FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Obama’s Defense Budget

by WINSLOW T. WHEELER

This week, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates is set to roll out the final details of the defense budget for 2010. Beware the articles and commentary you read; many will be factually inaccurate or misleading – mostly both.

This will be the third round of revelations about the 2010 Pentagon budget. On Feb. 26, we got the bare bones – just the total amount. On April 6, we got Gates’ decisions on 50 weapons programs. This week, we get all the rest – how much he seeks for every single other program and policy in the Pentagon.

The press will have a field day. The budget amounts will be spelled out with great precision in the national papers. Politicians will agonize over how much they think Gates has cut their own local just desserts or gush over the largesse for their home state. Think-tank pooh-bahs will bless us with their deep thoughts over how these details effectuate Gates’ “sweeping reforms” of the Pentagon – first announced on April 6.

I will try to restrain my irritation as I read this baloney.

For decades, the media have taken their descriptions of the size of the defense budget straight from the Pentagon’s annual press release – without even rudimentary double-checking. This year, they will cite the top-line dollar amount at $534 billion – the amount they reported on Feb. 26.

Wrong. That number ignores an additional $6 billion the Pentagon will get in “mandatory” appropriations, mostly for personnel-related expenses. The data are available from the Office of Management and Budget, but its press releases are more complicated.

Some, but not all, of the news articles will also ignore the additional $130 billion sought to finance the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Barring last-minute changes to the numbers by Gates and OMB, the correct amount for the president’s request for the Pentagon in 2010 will be $670 billion.

The articles will also leave out the money being sought by the Department of Energy for nuclear weapons and other appropriations, such as for the Selective Service and the National Defense Stockpile. Again, not in the DOD press release. Add another $22 billion.

Consider the human costs of current and previous wars in the Department of Veterans Affairs – surely, a legitimate defense cost. Add $106 billion.

Also consider the Department of Homeland Security: Add $43 billion.

What about the military and economic aid to Iraq and Afghanistan, gifts and loans to Israel and others, U.N. peacekeeping costs, and all the rest from the State Department? Add $49 billion.

Also, there is an account buried in the Department of the Treasury to help pay for military retirement. Add about $28 billion.

Each year, we pay interest on the national debt. People disagree, sometimes strenuously, on how much is DOD’s share. About 20 percent of federal spending goes to the Pentagon: That’s another $57 billion.

Add it all together, and you get $974 billion – almost $1 trillion.

If you want to know how much we spend for defense in a generic sense, you can about double the $534 billion many articles will report.

Finally, what about all those “sweeping changes” the think-tank pooh-bahs will declare they see in the Pentagon budget – well, actually, in its press release?

Didn’t happen.

For example, while Gates’ excellent decision to stop making ultra-high-cost, badly underperforming F-22 fighters opened the door for reform, he slammed it shut when he took advice to go with the F-35 fighter-bomber.

It is not just that the F-35 is literally designed to be a failure as a fighter and a mediocrity as a bomber; the program to acquire it is the antithesis of reform.

Consider this: The plan Gates has been persuaded to follow is to buy 510 F-35s before the flight testing is complete, and that testing will verify only 17 percent of the aircraft’s performance characteristics. The rest will be validated – if that’s the word you want to use – by simulation and desk studies.

It’s business as usual, pure and simple.

When you read the news articles later this week on the defense budget, consider it all an opportunity to assess the competence of journalism in the U.S. these days.

WINSLOW T. WHEELER spent 31 years working on Capitol Hill with senators from both political parties and the Government Accountability Office, specializing in national security affairs. Currently, he directs the Straus Military Reform Project of the Center for Defense Information in Washington. He is author of The Wastrels of Defense and the editor of a new anthology: ‘America’s Defense Meltdown: Pentagon Reform for President Obama and the New Congress’.

Winslow T. Wheeler is the Director of the Straus Military Reform Project at the Project on Government Oversight.  He spent 31 years working for the Government Accountability Office and both Republican and Democratic Senators on national security issues.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
February 17, 2017
Friday - Sunday
David Price
Rogue Elephant Rising: The CIA as Kingslayer
Matthew Stevenson
Is Trump the Worst President Ever?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Flynn?
John Wight
Brexit and Trump: Why Right is Not the New Left
Diana Johnstone
France: Another Ghastly Presidential Election Campaign; the Deep State Rises to the Surface
Neve Gordon
Trump’s One-State Option
Roger Harris
Emperor Trump Has No Clothes: Time to Organize!
Joan Roelofs
What Else is Wrong with Globalization
Andrew Levine
Why Trump’s Muslim Travel Ban?
Mike Whitney
Blood in the Water: the Trump Revolution Ends in a Whimper
Vijay Prashad
Trump, Turmoil and Resistance
Ron Jacobs
U.S. Imperial War Personified
David Swanson
Can the Climate Survive Adherence to War and Partisanship?
Andre Vltchek
Governor of Jakarta: Get Re-elected or Die!
Patrick Cockburn
The Coming Destruction of Mosul
Norman Pollack
Self-Devouring Reaction: Governmental Impasse
Steve Horn
What Do a Louisiana Pipeline Explosion and Dakota Access Pipeline Have in Common? Phillips 66
Brian Saady
Why Corporations are Too Big to Jail in the Drug War
Graham Peebles
Ethiopia: Peaceful Protest to Armed Uprising
Luke Meyer
The Case of Tony: Inside a Lifer Hearing
Binoy Kampmark
Adolf, The Donald and History
Robert Koehler
The Great American Awakening
Murray Dobbin
Canadians at Odds With Their Government on Israel
Fariborz Saremi
A Whole New World?
Joyce Nelson
Japan’s Abe, Trump & Illegal Leaks
Christopher Brauchli
Trump 1, Tillerson 0
Yves Engler
Is This Hate Speech?
Dan Bacher
Trump Administration Exempts Three CA Oil Fields From Water Protection Rule at Jerry Brown’s Request
Richard Klin
Solid Gold
Melissa Garriga
Anti-Abortion and Anti-Fascist Movements: More in Common Than Meets the Eye
Thomas Knapp
The Absurd Consequences of a “Right to Privacy”
W. T. Whitney
The Fate of Prisoner Simón Trinidad, as Seen by His U. S. Lawyer
Brian Platt
Don’t Just Oppose ICE Raids, Tear Down the Whole Racist Immigration Enforcement Regime
Paul Cantor
Refugee: the Compassionate Mind of Egon Schwartz
Norman Richmond
The Black Radical Tradition in Canada
Barton Kunstler
Rallying Against the Totalitarian Specter
Judith Deutsch
Militarism:  Revolutionary Mothering and Rosie the Riveter
Nyla Ali Khan
Kashmir Evoked a Lot More International Attention in the 1950s Than It Does Now
Adam Phillips
There Isn’t Any There There
Louis Proyect
Steinbeck’s Red Devils
Randy Shields
Left Coast Date: the Dating Site for the ORWACA Tribe
Charles R. Larson
Review: Bill Hayes’ “Insomniac City”
David Yearsley
White Supremacy and Music Theory
February 16, 2017
Peter Gaffney
The Rage of Caliban: Identity Politics, the Travel Ban, and the Shifting Ideological Framework of the Resistance
Ramzy Baroud
Farewell to Doublespeak: Israel’s Terrifying Vision for the Future
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail