post

Congress Gives the Pentagon a Holiday Bonanza

Before rushing home to joyously celebrate the holidays with friends, family and campaign donors, Congress made sure that the apple of its eye– the Pentagon – was tucked in all warm and cozy, secure with the knowledge that it would be living large in the next fiscal year.

santa jetsLawmakers passed the$1.013 trillion “cromnibus” spending bill, giving the Pentagon $554 billion, while other departments such as Education (student loans, funding for schools in low-income areas), Housing and Urban Development (home loans, programs for the homeless), Agriculture (food safety inspection programs, food stamps) the Transportation (road and bridge maintenance), Health and Human Services (vaccines, medical research, Head Start), and the others are forced to split the difference.

They also included a $64 billion slush fund for the Pentagon – which, ironically, would make the slush fund the fifth largest federal agency by budget. As we’ve mentioned before, the slush fund (also known as the Overseas Contingency Operations fund), was set up by Congress to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan following 9-11. But it is now being used by Congress and the Pentagon to pay for pet projects.

Some of the goodies lawmakers placed under the Pentagon’s tree include four more F-35 jet planes, the most expensive weapon (and waste of money) in history, than the military requested, as well as extra ships, jets, drones, and helicopters.

But being the favorite can also lead to becoming a spoiled brat, as is the case with the Pentagon. Even as the DoD watches other departments suffer from severe budget cuts, and the United States spends more on defense than the next 10 countries combined, Pentagon officials and their war hawk friends are still bellyaching that the department needs more money. Which is definitely not true.

Oh well – at least the Pentagon is making sure the skies will be safe for Santa.

post

The Pentagon’s Budget Is Still Sky High – And It Has A Slush Fund

Over the weekend Congress passed a $1.1 trillion spending bill, affectionately referred to as the “cromnibus” by those inside the beltway because it is part continuing resolution and part omnibus spending bill.

pentagon_history 630The cromnibus gives the Pentagon $554 billion, which, according to a new article in Mother Jones magazine, is “close to what is got during the height of the Iraq war,” when the United States had tens of thousands of troops in the country. In fact, the author points out that even with the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, Pentagon spending remains at its highest levels since World War II.

Now, we’ve heard a lot about how “draconian” spending cuts are “hurting” the military. Of course, pundits are always saying that the Pentagon needs more money.

But low and behold, it appears that these cries are just a lot of hot air coming war hawks and Pentagon officials who want more expensive, shiny things that go boom.

And while programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP or food stamps), have suffered from drastic cuts, the Pentagon even has its own slush fund.

So what is the Pentagon’s slush fund? A new article in Politico Magazine tells you everything you need to about it – including why the slush fund is a dream come true for the Pentagon, and a nightmare for taxpayers.

The slush fund, also known as the Overseas Contingency Operations fund, was set up after 9-11 to “temporarily” fund “emergency” operations in Afghanistan (and later Iraq). The slush fund has now become a behemoth (its funding levels would equal that of the fifth largest government agency) that Congress and the Pentagon use to pay for their pet projects and pad the military’s budget.

In fact, a military budget expert estimated that the Pentagon’s original slush fund request contained more than $30 billion in programs that are unrelated to operations in Afghanistan. Now does this sound like a Pentagon that is hurting for funds?

So the next time you hear someone talking about how the Pentagon needs more money, take it with a grain so salt. And remember – domestic programs don’t have their own slush funds.

post

The Pentagon Wastes Too Much Money – That Could Be Put To Better Use

Today Fareed Zakaria came out with an excellent opinion editorial in the Washington Post – Can Ashton Carter rein in a Pentagon out of control? The piece highlights many of the problems in the Pentagon, particularly the massive amounts of wasteful spending that takes place every year.

taxes_pentagon_waste_bumper_sticker-300x300With one Pentagon program alone, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the cost overruns are around $160 billion. That’s more than the total defense budgets of Britain and France – combined. Not to mention that the F-35 is so riddled with technical and structural problems that it is unlikely to ever perform as advertised.

And this isn’t even the tip of the iceberg. In fact, the Pentagon’s budget problems are so vast that it can’t even pass an audit.

As Zakaria points out, Republicans always seem concerned about wasteful government spending – except when it comes to the Pentagon. One wonders if the new Republican majority in Congress is going to finally demand some fiscal discipline from the largest government bureaucracy in the world. (yeah, right…)

Of course, the billions of dollars the Pentagon wastes every year could go towards things people actually need – like education, health care, heating assistance, food stamps, road and infrastructure improvements…the list goes on.

And even with the new Secretary of Defense coming in, not much is likely to change.

