Tag Archives: Pentagon Spending

How the Pentagon Devours The Budget And Normalizes Budgetary Bloat

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“THE UNZ REVIEW – Perspectives Largely Excluded from the American Mainstream Media” By William D. Hartung,

All too often, astonishingly lavish military budgets are treated as if they were part of the natural order, like death or taxes.

There is a danger that the Pentagon will just get “fatter not stronger” as its worst spending habits are reinforced by a new gusher of dollars that relieves its planners of making any reasonably hard choices at all.”


“Imagine for a moment a scheme in which American taxpayers were taken to the cleaners to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars and there was barely a hint of criticism or outrage. Imagine as well that the White House and a majority of the politicians in Washington, no matter the party, acquiesced in the arrangement. In fact, the annual quest to boost Pentagon spending into the stratosphere regularly follows that very scenario, assisted by predictions of imminent doom from industry-funded hawks with a vested interest in increased military outlays.

The figures contained in the recent budget deal that kept Congress open, as well as in President Trump’s budget proposal for 2019, are a case in point: $700 billion for the Pentagon and related programs in 2018 and $716 billion the following year. Remarkably, such numbers far exceeded even the Pentagon’s own expansive expectations. According to Donald Trump, admittedly not the most reliable source in all cases, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis reportedly said, “Wow, I can’t believe we got everything we wanted” — a rare admission from the head of an organization whose only response to virtually any budget proposal is to ask for more.

The public reaction to such staggering Pentagon budget hikes was muted, to put it mildly. Unlike last year’s tax giveaway to the rich, throwing near-record amounts of tax dollars at the Department of Defense generated no visible public outrage. Yet those tax cuts and Pentagon increases are closely related. The Trump administration’s pairing of the two mimics the failed approach of President Ronald Reagan in the 1980s — only more so. It’s a phenomenon I’ve termed “Reaganomics on steroids.” Reagan’s approach yielded oceans of red ink and a severe weakening of the social safety net. It also provoked such a strong pushback that he later backtracked by raising taxes and set the stage for sharp reductions in nuclear weapons.

Donald Trump’s retrograde policies on immigration, women’s rights, racial justice, LGBT rights, and economic inequality have spawned an impressive and growing resistance. It remains to be seen whether his generous treatment of the Pentagon at the expense of basic human needs will spur a similar backlash.

Of course, it’s hard to even get a bead on what’s being lavished on the Pentagon when much of the media coverage failed to drive home just how enormous these sums actually are. A rare exception was an Associated Press story headlined “Congress, Trump Give the Pentagon a Budget the Likes of Which It Has Never Seen.” This was certainly far closer to the truth than claims like that of Mackenzie Eaglen of the conservative American Enterprise Institute, which over the years has housed such uber-hawks as Dick Cheney and John Bolton. She described the new budget as a “modest year-on-year increase.” If that’s the case, one shudders to think what an immodest increase might look like.

The Pentagon Wins Big

So let’s look at the money.

Though the Pentagon’s budget was already through the roof, it will get an extra $165 billion over the next two years, thanks to the congressional budget deal reached earlier this month. To put that figure in context, it was tens of billions of dollars more than Donald Trump had asked for last spring to “rebuild” the U.S. military (as he put it). It even exceeded the figures, already higher than Trump’s, Congress had agreed to last December. It brings total spending on the Pentagon and related programs for nuclear weapons to levels higher than those reached during the Korean and Vietnam wars in the 1950s and 1960s, or even at the height of Ronald Reagan’s vaunted military buildup of the 1980s. Only in two years of Barack Obama’s presidency, when there were roughly 150,000 U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, or about seven times current levels of personnel deployed there, was spending higher.

Ben Freeman of the Center for International Policy put the new Pentagon budget numbers in perspective when he pointed out that just the approximately $80 billion annual increase in the department’s top line between 2017 and 2019 will be double the current budget of the State Department; higher than the gross domestic products of more than 100 countries; and larger than the entire military budget of any country in the world, except China’s.

