Pentagon Spending: Up, Up, and Away!

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The Navy at flank speed, in pursuit of more money

W.J. Astore

Show me your budget and I’ll tell you what you value.  Under the Trump administration, what is valued is spending on military weaponry and wars.  The Pentagon is due to get a major boost under Trump, as reported by the Associated Press and FP: Foreign Policy:

Money train. It’s looking like it might be Christmas in February for the U.S. defense industry. The Pentagon has delivered a $30 billion wish list to Congress that would fund more ships, planes, helicopters, drones, and missiles, the AP reports.

And that might only be the beginning.

President Trump has already ordered the Pentagon to draft a “supplemental” budget for 2017 that would include billions more for the U.S. military on top of the $600 billion the Obama administration budgeted for… 

As FP’s Paul McLeary and Dan De Luce recently reported, there are proposals floating around for a defense budget as high as $640 billion for 2018, which would bust through congressionally-mandated spending caps that Democrats — and many Republicans — are happy to keep in place. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has been tasked with completing the supplemental request by March 1.

The Pentagon, which has never passed a financial audit and which has wasted more than two trillion dollars over the years (this figure came in 2001, when Donald Rumsfeld was Secretary of Defense under Bush/Cheney), is due to be given even more money to spend, irrespective of past performance or future need.

Naturally, each military service is already posturing and clamoring for the extra money promised by Trump.  Consider the U.S. Navy, which, according to Vice Chief of Naval Operations Admiral William Moran, will be “Just Flat Out Out Of Money” without this supplemental funding boost from Congress.

According to the Navy and Marine Corps:

Five attack submarines would see their maintenance availabilities canceled this year and be put at risk of being decertified if no supplemental were passed out of Congress, Moran added, in addition to similar cuts to surface ship maintenance availabilities.

Assistant Commandant Gen. Glenn Walters said “we would stop flying in about July” without a supplemental. He clarified that forward forces would continue to operate, but for units training at home, “all training would cease without a supplemental, and that includes the parts money and the flying hour money.”

Even if the supplemental – which could total between $30 and $40 billion for all the armed services – is passed in a timely manner, the Navy and Marine Corps still face massive readiness issues that money can’t immediately address.

That last part is disturbing indeed.  Even with billions in additional funding, the Navy still faces “massive readiness issues.”

Well, here are a few radical suggestions for Trump and the Pentagon:

  1. If money is tight, why not re-prioritize?  If readiness is compromised, why not scale back the mission?
  2. Before boosting funding, why not force the Pentagon to pass a financial audit?
  3. If trillions of dollars have gone “missing” over the last decades (remember, a Republican Secretary of Defense made this claim), why not launch missions to find that money before spending billions of new money?

You don’t reform a bureaucracy that wastes money by giving them more money.  It’s like reforming an addict on drugs by giving him more money to spend on drugs. Until the Pentagon can account for its spending, its budget needs to be flatlined or cut.

The only way to force the Pentagon to think about “defense” spending is to limit its budget.  Throwing money at the Pentagon just ensures more of the same, only more: as in more weaponry, more wars, and more fraud, waste, and abuse.

Given the Pentagon’s track record over the last half-century, does anyone truly think that more money is a solution to anything?

8 thoughts on “Pentagon Spending: Up, Up, and Away!

  1. I wouldn’t give the Pentagram another thin dime until the ticket-punching, fuck-up-and-move up “management” of the building tell America’s taxpaying citizens who (and how many) of our Vaunted Visigoths got fired (up to and including our latest Commander-in-Brief) for this all-time-classic FUBAR and SNAFU. See State Sponsored Terrorism: The Attack On Yemen, by Pepe Escobar, Information Clearing House (February 07, 2017).

    The raid by two dozen SEAL Team 6, a dozen Emirati Special Forces, attack helicopters, Marine MV-22 tiltrotor planes, drones, assorted intel assets, a ship off the coast launching Harrier jets, you name it – was a MAJOR operation.

    They had loads of intel. Yet they were detected. By a barking dog. They screwed up – and did not abort. Total panic obviously ensued and then – [like] Iraq during the [previous] occupation – they shot everyone in sight and bombed the shit out of every nearby building.

    The scene. This was not a “reinforced al-Qaeda base”, as spun. It was a few nondescript houses in a small, rural tribal village, inhabited by a few guys who were hired by the Saudis as anti-Houthi fighters. Yemen is a clannish maze in perpetual motion. Sometimes men ally with local AQAP outfits which also happen to be “supported” by the Saudis. But that does not mean these people are necessarily “al-Qaeda”.

    Local Yemeni sources assure as many as 57 Yemenis were killed – including 8 women and 8 children, and including the 8-year-old girl daughter of Anwar al-Awlaki, shot in the neck by a SEAL.

