremental figures himself:
"This is just the tip of the iceberg. It shows what mission creep is really doing," said NDP defence critic Dawn Black, who obtained the new figures through Access to Information.
What's the "mission creep", other than getting and maintaining equipment needed for the operation (e.g. these vehicles), and ensuring the best training for the troops? Does Ms Black think we should cut back on those costs?


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