Democrats signed on to that congressional budget as part of a deal to blunt some of the most egregious Trump administration cuts proposed last spring. The administration, for example, kept the State Department’s budget from being radically slashed and it reauthorized the imperiled Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for another 10 years. In the process, however, the Democrats also threw millions of young immigrants under the bus by dropping an insistence that any new budget protect the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or “Dreamers,” program. Meanwhile, the majority of Republican fiscal conservatives were thrilled to sign off on a Pentagon increase that, combined with the Trump tax cut for the rich, funds ballooning deficits as far as the eye can see — a total of $7.7 trillion worth of them over the next decade.

While domestic spending fared better in the recent congressional budget deal than it would have if Trump’s draconian plan for 2018 had been enacted, it still lags far behind what Congress is investing in the Pentagon. And calculations by the National Priorities Project indicate that the Department of Defense is slated to be an even bigger winner in Trump’s 2019 budget blueprint. Its share of the discretionary budget, which includes virtually everything the government does other than programs like Medicare and Social Security, will mushroom to a once-unimaginable 61 cents on the dollar, a hefty boost from the already startling 54 cents on the dollar in the final year of the Obama administration.

The skewed priorities in Trump’s latest budget proposal are fueled in part by the administration’s decision to embrace the Pentagon increases Congress agreed to last month, while tossing that body’s latest decisions on non-military spending out the window. Although Congress is likely to rein in the administration’s most extreme proposals, the figures are stark indeed — a proposed cutof $120 billion in the domestic spending levels both parties agreed to. The biggest reductions include a 41% cut in funding for diplomacy and foreign aid; a 36% cut in funding for energy and the environment; and a 35% cut in housing and community development. And that’s just the beginning. The Trump administration is also preparing to launch full-scale assaults on food stampsMedicaid, and Medicare. It’s war on everything except the U.S. military.

Corporate Welfare

The recent budget plans have brought joy to the hearts of one group of needy Americans: the top executives of major weapons contractors like Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, and General Dynamics. They expect a bonanza from the skyrocketing Pentagon expenditures. Don’t be surprised if the CEOs of these five firms give themselves nice salary boosts, something to truly justify their work, rather than the paltry $96 million they drew as a group in 2016 (the most recent year for which full statistics are available).

And keep in mind that, like all other U.S.-based corporations, those military-industrial behemoths will benefit richly from the Trump administration’s slashing of the corporate tax rate. According to one respected industry analyst, a good portion of this windfall will go towards bonuses and increased dividends for company shareholders rather than investments in new and better ways to defend the United States. In short, in the Trump era, Lockheed Martin and its cohorts are guaranteed to make money coming and going.

Items that snagged billions in new funding in Trump’s proposed 2019 budget included Lockheed Martin’s overpriced, underperforming F-35 aircraft, at $10.6 billion; Boeing’s F-18 “Super Hornet,” which was in the process of being phased out by the Obama administration but is now written in for $2.4 billion; Northrop Grumman’s B-21 nuclear bomber at $2.3 billion; General Dynamics’ Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine at $3.9 billion; and $12 billion for an array of missile-defense programs that will redound to the benefit of… you guessed it: Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, and Boeing, among other companies. These are just a few of the dozens of weapons programs that will be feeding the bottom lines of such companies in the next two years and beyond. For programs still in their early stages, like that new bomber and the new ballistic missile submarine, their banner budgetary years are yet to come.

In explaining the flood of funding that enables a company like Lockheed Martin to reap $35 billion per year in government dollars, defense analyst Richard Aboulafia of the Teal Group noted that “diplomacy is out; air strikes are in… In this sort of environment, it’s tough to keep a lid on costs. If demand goes up, prices don’t generally come down. And, of course, it’s virtually impossible to kill stuff. You don’t have to make any kind of tough choices when there’s such a rising tide.”

Pentagon Pork Versus Human Security

Loren Thompson is a consultant to many of those weapons contractors. His think tank, the Lexington Institute, also gets contributions from the arms industry. He caught the spirit of the moment when he praised the administration’s puffed-up Pentagon proposal for using the Defense Department budget as a jobs creator in key states, including the crucial swing state of Ohio, which helped propel Donald Trump to victory in 2016. Thompson was particularly pleased with a plan to ramp up General Dynamics’s production of M-1 tanks in Lima, Ohio, in a factory whose production line the Army had tried to put on hold just a few years ago because it was already drowning in tanks and had no conceivable use for more of them.

