It Was 30 Years Ago Today…

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….that Battleland contributor Franklin C. “Chuck” Spinney’s penetrating countenance gazed out from Time’s red-bordered cover asking U.S. Defense Spending: Are Billions Being Wasted?

The cover story (we’ve put it outside the paywall — Special Limited-Time Offer to read it for free!) — instantly made Spinney the poster child for Pentagon insiders distraught at the profligacy of the Reagan Administration’s military buildup. The sidebar on him inside the magazine (dated March 7, 1983, which means it had been printed a week before), available here, began like this:

Franklin Charles Spinney not only does not appear dangerous, he does not even seem readily distinguishable from hordes of other bureaucrats. His round, smiling face and well-brushed hair rather give him the look of a 37-year-old Charlie Brown.


Alas, the Lucy that was, and remains, the Pentagon didn’t find him very funny. His spiel on the “plans-reality mismatch” – the Pentagon’s seeming inability to craft realistic cost estimates so that today’s plans can fit into tomorrow’s budgets – remains as valid now as it was then.

The cover story was written by Walter Isaacson, who has since gone on to write acclaimed biographies of Henry Kissinger, Ben Franklin, Albert Einstein and Steve Jobs. Presidential photographer David Hume Kennerly took the photos of Spinney that graced the cover package. The cover itself was an illustration of Spinney by Burt Silverman, who also [Bizarre Connection Alert!] did the cover art for Jethro Tull’s Aqualung album (you can see the resemblance here).

We don’t always agree with Mr. Spinney, and he hasn’t always been right, but we always find his thinking relevant and intriguing. We’re pleased that he continues to grace Battleland with it regularly, a decade after leaving the Pentagon, when he’s not out sailing.