That is, unless we do something about it. We must step up and get the word out to our friends and family, and put pressure on our elected officials to make change happen. After all, in the words of Frederick Douglass: “Power concedes nothing without demand. It never did and it never will.”

And you can start now by sharing this blog.

post

Make the Pentagon Explain How It is Spending Our Money

Earlier this month, the White House asked Congress to give the Pentagon $5 billion more in war funds than it had originally requested, saying that it “needs” the money to fight ISIS. The Pentagon had already asked for $58.6 billion in war funds, on top of its $498 billion base budget.

pentagon-fraudThe funny thing is that the original war fund request was loaded with about $30 billion in excess “slush” funds, so one wonders why the Pentagon needs more money. Especially since it had just tried to buy a bunch of inoperable (but very expensive) planes it can’t use with war slush funds.

While some lawmakers are opposed to handing the Pentagon an extra $5 billion, most experts predict Congress will give it to them anyway – without ever asking how last year’s war funds were spent or trying to get an explanation of how they plan to use the original $58.6 billion request.

Too bad – because that is exactly what Congress needs to do.

Blindly giving the Pentagon billion of dollars without any clue about how it will be used can only lead to wasteful spending. Just look at the tens of billions of dollars the Pentagon blew in Iraq and Afghanistan and continues to waste here at home.

America has other priorities we need to fund – education, health care, infrastructure improvements – the list goes on. Every dollar the Pentagon wastes is a dollar that could be used to feed a hungry child or pay for much needed medical research.

It’s time for Congress to stop giving the Pentagon a “hall pass” on wasting our tax dollars and start taking its oversight authority seriously. Lawmakers can begin by making the Pentagon explain how it is using the war funds. And if the Pentagon can’t tell us how the money is spent, Congress needs to cut their funding.

Share this article if you agree.

post

Former Reagan Defense Official: Don’t Buy the Defense Hawks’ Budget Bellyaching

In an great op-ed published today in US News and World Report, “Don’t Buy the Defense Hawks’ Budget Bellyaching,” Lawrence Korb, a former assistant secretary of defense during the Reagan administration and currently a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, lays in to defense (war) hawks who say the Pentagon needs more money.

bellyacheKorb, whose job it was to administer about 70 percent of the defense budget, pointed out that the “terrified” hawks “bellyaching” about the budget leaves out a number of important facts, including:

The Pentagon’s almost half a trillion dollar base budget is still at historically high levels – more, in fact, in 2014 dollars than during the Reagan administration!

The Pentagon has a separate war budget (many call it a slush fund) – the administration recently upped its request and is now asking for $63.6 billion next fiscal year – even though most US troops will have left Afghanistan.

The United States accounts for almost 40% of all the world’s military expenditures. Add in the amount our allies are spending, and that number jumps significantly.

Korb also rightly points out that both the Pentagon and Congress waste billions of dollars every year on expensive projects like plane that doesn’t work and by simply throwing money away. He also points out that Congress refuses to let the Pentagon undertake sensible spending reforms that would save billions of dollars a year.

As Korb states: “[a]rguing that the defense department needs a bunch of additional cash while refusing to let it make these sensible cuts is having your cake and eating it, too.”

Read the entire op-ed here.

post

Experts: GOPers Who Say the Pentagon Needs More Money for ISIS are Full of It

In an article published in The Hill this week, military experts blast Republicans for saying that because of ISIS the Pentagon should get more money.

No BS“The technical term for that is bullsh*t,” said Stan Collender, executive vice president at Qorvis MSLGROUP according to The Hill. “They’re just using it as an excuse to raise the defense cap,” Collender said. “The truth is that long before ISIS, the defense community was lobbying to get rid of sequestration so they’re just taking advantage of what was presented to them, to spin the situation.”

When it comes to the Pentagon. Republicans tend to throw their “fiscal restraint” out the door.

In fact, the so-called sequester “cuts” Republicans are complaining about are actually a decreased rate of increased spending for the Pentagon. The Pentagon’s budget isn’t being cut, it’s going up – just not as fast as they would like.

So these GOPers are just crying wolf so they can get more money to their favorite wasteful programs.

Military experts are also calling out Republicans’ and the Pentagon’s cries to add more money to the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) war budget slush fund.

The White House has requested $56.8 billion dollars for the slush fund next year to pay for the closing of the war in Afghanistan. But with that conflict ending at the end of this year, $58.6 billion is an awful lot of money for a war that will have ended.

For years, Congress and the Pentagon have been using the slush fund to pay for things not at all related to the war. And now we hear rumors that Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel plans to submit a larger war budget slush fund request to Congress in the coming weeks.