Thompson argues that the new tanks are needed to keep up with Russia’s production of armored vehicles, a dubious assertion with a decidedly Cold War flavor to it. His claim is backed up, of course, by the administration’s new National Security Strategy, which targets Russia and China as the most formidable threats to the United States. Never mind that the likely challenges posed by these two powers — cyberattacks in the Russian case and economic expansion in the Chinese one — have nothing to do with how many tanks the U.S. Army possesses.

Trump wants to create jobs, jobs, jobs he can point to, and pumping up the military-industrial complex must seem like the path of least resistance to that end in present-day Washington. Under the circumstances, what does it matter that virtually any other form of spending would create more jobs and not saddle Americans with weaponry we don’t need?

If past performance offers any indication, none of the new money slated to pour into the Pentagon will make anyone safer. 

The list of wasteful expenditures is already staggeringly long and early projections are that bureaucratic waste at the Pentagon will amount to $125 billion over the next five years. Among other things, the Defense Department already employs a shadow work force of more than 600,000 private contractors whose responsibilities overlap significantly with work already being done by government employees. Meanwhile, sloppy buying practices regularly result in stories like the recent ones on the Pentagon’s Defense Logistics Agency losing track of how it spent $800 million and how two American commands were unable to account for $500 million meant for the war on drugs in the Greater Middle East and Africa.

Add to this the $1.5 trillion slated to be spent on F-35s that the nonpartisan Project on Government Oversight has noted may never be ready for combat and the unnecessary “modernization” of the U.S. nuclear arsenal, including a new generation of nuclear-armed bombers, submarines, and missiles at a minimum cost of $1.2 trillion over the next three decades. In other words, a large part of the Pentagon’s new funding will do much to fuel good times in the military-industrial complex but little to help the troops or defend the country.

Most important of all, this flood of new funding, which could crush a generation of Americans under a mountain of debt, will make it easier to sustain the seemingly endless seven wars that the United States is fighting in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen. So call this one of the worst investments in history, ensuring as it does failed wars to the horizon.

It would be a welcome change in twenty-first-century America if the reckless decision to throw yet more unbelievable sums of money at a Pentagon already vastly overfunded sparked a serious discussion about America’s hyper-militarized foreign policy. A national debate about such matters in the run-up to the 2018 and 2020 elections could determine whether it continues to be business-as-usual at the Pentagon or whether the largest agency in the federal government is finally reined in and relegated to an appropriately defensive posture.”

William D. Hartung, a TomDispatch regular, is the director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy and the author of Prophets of War: Lockheed Martin and the Making of the Military-Industrial Complex.

http://www.unz.com/article/how-the-pentagon-devours-the-budget/

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Tight Government Agency Budgets Bring a Silver Lining

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Image:  http://alumni.bm.ust.hk

“WASHINGTON TECHNOLOGY” By Stan Soloway

“Growing funding pressures and uncertainty place a growing onus on agencies to navigate the turbulence in new and innovative ways.

Thus, far from being a market killer, it actually presents opportunity.

For years, the question of when the government might return to “regular order” –that is, a “normal” process in which appropriations are essentially completed by the end of September—has been a prominent one.

Agency leaders, industry, and others, have continually and appropriately harped on the deleterious impacts of the funding yo-yo that has dominated the scene for far too long.
And if there was one thing many hoped for as a result of having one party in control of both the White House and Congress, it was a return to regular order.

Well, it’s probably not going to happen. As virtually all recent reports have indicated, the budget debate within the parties, let alone between the parties, remains fierce and the chances of getting a full year fiscal 2018 funding bill by Sept. 30th are slim indeed.

President Trump’s budget blueprint – the “skinny budget” — generated plenty of debate; the release of his full proposed budget will only turn up the heat further. No  budget resolutions have yet been proposed, let alone passed, and no spending instructions given to the appropriations committees.