    Trump officially declared the op a “success”. He had to. But it was a monster f**k up. Especially because the key target – Qasim al-Raymi, the 3rd most dangerous terrorist in the world according to the USG – survived, escaped, was tipped off, or all of the above.
    He duly released the requisite, subsequent taunting audio, saying, “The fool of the White House got slapped at the beginning of his road in your lands.”

    Trump “inherited” the raid from the Obama administration. Months and months of planning and accumulated intel. Mad Dog Mattis, JCS supremo Dunford and “Iran on notice” Flynn all gave the raid the green light. Trump followed their advice. They should have known better.

    Tipped off by a barking dog, not to mention, the sound of increased (i.e., above the daily normal) buzzing of drones overhead. How all this reminds me of that scene in The Count of Monte Christo where the dissolute Count de Mondego sits at a casino roulette wheel squandering his family inheritance. Observes sidekick-servant Yacopo to Edmond Dantes: “He’s losing at the other casinoes, and they’re not even cheating him.”

    No. Absolutely not. No more money for nitwit numbskulls like we’ve got running our “defense.” Retired loser Generals like Mattis and Flynn can’t possibly frighten Iran with the U.S. military unless they mean for the Iranians to die laughing. And how much money would it take to accomplish that?

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      1. Rocketing 3 Men to the Moon in 1969 dollars (24 billion) cost the Taxpayers a mere pittance in comparison to these Astronomical amounts being bandied about plus the Lunar Landing was exciting unlike these boring statistics and marginal at best success on the battlefield. I now see that no other Planets, Mars, or other subsequent trips to the Moon and even quite possibly a asteroid site will probably never happen in my lifetime. When back then as a eager 14 Year Older I was thinking NASA was going to conquer the Solar system for the benefit of all mankind…Now that was a challenge I could get behind as a Young Man back in those heady days!.

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    1. It’s the federal budget, so your senators and representative are your best bets. Call them. Let them know that inflated budgets for wars and weapons are a disgrace to democracy.

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      1. The question asked by JONOFD has a significance that many Americans have long since failed to recognize: namely, What, precisely, do we mean by “government” spending and what, if anything, has “military” spending to do with that? As Sheldon Wolin noted in his masterful book, Democracy, Inc.: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism:

        “That the patriotic citizen unswervingly supports the military and its huge budgets means that conservatives have succeeded in persuading the public that the military is distinct from government. Thus the most substantial element of state power is removed from public debate.

        “… military spending is nearly four times greater than the expenditures on social programs; yet neither party would dream of proposing an amendment specifically limiting or controlling military spending — only one prohibiting same-sex marriage.”

        For fifteen years I worked for the Hughes Aircraft Company in arch-conservative Orange County, California. Most of my colleagues identified as Republicans because Republiicans, in their view, always favored government spending on “defense” but not government spending on “social” programs like those “communist” Democrats support. I used to ask my co-workers why they always spoke disparagingly of “government spending” when our jobs and incomes depended on it. They would look at me aghast, as if I had just impugned the virtue of their sainted mothers. “No!” they would retort, often angrily. “Government spending is only for social programs.” In other words, these Americans adamantly refused to mean the same thing by “government spending” — i.e., spending done by their government — that every student of high-school economics would mean by the term. My colleagues in the aerospace industry taught me to appreciate the observation made by Upton Sinclair: “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”

        Again, and most importantly: by deliberate design, self-styled American “conservatives” have managed to sever any connection between the taxes that citizens pay and the squandering of the nation’s tax revenues by a ravenous military establishment that somehow — magically — seems to get its funding out of thin air, without any relation to the Federal Government. On the other hand, Medicare has its very own payroll tax. Social Security has its own payroll tax. But just try getting Congress to impose a Federal “war” tax or “war-profits” tax on corporations and their stockholders, so as to fund “responsibly” America’s out-of-control militarist spending, and you will likely get an uncomprehending stare and an angry retort: “What do you mean by associating our sacred military with our despised “government”?

        Pure economic and political schizophrenia (or doublethink, as George Orwell called it), but there you have it. By design of the Ruling Corporate Oligarchy, Americans cannot debate — much less demand policies to address — that which they refuse to recognize or acknowledge in the first place. Most definitely, Americans can put an end to these ruinous, pointless presidential military misadventures by demanding that Congress tax the living shit out of anyone proposing or defending militarist war spending. We must, after all, manage our national finances responsibly and live frugally within our means. Self-styled “conservatives” always tell us this. That means raising government revenues to match government expenditures on endless, needless “war.” It also means drastically cutting government expenditures on America’s biggest, most extravagantly wasteful budget item: military spending. “Spending” doesn’t get more “governmental” than that.

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