The article also quotes Lindsay Koshgarian, research director at the National Priorities Project, which tracks federal spending, calling arguments that sequestration could threaten the ISIS fight “perplexing.” She said if U.S. operations remain the same, the war could only cost $3 billion per year — a small slice of the OCO.

Koshgarian noted that the Pentagon also requested a chunk of the [slush] fund to pay for F-35 jets, among other things. “That’s only the tip of the iceberg,” she said. “There’s a huge pot of untapped funds there that the Pentagon has at their disposal.”

Indeed, there is plenty of money at the Pentagon. So much, in fact, that the Pentagon wastes tens of billions (or more) every year and nobody even notices.

As calls to give the Pentagon more money get louder over the coming weeks and months, we need be questioning not only if these funds are necessary (they’re not), but also what they will cost us.

post

Groups Urge Congress on Wasteful Pentagon Spending

Today, twenty-four groups from the left, right and middle send a letter recommending specific actions Congress can take to reduce wasteful spending at the Pentagon.

p wasteThe letter was sent to the House and Senate Armed Services Committee members, who will be considering the Fiscal Year 2015 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) after the elections. The NDAA is the bill that specifies what the Pentagon can, and can’t, spend money on.

The Pentagon and some members of Congress are complaining (yet again) that the military doesn’t have enough money. But we know that isn’t true.

Every year the Pentagon wastes tens of billions of our tax dollars – and most “fiscally conservative” Republicans don’t even blink an eye. If you want to spend a trillion and a half dollars on a plane that doesn’t work – sign them up!

Of course, these are the same Republicans who want to cut funding for SNAP (food stamps), the National Institutes of Health, Social Security, road and bridge upkeep, and all the other things that keep us safe and alive every day in order reduce the deficit.

Specifically, the groups urge lawmakers to:

  • Stop overfunding the Pentagon’s “emergency” war spending slush fund
  • Not buy any more F-35’s than has already been authorized (you know, the planes that don’t work)
  • Only buy two of the (very sinkable) Littoral Combat Ships
  • Not increase funding to modify a tank the Pentagon doesn’t want.

The war funding slush fund (also called the Overseas Contingency Operations account), has been used by Congress and the Pentagon to avoid spending reductions and pay for their pet projects. Last month the Pentagon even tried to use the slush fund to buy more of those planes that don’t work!

Experts have wanted to see the other programs cancelled for years.

Clearly, the Pentagon doesn’t need any more money – those who say otherwise are simply playing politics. However, these recommendations will go a long way towards saving taxpayer dollars and keeping the Pentagon’s budget in check.

post

What this new war will cost us (not just lives and money)

So America is fighting a new war. Bombs are being dropped, “boots” (i.e. soldiers) are on the ground, and a coalition has been formed to fight the enemy(ies). All of this has been set in motion without any vote or debate about whether or not this is something the American people want to do, how far we are willing to go for this cause, and what we are willing to sacrifice in both lives and money.

Pentagon MoneyWithout question American lives are going to be lost in this fight. How many depend on how deeply we ultimately get involved. Fortunately, very few people want to see a replay of the last war in Iraq, but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen.

Another issue is the cost. The Pentagon says that we are spending between $7 and 10 million a day on the war – a figure that is likely to increase. The Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments estimates the costs could range from $2.4 billion to over $22 billion per year, depending on the number of troops we put on the ground. Other all-inclusive estimates put the costs significantly higher.

Largest Military Budget in the World

Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle are citing this new war as a reason to increase the Pentagon’s already bloated budget.

The United States has by far the largest military budget in the world. Those who say that the Pentagon’s budget has been slashed are being disingenuous at best. We spend more on the military then the next nine countries combined – most of those countries are our allies. The Pentagon’s proposed budget is more than $550 billion for 2015, which keeps the budget at one of the highest levels since WWII.

With Republicans unlikely to raise taxes, the only source of income to pay for the increase cuts to other areas of the budget. That is, cuts to things like education, Veterans’ benefits, infrastructure improvements, cancer research, food and water safety monitoring – you know, the stuff we depend on ever day.

Republicans have already significantly slashed these budgets – as reflected in the steep cuts to SNAP (food stamps), the National Institutes of Health, and even the Secret Service. Now they are hoping to use the war to enact further cuts.

The Pentagon’s Budget is Loaded with Waste

Every year billions of dollars are wasted at the Pentagon. And this new fighting ensures it will only get worse. The Pentagon finances are in such disarray that it can’t even pass and audit – something it has been required (and failed) to do for more than 20 years.

