20
Sat, Apr

Not Till the Pentagon Can Pass Basic Arithmetic

WORLD WATCH

ACCORDING TO LIZ –

Disgusting.

The United States on Friday blocked a U.N. resolution calling for an immediate cease-fire in Gaza, and then Biden’s State Department authorized sale of Gazan-killing armaments to Israel over the objections of Congress.

Do you really think these decisions were made because any alternative would allow Hamas to regroup? Or was it just another sure-fire opportunity for the Pentagon’s buddies to make more money selling weapons?

And for the military-industrial complex to further entrench itself in D.C. politics?

It certainly didn’t improve the impression of the United States as a compassionate and caring country in the eyes of a majority of Americans and the rest of the world.

Wholescale murder by the Israeli “Defense” Forces gives Israel and its bullyboy Biden government a black eye. One from which it may never recover.

The Republicans may whine about the budget deficit – so long as it doesn’t impact their major donors, and the Democrats may want more for urgent social programs here and around the world... but accountability for what does get funded is an essential factor of any budget. Dollars approved balancing expenses out.

The largest single discretionary expense in the U.S. budget is for the military. Almost one TRILLION dollars. A year. And growing exponentially.

Three-quarters of that flows into the Pentagon’s coffers with the balance of this taxpayer largesse handed out like candy on Halloween to the equally profligate Departments of Homeland Security, State, and Veterans Affairs.

A lot of moolah. Yes? But what department can’t document their expenses, balance their budget? What department has NEVER done so?

Yes, the Pentagon.

This lack of accountability has ensured that NO-ONE, let alone the Department of Defense or its Chiefs of Staff, has a clue about how much has been spent on equipment, on training, on contractors, on infrastructure. No-one knows what is in stock, what has been expended, or how much matérial is lost, stolen or strayed.

Pretty frightening considering the crazies running around Washington these days, let alone the lucrative market for American weapons all over the world.

And if the Pentagon has proven itself incapable of self-auditing despite it being mandated since 1990, should it be trusted with any MORE of our money without direct and transparent day-to-day OMB oversight?

But... appropriate oversight and effective audits of the Pentagon and its wasteful ways would throw a fiscal wrench into the cozy ways of a for-profit private sector that has profited for decades from lack of serious, no any, oversight or basic accountability.

Why require documentation from contractors on staffing, products and milestones if budgets can easily be diverted to more profitable projects?

Why demand competitive bidding practices if side-deals can be more easily concealed in non-compete clauses?

And why bother with deadlines or equipment that actually works if you can string people along, garnering more and larger overrun approvals by politicians who fear that the Pentagon might threaten the pork showered on their constituents?

So how did it come to this?

If arcane procurement requirements flourish on non-compete clauses encouraging rampant fraud, the solution is to remove them. Not continue hemorrhaging $10,000 for toilet seat covers, $1,220 for hot-cup handles, $8,000 each for $500 helicopter gears, $7,600 for coffee pots, and the billions of dollars the Pentagon slathered on private profiteering companies like Dick Cheney’s Halliburton and the disgraced military contractor Blackwater.

Reasonable oversight, at least in any normal business, would have prevented or re-sourced $150 million for staff villas in Afghanistan, $2.7 billion for unusable air surveillance balloons, $25 million wasted on a never-used US military headquarters in Helmand Province, uncountable amounts paid out to thousands of names on military rolls whose salaries are diverted for purposes unknown, billions invested in a disintegrating highway supposed started to link major cities in Afghanistan, and $43 million for a gas station in the middle of nowhere.

From the $2 billion in massive cost overruns on the C-5A transport plane in the 1960s to the $1.5 trillion-and-rising lifetime price on its F-35, Lockheed has leveraged American politicians by claiming in bygone days that price controls would cost 34,000 jobs in 35 states for the C-5A, to asserting in 2016 that the F-35 would generate 125,000 jobs in 46 states. B.S.

And now we have the likes of Google and Amazon competing with tech start-ups such as Palantir and OpenAI to join the mainstream military corporations of Lockheed, Raytheon and Northrop Grumman in designing remote computerized death.

So the greedy maw of the military increasingly benefits from domestic decisions. And the Biden administration just selected defense contractor BAE systems as the first recipient of its (our) funding for American-made computer chips.

Even with the ever-upwardly spiraling budgets that Presidents and Congress are suckered into approving again and again and again, the weapons industry is NOT a statistically significant creator of employment across the country being vastly outperformed by investment in infrastructure, housing, education and other areas with lasting positive impact on Americans’ lives here at home.

Perhaps the worst example of Pentagon-eroticism was what Bernie Sanders dubbed “payoffs for layoffs”: the Clinton administration’s subsidizing of major defense firm mergers by paying the costs of closing down factories and golden parachutes for displaced executives and board members leaving unemployed workers jobless and penniless.

If one peers further behind the stories about toilet seats and highways-to-nowhere, one can perceive the critical underlying cause, the perennial Washington problem of revolving doors between government and industry.

A 2021 GAO report documented that an astounding 1,700 senior government officials took positions in the defense industry over a five-year period. A more recent study by the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft found that “over 80% of retired four-star generals and admirals (26 of 32) went on to work in the arms sector as board members, advisers, lobbyists, or consultants.”

Biden’s military perspective is informed by the likes of Lloyd Austin who flipped from the cesspools of the Afghanistan and Iraq campaigns to the board of Raytheon and then onto the National Security Council as Secretary of Defense.

The spurious claim by Military Media that any “general with 30 years of experience in the field and on campaigns is probably in a good position to provide key insights and advice” ignores the basic fact that such a general may have a very skewed perception of the world on one hand and that, with the acceleration of technologies innovation, his vision would be almost certainly out of date as soon as he took off his uniform.

Yup, senior military staff may still have connections in the halls of the five-sided building in Virginia, but the passage of any real information should be treated as treason. And many people today question the morals of anyone who chooses a career in law enforcement or the military.

Not only is this a deeply disturbing trend with regards to purchases and budgeting, it also underscores the danger that the self-interest of the corporate entities profiting off the Pentagon have on shaping American bellicosity. War and insurrections mean higher sales and inordinate revenues.

Peace and worldwide prosperity do not.

It’s beyond time for Congress to bring the axe down on the revolving door and its dystopian sphere of influence.

The Pentagon and the armaments industry have infiltrated the back rooms of decision-making with warmongering and well-paid political allies advocating military intervention and driving the development and sales of increasingly destructive and costly weaponry over diplomacy and mediation. Death over life.

The only way now to reduce their power is to starve the beast.

Directives and outside legislation have not helped.

If six BILLION dollars spent so far attempting to fix its audit problem internally hasn’t worked, its time to give the Pentagon some real incentive:

Congress should not approve ANY funding for the Pentagon whatsoever until it can document what it has done with all the tax dollars it has already received.

No more blank checks.  No more checks at all.

And it must forever ban Presidents from waging war without explicit approval from Congress. That includes allowing for the transfer of weapons and military skills to murder innocent civilians.

Anywhere.

(Liz Amsden is a contributor to CityWatch and an activist from Northeast Los Angeles with opinions on much of what goes on in our lives. She has written extensively on the City's budget and services as well as her many other interests and passions.  In her real life she works on budgets for film and television where fiction can rarely be as strange as the truth of living in today's world.)