About Franklin C. (Chuck) Spinney


I began my career in 1967 as an Air Forcer officer assigned as a research engineer to the AF Flight Dynamics Laboratory immediately after graduating from Lehigh University with a degree in mechanical engineering.  In 1972, I transferred to Air Force headquarters in the Pentagon, where I worked for Colonel John Boyd, a brilliant fighter tactician and conceptual design engineer, and  began a continuous collaboration until Boyd’s death in 1997.  

After resigning from the Air Force, I joined the Tactical Air Division of the Office of Program Analysis and Evaluation in the Office of the Secretary of Defense in the Pentagon in 1977, where I remained until retirement in 2003. Over time, my work gradually came to encompass the entire range of programs in the Defense Department, and I was free to work on any subject I chose.  The best known of my studies were a series of analyses that revealed how optimistic economic and technology assumptions conspired to systematically wreck DoD budget plans year after year.  This work became one of the pillars of the Military Reform Movement, of which I was a founding member, along with Col Boyd, Pierre Sprey, Thomas Christie, Colonel Mike Wyly, William Lind, and others.  

I appeared before the US Congress as a witness in many special hearings between 1983 and 2002, all but one of which were convened specifically to discuss my studies. I am author of over 90 articles on defense issues, ranging from critiques of weapons' performance to analyses of the entire defense budget, to the flawed nature of  strategy in America's all too frequent wars.  My 1985 book, "Defense Facts of Life: The Plans/Reality Mismatch" is now considered a minor classic in its field.  My op-eds have appeared in many newspapers, including The Wall Street Journal, Washington Post Outlook, The LA Times, The Baltimore Sun, among others, and magazines, including Challenge: The Magazine of Economic Affairs, The Proceedings of the Naval Institute, The Marine Corps Gazette, and Strategic Review, among others.

In addition, my work has been written about in many books, including Robert Coram’s “Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War” (Little, Brown and Company,2002) and James Fallows’ “National Defense” (Random House, 1981), runner up for the 1981 Book Critics Circle Award.  I was on the cover of Time Magazine (7 March 1983), and the subject of a one hour interview on Bill Moyers "Now" on 1 August 2003, which won the 2003 Emmy Award for the best news magazine show of the year.  Additional background information can be found in wikipedia (here).

After retiring in 2003, my wife and I moved aboard our 12 meter sailboat, crossed the Atlantic in 2005, and have been living and sailing in the Mediterranean Sea ever since. I continue to write about defense and foreign policy issues.  Since retiring, I have been a frequent contributor to the online newsletter Counterpunch  and to Time's Battleland blog, and occasionally the Huffington Post.  A compendium of my more important unclassified reports can be downloaded here