FACT CHECK: Viral Image Claims To Show Article About Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin Considering ‘Defunding, Maybe Disbanding’ The US Army

Brad Sylvester | Fact Check Editor

An image shared on Facebook purportedly shows an article reporting that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is considering “defunding, maybe disbanding” the U.S. Army.

Verdict: False

The image appears to be a doctored screen grab of a Defense News article. There is no evidence Austin has said he is considering “defunding, maybe dismantling” the Army.

Fact Check:

The Senate confirmed Austin, a four-star Army general, as Secretary of Defense on Friday in a 93-2 vote that made him the nation’s first black defense secretary, according to the Military Times. Some of his first actions included ordering a review of military sexual assault prevention programs and supporting President Joe Biden’s repeal of the transgender military ban.

In the days since his confirmation, some social media users have shared a screen grab of an alleged article about Austin. The screen grabbed article, purportedly written by Defense News’ Joe Gould, puts up the headline “Lloyd Austin, Biden’s nominee to lead Pentagon, is considering ‘defunding, maybe disbanding’ U.S. Army.”

“Retired Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III vowed Tuesday to eradicate extremism in the ranks as one of his first goals if confirmed as the next defense secretary, as well as possibly defunding and maybe even disbanding the U.S. Army,” reads the first line of the supposed article. It goes on to quote Lloyd as saying, “We are looking into having China to rely on regarding national defense.”

There is no evidence that Austin said he intends to defund or disband the Army. Had he made such statements, media outlets would have almost assuredly reported on it, yet none have. A reverse image search found the screen grab posted on the meme-sharing website iFunny.

It appears that the image is a doctored screen grab of a Jan. 19 article published by Gould on Defense News. The Defense News article has the same byline, featured image and format as the screen grab, but the text in the body of the Defense News article, as well as the headline, do not match. For instance, the headline of the article actually reads, “House committee nixes Lloyd Austin’s waiver hearing.”

Gould said in a Jan. 25 editorial that the screen grab is fabricated and that he did not report the information it conveys. (RELATED: Does This Video Show A Military Band Outside The White House Playing ‘Hit The Road Jack’?)

“The attached jpeg resembled a Defense News story complete with my byline, but instead of my work, it was a cocktail of lies and paranoia,” Gould wrote in part. “There was the layout of one of my stories about the new defense secretary, Lloyd Austin, but some of the words matched a Washington Post article ― and it included both a false headline about Austin ‘defunding and dismantling’ the U.S. Army and an equally false quote about America looking to China for its national defense.”

As Gould noted, the fabricated image does appear to lift some language from the headline and body of a Washington Post article titled “Lloyd Austin, Biden’s nominee to lead Pentagon, vows to take on extremism in the military.” The Washington Post article did not suggest at any point that Austin is considering disbanding or defunding the Army, nor did it attribute to Austin a quote about the U.S. relying on China “regarding national defense.”

Brad Sylvester

Fact Check Editor
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