FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Pentagon’s $125 Billion Cover-Up

Photo by Wendy Seltzer | CC BY 2.0

Photo by Wendy Seltzer | CC BY 2.0

 

Let’s say you ask somebody a question. They give you an answer you don’t like, so you pretend you didn’t hear it. Probably all of us would cop to something like this at some time in our imperfect pasts.

For most of us though, that pretending hasn’t included trying to hide $125 billion.

The Pentagon has a little image problem: Google “Pentagon waste” and you get more than 500,000 hits, including stories about $600 toilet seats and $7,600 coffee makers. The finances of the largest agency in the federal government are so screwed up, it’s the only one that still can’t pass an audit.

So a couple of years ago the Pentagon paid some consultants to find ways to cut down on this waste. If some good ideas came out of this, Pentagon officials figured, they could show how concerned with efficiency they were and apply the savings to their wish lists of pet military projects.

It didn’t turn out quite that way.

In three months the Pentagon brass had on their desks a report outlining $125 billion in proposed cuts — nearly a quarter of the total budget — mostly to the workforce that manages things like accounting, human resources, and property management for this enormous operation. This workforce has ballooned in the last decade, even as the ranks of soldiers, sailors, and airmen and women have shrunk.

The report didn’t even get to the real waste in the Pentagon budget, like the $1 trillion it’s planning to spend to replace our entire nuclear arsenal, or the $1.4 trillion it’s shelling out on the F-35, a plane that after 19 years in development still can’t reliably beat the models we already have.

But it still made the Pentagon leadership nervous. They’re in the midst of pleading poverty. They go around talking about a “gutted” military, even as that military sits on more money than the Reagan administration ever gave it.

OMG, they thought: What if this blueprint for cutting waste resulted in actual cuts to their budget?

What if, instead of being plowed back into other military projects, that $125 billion were freed up for roads or schools or green energy, or applied to the deficit?

They couldn’t let that happen. So they pretended not to hear this news and buried the report.

It blew up on them when a recent Washington Post story exposed this act of suppression. Now it’s generating exactly the sort of media attention they were trying to avoid.

Members of Congress have vowed to get to the bottom of this cover-up of billions in wasted taxpayer money. “If this is true, the Pentagon played Congress and the American public for fools,” Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill said.

In a way, this $125 billion is funding a big federal jobs program — more than a million people doing jobs that a fraction of them could handle just fine. But this is the kind of make-work program conservatives have been complaining about for years.

Why not use the savings outlined in the report — and billions more, by saying no to budget-busting weapon systems we don’t need — and put people to work doing things our country actually needs? Like educating our children, making the transition to clean energy, and building the transit systems we need to boost the economy and avoid the worst effects of climate change.

The country is in a no-more-business-as-usual mood right now. Let’s make sure that applies to the Pentagon.

More articles by:

Miriam Pemberton is a Research Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies, writing and speaking on demilitarization issues for its Foreign Policy In Focus project. She has recently published a report, “Military vs. Climate Security: Mapping the Shift from the Bush Years to the Obama Era.”

Weekend Edition
December 14, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
A Tale of Two Cities
Peter Linebaugh
The Significance of The Common Wind
Bruce E. Levine
The Ketamine Chorus: NYT Trumpets New Anti-Suicide Drug
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Fathers and Sons, Bushes and Bin Ladens
Kathy Deacon
Coffee, Social Stratification and the Retail Sector in a Small Maritime Village
Nick Pemberton
Praise For America’s Second Leading Intellectual
Robert Hunziker
The Yellow Vest Insurgency – What’s Next?
Patrick Cockburn
The Yemeni Dead: Six Times Higher Than Previously Reported
Nick Alexandrov
George H. W. Bush: Another Eulogy
Brian Cloughley
Principles and Morality Versus Cash and Profit? No Contest
Michael Duggin
Climate Change and the Limits of Reason
Victor Grossman
Sighs of Relief in Germany
Ron Jacobs
A Propagandist of Privatization
Robert Fantina
What Does Beto Have Against the Palestinians?
Richard Falk – Daniel Falcone
Sartre, Said, Chomsky and the Meaning of the Public Intellectual
Andrew Glikson
Crimes Against the Earth
Robert Fisk
The Parasitic Relationship Between Power and the American Media
Stephen Cooper
When Will Journalism Grapple With the Ethics of Interviewing Mentally Ill Arrestees?
Jill Richardson
A War on Science, Morals and Law
Ron Jacobs
A Propagandist of Privatization
Evaggelos Vallianatos
It’s Not Easy Being Greek
Nomi Prins 
The Inequality Gap on a Planet Growing More Extreme
John W. Whitehead
Know Your Rights or You Will Lose Them
David Swanson
The Abolition of War Requires New Thoughts, Words, and Actions
J.P. Linstroth
Primates Are Us
Bill Willers
The War Against Cash
Jonah Raskin
Doris Lessing: What’s There to Celebrate?
Ralph Nader
Are the New Congressional Progressives Real? Use These Yardsticks to Find Out
Binoy Kampmark
William Blum: Anti-Imperial Advocate
Medea Benjamin – Alice Slater
Green New Deal Advocates Should Address Militarism
John Feffer
Review: Season 2 of Trump Presidency
Rich Whitney
General Motors’ Factories Should Not Be Closed. They Should Be Turned Over to the Workers
Christopher Brauchli
Deported for Christmas
Kerri Kennedy
This Holiday Season, I’m Standing With Migrants
Mel Gurtov
Weaponizing Humanitarian Aid
Thomas Knapp
Lame Duck Shutdown Theater Time: Pride Goeth Before a Wall?
George Wuerthner
The Thrill Bike Threat to the Elkhorn Mountains
Nyla Ali Khan
A Woman’s Selfhood and Her Ability to Act in the Public Domain: Resilience of Nadia Murad
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
On the Killing of an Ash Tree
Graham Peebles
Britain’s Homeless Crisis
Louis Proyect
America: a Breeding Ground for Maladjustment
Steve Carlson
A Hell of a Time
Dan Corjescu
America and The Last Ship
Jeffrey St. Clair
Booked Up: the 25 Best Books of 2018
David Yearsley
Bikini by Rita, Voice by Anita
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail