military spending weapons arms department of defense

How to Reform the Pentagon and Cut Its Budget
budget pentagon

Obama, GOP freshmen win in jet engine budget fight

Spending so much public money for war paints a bleak picture of reality and makes it harder for many people to believe the potential for a better world, despite how we tax and spend being a key and convenient way to bring about a world most humans would want. We trim, blend, and append three 2011 articles from: (1) Taxpayers for Common Sense, Feb 4 (Volume XVI No. 5), on not collecting debts; (2) t r u t h o u t, Feb 9, on audits by Dina Rasor; and (3) Associated Press, Feb 16, on one cut by David Espo.

One number that floats to the top of current news reports about the unrest in Egypt is the more than $1.3 billion worth of military equipment we sell that country each year. US law stipulates that we loan Egypt money to purchase military equipment, but Egypt has to buy it from US military manufacturers.

The US weapons industry sold more than $68 billion worth of arms to developing countries between 2006 and 2009. The budget request to develop these weapons by the US Department of Defense for year alone, FY2010, topped $78 billion.

JJS: This organization, Taxpayers for Common Sense, want Congress to live up to its own law and charge the countries who receive US weapons to pay a small fee, something the US is not now doing. Nor is its Department of Defense in compliance with the requirement to perform or allow audits of its entire budget.

Reforming the DoD, getting control of its budget, and making weapons that truly work are massive tasks that have eluded reformers for years. Many patriotic whistleblowers and internal sources have risked everything to try to change the Pentagon for the sake of the troops and the country, only to have their lives ruined or become very disillusioned as they continue to work in the Pentagon and find that their sacrifices were for naught.

The weapons companies, high-ranking military and civilian personnel, and members of Congress, argue:
* We will hurt national security
* If we cut, we will be cutting bone instead of fat
* This new generation of airplane, ship or tank is absolutely necessary to defeat our enemies
* Questioning costs and cutting defense money will show our enemies that we are weak
* We want the best for our boys (a favorite of some of our upper officer corps even though it has been shown that they pick money over troops year after year)
* And the final bastion: if we cut, we will lose a massive amount of jobs during these hard economic times

At $707 billion, the defense budget, bigger than ever. Big spending advocates point to China, with a defense budget variously estimated at from $80 to $180 billion per year, as the future threat we must prepare against. But, if we add the highest available defense budget estimates for China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, and Cuba and then double that sum, the Pentagon still spends more. As to the threat of terrorism, we almost certainly spend more in one day than al Qaeda, the Taliban, and all their affiliates spend in an entire year.

Right now, the Pentagon does not know how or where it spends its money. As the Government Accountability Office and DOD's own Office of the Inspector General have reported for decades, the Pentagon cannot track the money it spends. Routinely, DOD does not know if it has paid contactors once, twice, or not at all. It does not know how many contractors it has, how many they employ, and what they are doing.

In sharp contrast to almost every other federal agency, the Pentagon has failed to comply with the CFO Act, let alone with the Constitution's much more sweeping and absolute requirement for accountability.

How do we fix this mess of a government department? Auditing the Pentagon would start the process of laying out ideas for cutting waste in many areas of DoD spending.

To see the entire article, click here .

JJS: Of course, for any organization spending trillions, audits are necessary. But that evades the question of war preparation should be granted trillions of dollars in the first place. Whether it should or not, at least that there has been some pullback.

House Republican freshmen and President Barack Obama scored their biggest victory to date in a vote to cancel $450 million for an alternative engine for the Pentagon's next-generation warplane, the F-35, the costliest weapons program in US history.

Two successive presidents as well as the Pentagon brass have tried to scrap funding for the alternative engine, arguing it is a waste of money. Congress, Democratic or Republican, always prevailed until recently.

Supporters of the project are likely to try and preserve it when the Senate debates its version of the bill.

The fight over the alternative engine has long been more a regional clash than a partisan issue, supported by Congressmen representing areas where weapons factories are located.

This incursion into the defense budget occurred as the Republican-controlled House debated legislation to cut federal spending by more than $61 billion through the end of the current fiscal year. Nearly all of the reductions are aimed at domestic programs, ranging from education aid to nutrition, environmental protection and farm programs.

To see the entire article, click here .

JJS: Its funny, if not sad, that a small rational step is big news. I bet if Americans were receiving a Citizens Dividend, especially one from recovered rents, then they would be enjoying so much material security they could free themselves from dependency upon unsustainable spending on preparing for a war that hopefully never happens.

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Editor Jeffery J. Smith runs the Forum on Geonomics.

Also see:

Why Pay the Privileged our Public Money?
http://www.progress.org/2010/depend.htm

US outspends everyone on arms, funding enemies, to
http://www.progress.org/2010/zewail.htm

Major daily US paper pushes cutting war spending
http://www.progress.org/2010/military.htm

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