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The Pentagon Proposes Its Largest Budget Request Ever

On Monday, the White House introduced its proposed budget for fiscal year 2016. Included in the request was the Pentagon’s proposed budget of $585 billion – $534 for the Pentagon’s base budget (the largest in history) and $51 billion for its war spending slush fund.

P moneyThe Pentagon’s request is $34 billion over the spending caps put into place by Congress. This doesn’t make good budgeting sense if you want to avoid the across the board spending cuts known as sequestration – which we are assuming the Pentagon wants to do. But hey, whatever floats their boat.

Of course, there are defense hawks in Congress who say that the Pentagon’s budget is still too low – and the way to raise it is to cut social programs like SNAP (food stamps) and Head Start. For most Democrats, however, that plan in a non-starter.

The billions wasted by the Pentagon include a bloated back office, a plane the doesn’t work and also happens to be the most expense weapon in history (am I sensing some kind of trend, here?), and a ship that cannot do the tasks it was designed to perform.

And let’s not forgot that slush fund, which contains tens of billions of dollars more than is needed to wind down the war in Afghanistan and pay for operations in Iraq and Syria.

All of this adds up to one whopper of a budget loaded with wasteful spending. To make matters worse, we don’t even know how exactly the Pentagon spends all of this money since it has never been able to pass an audit.

But there is something you can do. Two groups – Peace Action and Win Without War – have made it easy for us to send letters to the editor to our local papers using their language or inserting our own. Just click on the links below and follow the steps. It is fast and simple.

Peace Action Alert

Win Without War Alert

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Changing the Name of the Navy’s ‘Little Crappy Ship’ Won’t Fix It

Yesterday, Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus announced that the Navy would be changing the name of its much vilified Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) to the ‘Fast Frigate.’ The LCS, often called the ‘Little Crappy Ship’ by its critics in the Navy, has been plagued with problems since its inception. Many see this name change as a not-so-subtle way for the Navy to fend off the ship’s detractors.

LCS2The Pentagon’s chief weapons tester has repeatedly said that the LCS is “not expected to be survivable” in combat. The ship suffers from serious design and technical flaws, and cost overruns, and even has problems performing the tasks it was designed to perform. The situation became so bad that last February outgoing Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel ordered to the Navy to cut its LCS purchases from 52 to 32 ships.

At that same, time Hagel also ordered the Navy to come up with a new design for the remaining 20 ships, announcing the outcome in December. To some observers surprise, instead of developing a better, more suitable ship, the Navy simply decided to add a few more cannons and armor to the original LCS design. The Pentagon’s chief weapons tester quickly derided the decision, stating “the minor modifications to the LCS will not yield a ship that is significantly more survivable.”

Indeed, simply making a few modifications, and now changing its name, won’t make this little crappy ship any better. The LCS is a waste of tax dollars and places sailors at an unacceptable risk. It’s time for Congress to end the program once and for all.

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We’re Paying $1.5 Trillion for a Military Jet That Doesn’t Work

A recent article by James Fallows of The Atlantic delves into the disconnect between the military and the general public, which allows the United States to be drawn into wars we shouldn’t be fighting and spend “too much money” on the Pentagon and “spend it stupidly.”

F35 problemsThe example Mr. Fallows points to that exemplifies the stupidity of our military spending is the $1.5 trillion F-35 Joint Strike Fighter – the most expensive weapon in history.

By most accounts the F-35 program has been a complete and abject failure. It was supposed to be the plane that could do everything, and yet can barely do anything. The F-35 “has trouble flying at night, its engines have exploded during takeoff, and early models suffered structural cracks.”

It is years behind schedule, suffers from serious design flaws, and its cost overruns alone have wasted 100 times what was spent on Solyndra. When (if?) the F-35 ever achieves “operational” status, its capabilities will be 10 years behind those of our current jets, and will be flying without the use of its guns.

Yet there seems to be no stopping the F-35 (this map shows why).

As the American Friends Service Committee points out, the cost of just one year of this program could fund the $8 billion cut from food assistance programs for low-income families.

With Republicans vowing to increase military spending (likely at the expense of vital social programs and those who rely on them), Americans need to become more involved in how Congress and the Pentagon spend (and waste) our tax dollars. Letting your representatives know how you feel about the F-35 is a great place to start.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.