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To end the wars, end blowback. To end blowback, dismantle the self-licking ice cream cones

Given that the 12-Point Platform has this plank:

10. End the Wars

I've come to the conclusion, with a sense of dawning horror, that I actually have to develop some views on defense policy.* Which is complicated. However, since we're now entering the budget season, it seems natural to take a look at the defense budget. And leaving aside from squillion-dollar anecdotes, like the F-35 boondoggle, what seems really remarkable, to my naive eye, is that the Pentagon doesn't actually know what it's sending that trillion dollar budget on. In contrast, Obama just decided to publish yearly physican payment data under Medicare. OK, fine, but how come the Pentagon gets a pass when it comes to "yearly contractor payment data," anyhow?** Seems like a double standard...) Foreign Policy:

The Pentagon has never been audited, despite having a budget larger than any other federal agency anywhere in the world. Despite a coalition spanning Ralph Nader to Grover Norquist, the agency has resisted the fiscal accountability requirements imposed by law on every other branch of the government. The Defense Department has for years slow-rolled demands to get its books in order, though now claims to be on the verge of readiness to have independent auditors come in to inspect and validate its accounts. But signs of dysfunction, waste, and corruption persist, and a complete audit during the next two years is not guaranteed.

"Never been audited." What could go wrong?

For example, personnel:

[T]he Defense Department [for some reason!] has not produced a realistic plan to make [personnel cuts — and can’t say how many people it has or needs at its management headquarters.

In a new report, the Government Accountability Office described an unwieldy personnel system that seems unable to account for the size of military and civilian staffs at the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Staff and the Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force secretariats and staffs — all headquarters that ballooned in size after the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and have only recently begun to level off.

Many of these in the 20%, I would bet.

Compounding the problem, contractors form a large chunk of these employees, but DOD does not have an accurate handle on how large, auditors found.


“Without a systematic determination of personnel requirements and periodic reassessment of them, DOD will not be well positioned to proactively identify efficiencies and limit personnel growth within these headquarters organizations,”

BWA-HA-HA-HA-HA!!!!!! No indeed.

Anyhow, Pentagon bloat is one area where a strange bedfellows coalition does seem to be possible. William Hartung in HuffPo:

Last year Representatives Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Michael Burgess (R-TX) introduced a bill that would have reduced spending on sections of the Pentagon that cannot be audited by one-half of one percent, as an incentive for the department to clean up its act. Hopefully Congress will take up a similar measure this year.

Great idea. But one-half-of one percent seems a little light. How about 50%?

* * *

So, toying with what will at some point evolve into actual recommendations:

1) Before I forget, let me say that I think it's time to give the Department of Defense its original name back: The Department of War. For one thing, the DoD isn't really very adept at defending us; it keeps losing wars, for example. More centrally, war is a serious business, too serious to lie ourselves into it with Orwellian languagel

2) "Audit the Pentagon," with the percentages in the Lee-Burgess bill adjusted to have real teeth;

3) Audit for self-licking ice cream cones, with a view to dismantling them. At this point, I freely admit I don't know how to do that. However, I'm reasonably sure that a similar approach to William R. Black's recipe for accounting control fraud would bear fruit, and one we understand the institutional factors, we can set about monkey-wrenching them. (Pentagon PR and planted material in the press probably has a lot to do with the process.)

Anyhow, quick thoughts. I don't think fighting about the minutiae of billion-dollar programs and weapons systems is the way to go -- though the F-35 is so bad, it's like trophy animal for boondogglery. We need to stop these systems from reproducing themselves by making the problems they were sold as solving worse. I suppose I need to read Chalmers Johnson on blowback.

NOTE * End the wars also means ending the drug war, ending the militarization of the police, and ending the surveillance state.

NOTE ** Because the elite want to gut and then privatize Medicare, of course, but that's another story.

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nippersdad's picture
Submitted by nippersdad on

to underscore what a shibboleth any budget cuts to the security state have become? Maybe there is method to the madness. Lee is an interesting politician sometimes.

I think it is pretty obvious that they CANNOT be audited because of things like the pallets of cash disappearing in Iraq. A system built on graft, mercenaries and CIA incompetence would not welcome the spotlight that an audit would present. The pols are all culpable, and where everyone is guilty, no one is.

Submitted by lambert on

I think what we can't audit, we shouldn't be doing, if only because that's an open invitation to crime and corruption.

I'm looking for a big hammer, here, so I don't have to go down in the weeds on detail.

nippersdad's picture
Submitted by nippersdad on

I have long thought that the MIC was corrupt to the core, and that letting some sunshine in on their doings is long past due. I'm just sayin' that perhaps this is Lee's way of pointing out that something smells bad in the basement. The present cabal is a group that imprisons people for pointing out that they are corrupt, after all. I guess we should just be happy that that is all they are known for (at the moment).

If you need a big hammer you couldn't look in a better place to find one than the Department of Defense these days.

Submitted by lambert on

It seems like in 21st Century America, the Rubicon was a sort of vast swamp. We seem to be the in process of crossing it.

nippersdad's picture
Submitted by nippersdad on

that they need to classify the results you know that you are in deep shit. I have to say that I thought that this was kind of funny; appalling, but funny. Prior to the invasion I was pointing out that Afghanistan was called the "graveyard of empire" for a reason.

Maybe there is a silver lining?

Jill's picture
Submitted by Jill on

The surveillance state has to be costing trillions of dollars. There are agencies upon agencies working on this. We have satellites trained on the earth, drones, fusion centers-honestly, I don't think my city would have any money at all if not for the jobs created by the govt. to spy on the Muslim community here! (And they are spying on a bunch of other groups as well.)

So Lambert, do you really want to get rid of this jobs creator?

It's got to be trillions and we really know almost nothing about it as mere citizens.

Submitted by lambert on

One of the horrible things is how the real economy is distorted. Imagine all that engineering talent put to some useful social purpose.

All this stuff is meta!