Beyond that, consider what else Congress has to deal with over the next four months: the farm insurance bill; the children’s insurance program (CHIP); health care; possibly tax reform; and, of course, the debt ceiling. In other words, while a complex and many-layered debate is virtually certain, it has not yet really begun and one or more continuing resolutions appear almost certain.

To complicate matters further, the Senate cannot even take up the budget until after it finishes with health care, because as soon as a budget bill is passed the rules change previously instituted by the Democrats (requiring only a majority vote) will revert back to the standard rule under which 60 votes will be needed.

Thus, the betting is that another continuing resolution, or a series of them, will be needed.

And that is never a good thing for smart planning and program execution.

Nonetheless, it would appear that over the years most agencies have actually gotten pretty good at adjusting to the external dynamics and finding a way to do their jobs. Even as agencies struggled with the White House’s early budget instructions, most continued to operate relatively normally. And that has mostly carried over to the market as well.

Unlike what we saw with sequestration—the impacts of which were seen and felt months before it went into effect—the impacts of the potential or expected spending reductions are not reflected in a broad market slow-down. In fact, with the exception of State and EPA,  just the opposite seems to be happening.

Through the first two quarters of fiscal 2017, civilian agency spending on professional services and IT both grew by double digits over the same period last year. At the Defense Department, for which we only have data for the first quarter, the pattern was the same (16 percent for professional services; 10 percent for IT).

And while it may seem counter-intuitive, this is actually consistent with what we’ve seen in recent years. Often, those agencies under the toughest budgetary pressures have also been those in which the market has performed best.

Again, this is in part the result of agencies having learned to operate amidst the chaos. But more importantly, it appears to validate another key market dynamic: as agencies are forced to be more and more selective with their funding, their highest priority missions, and thus those most fully funded, tend to be highly tech-centric (cyber, analytics, automation, etc.).

Almost by definition, those missions require more private sector support than other, more routine operations. Thus, market growth in a constrained environment is not only possible, it is likely.

Going forward, aside from major reductions in mission or service, agencies’ best hopes and strategies for dealing with the budget realities largely lie in aggressively expanding the degree to which they capitalize on opportunities to substantially reduce costs (and improve service) across the board, driven by the emergence of the digital economy.

It’s happening across the commercial sector; and this budget could well catalyze a similar transition in government.

This is not to say that predictability and stability should not still be a goal. It absolutely should be. Nor is it to suggest that some budget cuts won’t have very real negative impacts on segments of industry. They will.

But as the data and other trends suggest, stability may not be the holy grail it once appeared to be. ”

https://washingtontechnology.com/articles/2017/05/22/insights-soloway-budget-silverlining.aspx

About the Author

Stan Soloway

Stan Soloway is a former deputy undersecretary of Defense and former president and chief executive officer of the Professional Services Council. He is now the CEO of Celero Strategies.

We Need to Audit the Pentagon

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“THE PROJECT ON GOVERNMENT OVERSIGHT (POGO)”

“In 1994 Congress passed legislation requiring every federal agency to be auditable.

Since then every agency has complied—except for the Department of Defense.

“We have known for many years that the Department’s business practices are archaic and wasteful, and its inability to pass a clean audit is a longstanding travesty,” Chairs John McCain (R-AZ) and Mac Thornberry (R-TX) of the Senate and House Armed Services Committees said recently in a joint statement. “The reason these problems persist is simple: a failure of leadership and a lack of accountability.”

The Department’s… inability to pass a clean audit is a longstanding travesty

Increasing Pentagon spending under these circumstances is the opposite of fiscal responsibility. In fact, giving the Pentagon $54 billion and finding out why later is bad budgeting.

Both the Republican and Democratic party platforms included the need to audit the Pentagon, and Congress should resist calls to give more money to an agency they know to be irresponsible with taxpayer dollars.