In addition to its base budget, the Pentagon has a separate war budget (called the Overseas Contingency Operations account, or OCO). The war budget was set up to pay for the wars is Iraq and Afghanistan, but in recent years has been used to pay for things not connected to the wars. Last year, Congress added tens of billions more to the war budget than was needed. Now it appears they want to do the same thing again.

Many people consider the OCO war budget to be a slush fund used by Congress and the Pentagon to pay for their pet projects. In fact, the Pentagon has so much money in its war budget slush fund it wants to buy more disastrous F-35 jet planes with it, the most expensive weapon in the world. Never mind that the plane is not yet combat-ready – and won’t be for years.

More Money for the Pentagon Means Less Money for Needs at Home

The fact is the Pentagon doesn’t need any more money. Policymakers who are using the situation in Iraq and Syria to argue for increasing Pentagon spending are playing politics. If they were truly concerned about a lack of funds they would focus on eliminating wasteful Pentagon spending.

So when these Republicans and others talk about giving more money to the Pentagon, what that really means is we’ll have even less money for programs and priorities that are desperately needed at home.

post

Victory! House Panel Denies Outrageous Pentagon Request

In a surprise move, a House Defense Appropriations subcommittee denied a request by the Pentagon to use funds from the “emergency” war budget (also known as the Overseas Contingency Operations account, or OCO) to buy eight F-35 Joint Strike Fighters.

DENIEDThe war budget was set up by Congress to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and is now being used to pay for the air strikes against ISIS. Critics (including this blog) have long charged that Congress and the Pentagon have used the budget as a slush fund to pay for things not related to the wars.

This latest request by the Pentagon did not disappoint, and watchdog groups, including Taxpayers for Common Sense, called out the Pentagon for having the “chutzpah” to even try it. And Nukes of Hazard believes the Pentagon might be able to find “something” else to spend all of that war budget money on.

It should be noted that the F-35 is not yet combat ready and would not be able to take part in any war-related operations, anywhere, for years.

In his letter to the Pentagon denying the request, Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) stated:

“The Committee is concerned that OCO appropriations, which are provided by Congress specifically for ongoing combat operations and related efforts, are being utilized in this reprogramming to backfill budgetary shortfalls in acquisition program that have only tenuous links to the fight in Afghanistan and other current operations.”

Score one for us!

In other F-35 news, the Government Accountability Office released a report stating – surprise, surprise – that the long-terms operating costs of the program may not be affordable.

Taxpayers for Common Sense estimates that the total cost for “[d]eveloping, buying, basing, and maintaining the F-35 is currently estimated to cost close to one and a half trillion dollars.”

By all accounts the F-35 is the most expensive weapon in history. The program is 10 years behind schedule, 70 percent over budget, suffers from serious technical and structural problems, and has repeatedly failed to meet basic performance goals. Officials are still trying to figure out what caused an engine fire that grounded the planes for much of the summer.

post

Some Quick Facts About the Pentagon’s Slush Fund

Many people are not aware that the Pentagon has a slush fund it, and Congress, uses to pay for pet projects and avoid spending caps. This slush fund (also called Overseas Contingency Operations account) was created to pay for the war in Afghanistan – a war that is coming to an end in December.

OCO v Other AgenciesFor the 2015 fiscal year the White House has asked for $58.6 billion in “emergency’ war spending – even though Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work testified it would only cost $11 billion to carry out U.S. troops’ post-2014 missions in Afghanistan. That leaves a lot of slush left over.

With Congress likely to pass this massive slush fund, we decided to find other ways the money could be spent. It turns out the $58.6 billion OCO request could:

  • Pay the salaries of over half the nation’s elementary teachers
  • Provide 7.5 million veterans with health care for a year
  • Fund the Unemployment Insurance bill for 3 million Americans six times over
  • Pay the salaries of over 800,000 sheriffs or police patrol officers
  • Provide over 26 million low-income children with healthcare

In fact, the “emergency” slush fund budget is so large that it equals the fifth largest US federal agency – larger than the Departments of State, Energy, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, Agriculture, Justice, Transportation, and Labor (including many of those combined).

Not only that, it would also be the fifth largest defense budget in the world – more than even Great Britain spent on defense last year.

Now remember, this is supposed to be an “emergency” fund set up to pay for the war in Afghanistan – which is coming to an end. In fact, the US will have fewer than 10,000 troops there in 2015. Fortunately, a several Members of Congress have had enough and are demanding that the slush fund be shut down. And you can, too!

Please contact you Members of Congress and tell them to eliminate the Pentagon’s slush fund!