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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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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.

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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.

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A Special Time of Year for Congress and the Pentagon

Every year about this time, the hearts of certain Members of Congress go all aflutter with the knowledge that it’s their turn to bask in the glow of the media spotlight and feast upon the defense lobbyist dollars thrown their way.

NDAAFists will pound, faces will glow red with rage, and spittle will splatter as the voices of angry lawmakers reverberate through the halls of our nation’s Capital, crying out for the need to increase the Pentagon’s already bloated budget.

Yes my friends, it’s time once again for the House of Representatives to debate the National Defense Authorization Act.  

Led for the last time by House Armed Services Committee Chairperson Howard P. “Buck” McKeon (oh, how we’ll miss your smile), both Republicans and Democrats will irrationally advocate for more Pentagon spending.

We’ll hear calls that [insert latest perceived threat] will be able to destroy us all if we don’t build more [insert lawmaker’s overpriced and underperforming pet project]. Schoolchildren and the elderly be damned!  

There will be guest commentaries from all sorts of big wigs about how even though we will no longer be at war that the Pentagon will still need war funding for years to come. And of course, who can forget the F-35?

Oh, what a joyous season it is.

But wait! What’s that you say? Could it be that we don’t really have to throw almost unlimited amounts of money at the Pentagon? Is it possible that the Pentagon already receives way more than it needs? But how else could we use that money?

Maybe, if enough people speak out, we just might be able to rein in some of the Pentagon’s wasteful spending. And we could move that money to where it’s needed most.

Now that, my friends, would be a special occasion! 

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So, Where Are My Taxes Going? Oh, Right, The Pentagon.

With all of the hubbub about the blood moon and the end of the world and all that happening on tax day (I knew it!), I’m guessing not a lot of us took the time to examine how our tax dollars are spent. But really, at this point it should come as a surprise to no one, well, almost no one, that the Pentagon takes the biggest slice.

bloodmoon1According to the National Priorities Project, 27 cents of every tax dollar goes to the Pentagon (by comparison, only two cents of every dollar is spent on education). To put this in better perspective, last year 57% of all discretionary funds – those voted on by Congress – went to the Pentagon.

Of course, some Republicans say that the historically high sums of money the United States is spending on the Pentagon isn’t enough. They say we need to spend even more – at the expense of everything else in the budget, of course.

The problem is that by all accounts this has no basis in reality, whatsoever.

On Monday the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute released its latest report on military spending worldwide. It found that the United States is spending more than three times what China is spending on its military and more than seven times what Russia is spending. Hardly a reason to start cutting food stamps and Medicare. And if you put all of the United States’ perceived “threat nations’” (Russia, China, Iran, Syria and North Korea) military expenditures together, we still outspend them more than two to one.

So what gives?

Well, if you ask me, it seems like the Republicans realize they have to be for something. I mean, they’re already against fair taxes on the superrich, marriage equality, the Affordable Care Act, puppies, immigration reform, and pretty much anything that helps at-risk kids, the elderly, and working families.

Other think it might have to do with defense contractors shoveling millions of dollars into their pockets.

Either way, the Republicans are going to keep pushing for a bigger Pentagon budget unless we do something about it.