You can learn more about the seemingly endless saga surrounding the Pentagon’s utter failure to get a clean audit opinion here.”

http://www.pogo.org/straus/issues/defense-budget/2017/pentagon-audit-needed-oversight.html

 

 

 

 

 

Bringing Pentagon Efficiency and Effectiveness to the Forefront

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Image:  “The Project on Government Oversight”

 

“DEFENSE NEWS”

“It is time to explore what can be achieved by bringing business considerations up front to help us navigate the treacherous national security waters ahead.

Archaic and inefficient, the Defense Department’s processes used to acquire and manage resources have ultimately become counterproductive in supporting the military’s war fighting mission.

In James Mattis’ confirmation hearing before the Senate two weeks ago, most of the questions directed at him appropriately focused on threats to the United States. There were thoughtful exchanges on Russia and Iran. And discussions about sequestration. However, one of the greatest threats not receiving appropriate attention is the Pentagon’s current business processes. Archaic and inefficient, the Defense Department’s processes used to acquire and manage resources have ultimately become counterproductive in supporting the military’s warfighting mission.

National defense too often is only discussed in context of size and cost in relation to external threats. While those are unquestionably important considerations, more emphasis must be placed on internal efficiency and effectiveness. Processes that monitor and reward output as opposed to processes that focus exclusively on inputs illuminate opportunities for dramatic improvements in our military posture.

As a former business leader, Donald Trump is well suited to prioritize business processes. And as president, he can direct Defense Secretary James Mattis and his staff to explore what can be achieved by elevating the primacy of efficiencies and effectiveness within the Pentagon.

Reconsidering how the Pentagon collects and uses data to make decisions will be particularly important. Indeed, better and more proficient employment of existing business process technologies and associated data has the potential to enable new capabilities, drive efficiencies, and promote more informed management decisions. Advanced analytics can provide insight into effects of even micro-level changes on readiness, with hope that current reporting could forecast how today’s decisions impact future military readiness.

Defense acquisition – historically the symbol of the slow-to-decide-and-act defense bureaucracy – is another area worthy of review. Pentagon procurers must have the opportunity to embrace and expand on the principles of rapid innovation. Rapid innovation has been adopted by Silicon Valley start-ups through some of our largest corporations, and its model would better attract existing and future military suppliers while providing our military world-class capability at lower costs.

The president and secretary of defense should also pursue measures that shed uniformed military responsibility of non-core services. The Pentagon has already seen success of such measures when they privatized military housing decades ago. There have been several studies over the years identifying other non-core military services that can be done more efficiently.

To move the Pentagon toward best-in-class processes and practices, the president must begin by outlining his support for efficiency and cost-savings reform in his budget. Notably, the budget must advance progress on auditability.

Under the current  plan, all four services must be audit ready by the end of September, with independent auditors in 2018 determining whether they passed or failed. Few are optimistic that the services will return a clean opinion, but the process is vital for prudent fiscal oversight while shedding light on how senior Pentagon leaders can run their organization more effectively. What is more, it provides a step toward full cost accounting which would provide even greater insight by capturing direct and indirect costs, driving decision making accordingly.

Another key provision would be support for eliminating, consolidating or repurposing excess infrastructure and facilities; to include requesting a new round of Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC). While unpopular in Congress, divesting unneeded infrastructure is basic best business practice and another BRAC round is well overdue. The last round occurred over a decade ago.

Our military and defense leadership is trained to operate in ambiguous and uncertain conditions — and that is necessary and appropriate for the battlefield. But we can and must do better when it comes to process, management, and generally keeping our own house in order. Indeed, a key rationale of strengthening business processes is to reduce the frequency of decision-making-by-gut-feel.”

http://www.defensenews.com/articles/bringing-pentagon-efficiency-and-effectiveness-to-the-forefront

 

 

It’s Time to Stop Stuffing the Defense Budget

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“THE NATIONAL INTEREST”

“When it comes to Pentagon spending, lawmakers in Washington prefer “pork”, which is unfortunate for taxpayers.

This summer the Department of Defense acknowledged that half of its OCO spending— [Overseas Contingency Operations] about $30 billion—went to “enduring requirements” that should be funded out of the base budget.

