Nel's New Day

December 24, 2013

Bloated Defense Budget Continues

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 1:36 PM

The real winner in the budget fight is the Pentagon. The Senate gave them $607 billion in a 84-15 vote on the National Defense Authorization Act following the 350-69 approval in the House. (That’s about $2,000 per man, woman, and child in the United States.) Republicans complained about their inability to add amendments, but their filibusters delayed the bill for almost a month. The bill gives the Pentagon $32 billion (4.4 percent) over the budget cap passed the same week, leaving its base budget higher than in 2005 and 2006.

The Pentagon has tremendously contributed to the U.S. deficit. The Iraq and Afghanistan wars cost $1.5 trillion, twice that of the Vietnam War after adjustment for inflation. Almost every cent was borrowed, contributing almost 20 percent to the national debt in the past decade. That amount doesn’t even count the regular Pentagon budget that also grew almost 45 percent between 2001 and 2010. Sequestration cuts for 2013 were $37 billion, and the DoD could keep its readiness with another $63 billion cut. Yet Congress blocked the Pentagon’s cost-cutting proposals such as base closures, increases to the health program, and retirement of its Global Hawk Block 30 drones and the A-10 “Warthog” fleet.

The military is unbelievably huge:

  • It employs 3 million people, 800,000 more than Wal-Mart.
  • Its budget is 47 percent bigger than that of Wal-Mart.
  • It serves 9.6 million people, in combination with the VA, making it the biggest healthcare provider in the U.S.
  • It has 70 percent of the federal government’s $1.8 trillion in property, land, and equipment.
  • It is 93 times larger than Los Angeles; the Army alone uses more than twice as much building space as all the New York offices.
  • It holds more than 80 percent of the federal government’s inventories, including $6.8 billion of excess, obsolete, or unserviceable stuff.
  • It operates more than 170 golf courses in the world.
  • It gets one of every five tax dollars.
  • It takes over half of all discretionary spending.
  • It spends more than the next 13 countries combined—including Russia and China—and accounts for almost 40 percent of global military spending.

defense spending 13 nations

The Pentagon’s books are so bad that they can’t be officially inspected, despite a 1997 mandate for all federal agencies to have annual audits. The Government Accountability Office noted that the Pentagon has “serious financial management problems” that make its financial statements “inauditable.” The Pentagon has one-fifth of the GAO’s list of federal programs with a high risk of waste, fraud, or inefficiency. Possibly, the Pentagon “cooks its books” with unorthodox accounting methods making its budgetary needs seem more urgent. They claim that they’ll be ready for an audit by 2017.

In the 17 years since its last audit, the Department of Defense has been unable to account for $8.5 trillion dollars. That’s $27,419.35 per person in the United States. In 2011, the Pentagon spent $20 billion for air-conditioning units in tents. Last year, their budget was $700 billion.

 In 2003, Pentagon officials started to send billions of dollars in shrink-wrapped bricks of $100 bills to Iraq. One giant C-130 Hercules cargo plane could carry $2.4 billion; an initial planeload of cash was followed by 20 other flights by May 2004–$12.2 billion in all. The Pentagon lost half that money; they assume that the $6 billion was simply stolen. It never showed up again.

An even bigger boondoggle is the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, originally expected to cost $233 billion. The cost is now projected at $400 billion, and the timeframe has gone from ten years to 18. Planes came off the assembly line without finishing development and testing, meaning $8 billion needed for retrofits. The Pentagon inspector general identified 719 problems last year with the program including:

  • Pilots cannot fly these test planes at night, within 25 miles of lightning, faster than the speed of sound, or with real or simulated weapons.
  • Pilots say cockpit visibility is worse than in existing fighters.
  • Special high-tech helmets have “frequent problems” and are “badly performing.”
  • Takeoffs may be postponed when the temperature is below 60°F.

The F-35 program will cost another $1 trillion and has 1,400 suppliers in 46 states. Lockheed Martin has spent $159 million on lobbying since 2000 and gave money to 425 members of Congress last year.

  • Recommendations for defense cuts from the libertarian Cato Institute and the liberal Center for American Progress to the conservative American Enterprise Institute:
  • Eliminate all ICMBs and nuclear bombers while keeping nuclear-armed subs: $20 billion/year
  • Retire two of the Navy’s 11 aircraft carrier groups: $50 billion through 2020
  • Cut the size of the Army and Marines to pre-9/11 levels: At least $80 billion over 10 years
  • Slow down or cancel the pricey F-35 fighter jet program: At least $4 billion/year
  • Downsize military headquarters that grew after 9/11: $8 billion/year
  • Cancel the troubled V-22 Osprey tiltrotor and use helicopters instead: At least $1.2 billion
  • Scale back purchases of littoral combat ships: $2 billion in 2013
  • Cap spending on military contractors below 2012 levels:    $2.9 billion/year
  • Retire the Cold War-era B-1 bomber: $3.7 billion over 5 years

The defense budget did include a slight reform in the way that the military deals with sexual assault cases:

  • Criminalize retaliation against sexual assault victims who report sexual assaults.
  • Stop military commanders from overturning jury convictions.
  • Make court-martial preliminary hearings more like those in civilian courts.
  • Expand special victims counsel for sexual assault is expanded.
  • Require a civilian review if a commander declines to prosecute a case.
  • Mandate that anyone convicted of sexual assault face a dishonorable discharge or dismissal.
  • Provide victims with legal counsel.
  • Eliminate the statute of limitations for courts-martial in rape and sexual assault cases.
  • Limit intrusive questioning of victims.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s (D-NY) reforms, taking decision-making authority for sexual assault cases from the military’s chain of command, were not considered. She has put her reforms before the Senate in a stand-alone bill.

President Obama also put pressure on the military by ordering a comprehensive review of its sexual assault response and prevention programs. The report isn’t due for almost a year. Nancy Parrish, president of Protect our Defenders, said, “Our men and women in uniform and their families deserve real solutions not arbitrary delays.” Gillibrand found the president’s order welcome but insufficient.

The defense bill also loosens the restrictions on transferring Guantánamo Bay detainees to foreign countries. Two Sudanese detainees were transferred to their home country this past week, leaving 158 people at the prison. Of those, 79 have been cleared for transfer, and 71 will be evaluated to see if they can be eligible. The remaining eight men are either serving their sentence after being convicted or are facing military tribunals.

The GOP succeeded in mandating that detainees could not be moved to the U.S. through 2014, even for emergency medical treatment, and that no facilities could be built or modified to house anyone transferred from the prison. Republicans failed in spending more money to beef up the prison for future prisoners. 

1 Comment »

  1. Why am I not surprised.


    Comment by Lee Lynch — December 24, 2013 @ 9:48 PM | Reply

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