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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), 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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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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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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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.  

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Defense Contractors Are Raking It In

Despite all of the hype coming from defense contractors  and others that Pentagon spending reductions would devastate the industry and lead to mass lay-offs, economic ruin and the collapse of our fighting forces, these companies managed to take in a pretty penny this last quarter.

Both Lockheed Martin (maker of the $1.5 trillion F-35 debacle) and Northrop Grumman posted huge profits, with Northrop’s shares rising 56%. Even F-22 Crashcompanies that didn’t do as well posted profit increases over last year – before spending reductions went into effect.

Though defense contractors are doing just fine financially (thank you very much), the CEOs plan to “up the volume” on efforts to pad their bank accounts the Pentagon’s budget with new tales of doom and gloom.  

But it’s not just defense contractors sounding the alarm; the Joint Chiefs of Staff are also making the case for increased Pentagon spending, going so far as to understate their own troops’ combat-readiness. And of course, the defense hawks in Congress are more than happy to go along for the ride – even suggesting that lawmakers take money away from the elderly, disabled and small children so the Pentagon can have more funds to spend on things like this.

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Gunning for Social Security – Republicans Want to Cut Entitlement Programs to Pay for More Pentagon Spending

Now that the government shutdown and debt-ceiling crises have been averted for a few months, Republican “defense hawks” like Sen. John McCain and Rep. Buck McKeon will be looking for ways to remove spending caps on the Pentagon that were mandated by the Budget Control Act (BCA). Seniors and the disabled better watch out.

The BCA was passed by Congress in 2011 to prevent another debt-ceiling crisis (sound familiar?). It instituted mandatory caps on discretionary government spending – defense (the Pentagon) and non-defense. Non-defense spending includes everything from education and housing assistance to infrastructure improvements and NASA.  

RamboMost Republicans now insist that Congressional budget agreements stay within the BCA spending caps. So the only way “defense hawks” will be able to boost the Pentagon’s budget is by taking funds from other places, in this case entitlement programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid – which were not included in the BCA.

While many Democrats have scoffed at the idea, there is reason to worry. Some Democratic lawmakers, including President Obama, have suggested they are willing to make a deal with Republicans in return for new tax revenue or funds for other programs. This is bad news.

Republicans have long sought to increase Pentagon spending at the expense of domestic spending. And cutting entitlement programs is always at the top of their to-do list. The upcoming budget conference, which is being chaired by Rep. Paul Ryan and Sen. Patty Murray, is where they will likely try to cut a deal.

Everyone knows that the Pentagon has a long history of waste and financial mismanagement (like this, and this, and don’t forget this).  For these “defense hawks” to say that the Pentagon needs more money is deceitful at best; but to try and steal that money from the elderly and disabled is downright disgusting.  

Read the story here.