In order to enhance our national security without increasing spending and deficits, this Thanksgiving Washington should take out the pork by reducing programs unrelated to national defense and pet projects not requested by the Pentagon. Nonetheless, the political environment from the past years has been conducive to increasing the pork, rather than forcing fiscal restraint—this needs to change.

The 2011 Budget Control Act brought a pause to the Washington dysfunction and disagreement and provided a period of some restraint in federal spending. The act set limits for defense and non-defense discretionary spending through the federal government. For the most part, each side of the equation got equally sized slices of the pie—creating a unique political environment in which, in order to raise defense spending it became necessary to increase non-defense spending to muster a strong enough coalition to reach sufficient votes.

However, not long after the ink was dry, spending-happy lawmakers started to devise ways to break the caps. With the Democrats controlling the executive branch and the Republicans controlling the House, the parties mostly pushed for their preferred side of the equation. The result, a recent Congressional Research Service (CRS) report found, was spending above the caps on both sides of the equation.

On the defense side of the equation, the Overseas Contingency Operations account became the preferred tool to dodge the budget caps. The Pentagon claims this account is needed to ensure war fighting operations are not impacted by the constraints of the 2011 budget caps, but  a CRS report found Congress and the president “have designated as ‘OCO/GWOT’ funds for a variety of activities that had previously been contained in the base budget.” The report went to say, “by designating ongoing activities not directly related to contingency operations as ‘OCO,’ Congress and the President can effectively continue to increase topline defense, foreign affairs, and other related discretionary spending, without triggering sequestration.” Essentially, this action by the Pentagon, Congress, and the President transformed OCO, or a better term would be Pentagon slush fund, into the an ever-expanding turkey that gradually lost its shape.

The transformation of OCO into the annual Thanksgiving turkey involved two important steps. First, there was a considerable expansion of what was considered to be part of the expenses necessary to execute the operations overseas. Initially, there was a relatively narrow definition, such as deployment bonuses to troops overseas.

The passage of the Budget Control Act prompted the Pentagon to backslide on its progress on fiscal responsibility, starting to more aggressively move programs from the base budget back to the slush fund. Congress has also gotten in on the act, using the slush fund to pay for childcare centers, barracks improvements, and aircraft the Pentagon never requested. In fact, and estimated $81 billion of OCO funding was not directly related to the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan.

The second expansion was what Congress could make the Pentagon pay for. This elasticity on what was considered defense spending turned the Department of Defense into what former Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) infamously called “The Department of Everything.” Coburn found the Pentagon used taxpayer money to hire brew-masters and developing apps to determine when it was a good time to have a cup of coffee. Since his retirement Senate Armed Services committee Chair John McCain (R-AZ) and Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) found millions in defense dollars going to jazz playing robots and empty buildings in Afghanistan.

In other instances, the Department of Defense is being asked to duplicate efforts either already done by or more effectively performed by other agencies. For example, Congress has earmarked billions for medical research to be performed at the Department of Defense that would almost certainly be better managed and overseen by the National Institutes of Health.

Just like each Thanksgiving side dish, many of these programs and gimmicks don’t cost much in isolation; but when they’re added together, they result in significant wasted money for the Pentagon and the need for a long nap after Thanksgiving dinner. Worst yet, in the Pentagon’s case of overstuffing, the defense budget partially loses what defines it as a defense budget by ignoring budget limitations and adding non-defense projects.

Lawmakers are responding to incentives from their constituencies and the system at large, so when they can expand the definition of the defense budget to satisfy parochial interests they will take it. It is up to the public to force Congress and the President to make decisions and consider tradeoffs on how taxpayer’s dollars are distributed. You have to balance your Thanksgiving dinner calories between mashed potatoes and pie, Congress should be no different and stop trying to stuff everything it can into the defense budget.”

http://nationalinterest.org/blog/the-buzz/thanksgiving-its-time-stop-stuffing-the-defense-budget-18478

 

“Crowd-Funding” the Pentagon

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“TIME MAGAZINE”

“About 85% of Americans have access to a computer, far more than the roughly 55% who actually pay federal taxes.

Let’s just fight the wars we think are worth fighting by going online to a place, let’s call it WebWars.com (the domain name is available for a paltry $5,000), and deciding how much we’d like to contribute.

