Some Thanksgiving Trump/Defense Fact Checking

Donald Trump celebrated Thanksgiving by handing out turkey sandwiches and potato chips to the Coast Guard while regaling them with stories of the F-35:

Donald Trump returned to a favourite subject on Thursday, telling a US coast guard audience the air force was ordering a new plane that was “almost like an invisible fighter”….Trump first startled reporters with talk of an invisible plane in October, when he discussed the F-35 at a military briefing in hurricane-hit Puerto Rico….“That’s an expensive plane you can’t see. As you heard, we cut the price very substantially. Something that other administrations would never have done — that I can tell you.

….Trump also told coast guard members of his pride in having increased military spending. “We’re ordering tremendous amounts of new equipment — we’re at $700bn for the military. And, you know, they were cutting back for years. They just kept cutting, cutting, cutting the military. And you got lean, to put it nicely. It was depleted, was the word. And now it’s changing.”

In case you’re interested, here’s the order history of the F-35 so far:

As you can see, Trump had no impact on either the price of the F-35 or the order book. The unit price declined steadily for years under both Bush and Obama, and the order quantities have been going up.

As for defense spending, it’s naturally decreased since the drawdowns in Iraq and Afghanistan. What we’re more interested in is base defense spending excluding war costs. Here it is:

I dunno. Unless you consider the 2008-10 spike to be the new normal forever, base defense spending is about the same as it was midway through the Bush administration and about 50 percent higher than it was before 9/11. I’m not sure I’d call that “depleted,” but I guess your mileage may vary.

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