post

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.

post

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.

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), 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

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

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 in Congress Have Had Enough of the Pentagon’s Slush Fund

For a couple of years now the White House and Congress have been using an “emergency” war budget for Afghanistan (also called Overseas Contingency Operations) as slush fund to circumvent spending caps. The year’s emergency request is almost $60 billion, even though Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work testified last week it would only cost $11 billion to carry out U.S. troops’ post-2014 missions in Afghanistan. That leaves about $42 billion in slush for the Pentagon to play with.

slushTo put this in perspective the $60 billion emergency war spending request, if agreed to by Congress, would be the fifth largest defense budget in the world – more than both France and Great Britain spent on defense last year.  With the war winding down in Afghanistan and most of our troops coming home, there is no longer a need for such an excessive war budget.

To make matters worse, this is happening while everything from road and bridge rehabilitation projects, to programs that help working families get back on their feet, to the National Institutes of Health (the NIH!!!) are taking massive cuts. Now really – what’s more important to you? Finding a cure for cancer or lining defense contractors’ pockets – because that is where most of this slush is going.

Fortunately, a few Members of Congress have caught on to the scam. Below, for your reading pleasure, are a few of our favorite slush fund quotes.

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) “…some of us have been calling this OCO account [a] slush fund for many years, and I’m glad to hear it being repeated a little bit at this point.House Committee on the Budget hearing, July 17, 2014

Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC): “I don’t know why you need this money, it’s just a slush fund anyway.” HASC OCO hearing, July 16, 2014

Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill) “It seems like this has become just another slush fund where you can just transfer money between accounts.” HASC OCO hearing, July 16, 2014

Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-SC) “I’ve been trying for a couple years now to draw attention to — and stop — the habit in Congress of using the War Budget (also called Overseas Contingency Operations) as a slush fund to hide extra spending and pet projects.” Facebook, May 22, 2014

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) “This bill continues the overseas contingency operations slush fund, and it is a slush fund at a time when the administration still hasn’t decided on how much the Afghanistan war is going to cost or how many troops will be there.”  House consideration of the National Defense Authorization Act For Fiscal Year 2015, May 21, 2014

Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) “In addition, the OCO has become a slush fund for Congress and the Pentagon to stick in goodies for procurement and operations and maintenance that it couldn’t find room for in the Pentagon’s half-trillion dollar base budget.” House considering of HR 4138, March 12, 2014

Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) “However, I am disappointed that the bill continues to fund Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) at a level above the Pentagon’s request. My colleague Representative Mick Mulvaney and I worked on a bipartisan basis to remove this excess funding during consideration of the defense budget in the House and in the final FY14 Defense Authorization bill. At a time when we are stretching every dollar to meet our nation’s needs, we should not create a slush fund for unrequested defense spending.” Van Hollen Statement on FY14 Omnibus Appropriations Bill, January 15, 2014