Franklin "Chuck" Spinney (Born 1946, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio) is a former Military Analyst for the Pentagon who became famous in the early 80's with what became known as the "Spinney Report," which criticized the reckless pursuit of costly weapon systems by the Pentagon, with disregard to budgetary consequences. Despite attempts by the his superiors to bury the controversial report, it eventually was exposed during a Senate Budget Committee on Defense hearing, which though scheduled to go unnoticed on a Friday afternoon, made the cover of Time Magazine Mar. 7th, 1983 issue.
The son of an Air Force colonel, Spinney graduated from Lehigh University in 1967 as a mechanical engineer. He began working as a second Lieutenant engineer in the flight dynamics lab at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio. In 1975 he left military life and eventually joined the Pentagon in 1977 as a civilian Analyst in the Pentagon's Office of Program Analysis and Evaluation (a division set up in 1961 to make independent evaluations of Pentagon Policy) under his mentor, the famous fighter pilot Colonel John Boyd (military strategist).
Dubbed a Maverick by Time magazine, he fell right along with Boyd in their open contempt for authority and their Empire's-new-clothes-like critique of the Military establishment in their spending frenzy.
In 1980 he began working on a collection of wasteful Defense spending factoids he called "Defense facts of life," outlining how the pursuit of complex technology produced expensive, scarce and inefficient weapons. The report was mainly ignored despite the Reform movement blowing at the time to reduce military budget increases from 7% to 5% after inflation. Two years later, he expounded on his first report, including an analysis on the miscalculation of the burden costs of a majority of the weapon systems and re-titled it "Defense facts of life: The Plans/Reality Mismatch," which later became simply known as the "Spinney Report."
News of the report and it's content quickly spread around the Air Force Offices of the Pentagon and eventually reached Congress. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) asked to interview its author, but was met with opposition from the Secretary of Defense Caspar W. Weinberger, and David S.C. Chu, Spinney's Boss, who tried to downplay the report saying it was not factual nor represented the current budget and programs.
With Senator Grassley threatening to subpoena Spinney to testify in front of the Senate Budget Committee on Defense, the Pentagon agreed to hold a hearing on a Friday afternoon in a remote room, without cameras and with David S.C. Chu at his side for a rebuttal, hoping it would get lost in the weekend print media and not be part of the television news cycle.
Senator Grassley, who later would call Spinney the "conscience of the Pentagon," had the hearing moved to the same room as that of the MacCarthyism hearings and allowed the Cameras. The Pentagon still hoped that the story would go unnoticed, until a painting of Spinney was printed on the cover of Time Magazine the following Monday.
The Article and all the press the Report generated breathed new life in the Defense Budget Reform movement that eventually led to the 1985 Military budget Freeze. Spinney was hailed as the Pentagon Whistleblower fighting waste, fraud and abuse inside the Pentagon which led to many articles featuring him in the National Journal, Baltimore Sun, The New York Times and many others.
Despite having bit the hand that fed him, Spinney went on to work at the Pentagon and produced several other reports with titles such as "Shape Up and Fly Right: How to Build a Better Air Force for Less Money" which outlined a reform strategy for the Air Force that would reduce the operating costs, or "Teach the Pentagon to Think Before It Spends," in which he wrote:
"The Pentagon's strategists produce budgets that simply cannot be executed because they assume a defense strategy depends only on goals and threats. Strategy, however, is about possibilities, not hopes and dreams. By ignoring costs, U.S. strategists abdicate their responsibility for hard decisions."
In September 2000, in a DEFENSE WEEKLY commentary, he called the move to increase the military budget from 2.9% to 4% of the GDP as "tantamount to a declaration of total war on Social Security and Medicare in the Following decade."
In 2002, Spinney testified before the Subcommittee on National Security, Veterans Affairs and International Relations, part of the House Committee on Government Reform on Pentagon accounting and the increasing defense budget before 9/11.
He retired in 2003 and that year received the POGO's "Good Government Award."
Since his retirement, he has written several articles for the CounterPunch on various military issues and in 2005, he participated in the documentary Why We Fight. Spinney also serves on the Military Advisor's Committee for the Business Leaders for Sensible Priorities, whose mission is to reduce the amount of the discretionary budget going to the military by 15% and reallocate that money education, healthcare, renewable energies, humanitarian aide, and reducing the deficit issues.
"'At the core of the RMA is a radical hypothesis that would cause Sun Tzu, Clausewitz and George Patton to roll over in their graves,' Chuck Spinney, a thirty-year Pentagon veteran and weapons specialist, says of the doctrine. 'That is, that technology will transform the fog and friction of combat-the uncertainty, fear, chaos, imperfect information which is a natural product of a clash between opposing wills-into clear, friction-free, predictable, mechanistic interaction.'"
"If you want to understand how the Pentagon operates, like everything else in Washington you follow the money."
"We got out of the Vietnam effectively when the lottery started and middle class kids were getting killed. First thing that happened was that they went to this all volunteer army. And that solved that draft inequalty problem, because everybody is a volunteer. And that makes the military much easier to use because: you are fucking volunteers, screw you, you signed up for this. You know, the objections [against going to war] don't carry as much water." http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0436971/maindetails
- Original Time article "The winds of Reform" by Walter Isaacson, March 7th, 1983
- Buck Rogers Rides Again, Ken Silverstein, The Nation, October 25, 1999
- The Defense Death Spiral, by Franklin C. Spinney
- Interview with Franklin C. Spinney
- Fighting the Next War, Inside out Article
- Statement, THE SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL SECURITY, VETERANS AFFAIRS AND INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS COMMITTEE ON GOVERNMENT REFORM UNITED STATES HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
- NOW with Bill Moyers, November 1, 2002 Interview transcript
- Counterpunch Article, May 26, 2003
- NOW with Bill Moyers, August 01, 2003 Inside the Pentagon: Franklin "Chuck" Spinney
- Counterpunch Article, February 20, 2006
- Shots Across the Bow, Article, Govexec.com, by Jason Vest, March 1, 2006
- "Why We Fight" documentary homepage
- Frank "Chuck" Spinney Wikipedia biography