If the Smithsonian can raise$300,000 in a week for the ruby slippers Dorothy wore inThe Wizard of Oz, why can’t the Pentagon take the same approach when it comes to raising armies to wage the nation’s wars?

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It may sound goofy, but it makes about as much sense as allowing the nation’s physical infrastructure to rot amid the current $3.6 trillion maintenance-funding shortfall, or relying on a billionaire to patch the cracks in the Washington Monument following D.C.’s 2011 earthquake.

Crowd-funding apps—like GoFundMe, Kickstarter (the one the Smithsonian used to buff up those ruby slippers) and Indiegogo—are popping up all over the Web. So why bother writing (how quaint!) a check (how 20th Century!) to mail in with your IRS Form 1040 every April to send off to Uncle Sam (how archaic!)?

After all, it’s not like Congress takes seriously the requirement that only it can declare war; heck, they haven’t done that since World War II. Why should hard-working Americans fork over money to fund conflicts that the nation’s lawmakers feel can be fought without their declaration? Bottom line (pun intended): if they don’t need to declare it, we don’t need to pay for it.

Practically speaking, there’s not much wrong with the scheme. The Pentagon and its allies on Capitol Hill have been doing something similar since 9/11. They have been cramming extra dollars into the military’s budget to wage the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, even though much of that spending has nothing to do with the conflicts. They’re doing this because such purported war-fighting funds aren’t subject to the budget ceilings passed by Congress in 2011. It has become Washington’s favorite way of lifting that ceiling while complying (wink-wink) with the law that set the ceiling.

And in a grim reminder of war’s real cost, associates of those killed in action have begun setting up crowdsourcing web pages for their families.

Of course, if you want to get technical, there are a host of problems associated with the idea. First of all, it takes time to build up a military. It can’t be turned on like a light, to be used only when it’s needed. Even when it’s stored away safely on the national shelf, it needs to be ready to go at a moment’s notice. So maybe there could be sustaining memberships, for those Americans who believe a strong defense is worth investing in and paying for. Kind of like supporting an orphan overseas with a monthly contribution.

So how much would that cost you? For simplicity’s, let’s assume the $573 billion the nation is spending this year on defense boils down to the 2.6 million combat boots worn by the 1.3 million members of the active-duty military. That works out to about $440,000 per soldier, sailor, airman and Marine.

But if you assume the boots last for two years, they’re a steal at $220,000 a pair.”

Paying for the Military Like the Ruby Slippers

 

 

Sample the Arsenal Inside the Pentagon’s Weapons Programs

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pentagon_cropped21“WASHINGTON POST”

http://www.washingtonpost.com/sf/business/collection/inside-the-pentagons-weapons-programs/

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The F-35 $400,000 Helmet

“Like the plane, the helmet is enormously expensive. The cost of each custom-made helmet is more than $400,000. And like the plane, which is years behind schedule and millions over its original budget, the helmet has encountered problems.

Earlier versions were jittery when the plane hit turbulence. There was a latency in the video, which caused pilots motion sickness. The night vision technology didn’t work as well as it should have. There was a “green glow” that obscured the pilots’ view. Things got so bad that in 2011 the Pentagon hired BAE Systems to build a back-up helmet in case the one in development couldn’t be rescued.”

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/checkpoint/wp/2015/04/01/meet-the-most-fascinating-part-of-the-f-35-the-400000-helmet/

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The $55 Billion Mystery Plan

“Highly classified, the program is one of the Air Force’s top priorities — and its most expensive. The service estimates it will cost $55 billion to build as many as 100 of what it calls the Long Range Strike Bomber, which is designed to fly deep into enemy territory undetected until the mushroom cloud begins to bloom.

In the coming months, the Air Force is expected to award a contract for the next-generation bomber, which would begin flying in the mid-2020s, have the potential to fly manned or unmanned and give the military the ability to hit any target “at any point on the globe.”

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/checkpoint/wp/2015/02/27/pentagons-55-billion-mystery-plane-is-secret-but-debate-over-cost-is-appearing/