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Doing More With Less

It’s time for the Pentagon to face budget reality and enact common sense reforms.  Over a decade of blank checks have left the Pentagon bloated and rudderless, and Strategic_Agility_report_cover-thumbnailwithout a strategy for how to operate efficiently.  Even though sequestration will leave the Pentagon budget above the Cold War average, military and congressional leaders claim we have a stark choice between a smaller and more modern force or a larger and outdated one.  On top of this, the Pentagon claims sequestration has lessened some army training, while a few planes and ships have been idled, cutting into “military readiness”.

Of course this is a false narrative.  The Pentagon is weighed down by historic levels of costly overhead that do not add to the military’s fighting capabilities.  The civilian workforce numbers some 750,000 employees with a roughly equal number of civilian contractors, even though each contractor costs 3 times as much their civilian counterpart.  The non-partisan Stimson Center has released a report with 27 recommendations totaling $50 billion a year from management reforms, overhead cuts, and compensation policy changes. If we are to have the money to invest in a Middle Class economy, than military and Congressional leaders need to step up and these enact common sense reforms.

To read the report, click here.

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There’s No Saving This Turkey

ACrippled by a fundamental design flaw that’s driven so many cost overruns and leaves American pilots vulnerable to abler foreign rivals, it’s time to admit the obvious: the F-35 needs to go.  Originally cast as a cheap all purpose fighter with a single frame usable by all three Service branches, the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) has morphed into an ungainly boondoogle; it’s per unit cost has almost doubled, while the total lifetime program cost has soared to $1.5 trillion.  The heart of the F-35’s troubles lay with the Marine Corps’ insistence on a jump-jet variation of the JSF, whose uniquely wide architecture has comprised the capabilities of the Air Force and Army variations to the point where the F-35 is seriously outclassed by older Russian and Chinese jets, not to mention future fighter jets with air superiority missions in mind.

As recently admitted by the Marine Corps, the jump jet variation isn’t really necessary, and with so much treasure and American pilot’s lives on the line, it’s time to consider what the Service’s future will look like without the F-35.  The Pentagon could continue to invest in upgraded F-16’s and F-18’s whose capabilities are more than sufficient for the foreseeable future, while a new acquisition process can begin for an air-to-air and an air-to-ground fighter like the F-16 and A-10, rather than the jack of all trades but master of none, F-35.  After billions already spent on the JSF, it may seem like it’s too late to cancel, but with billions more yet to be wasted that could be spent investing in kids, education, and veterans, it’s time to consider alternatives.

To read the article, click here.

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Senate Committee Reveals Sloppy Bookkeeping at Pentagon

pentagon_tilt_shiftThe Senate’s Pentagon budget process has recently revealed just how bloated and disorganized the Pentagon really is.  The Senate Appropriations Committee called for a $2 billion reduction from the Pentagon’s budget request, without really even having to try.  $1.2 billion comes from the Pentagon overestimating how many civilians are under its employ by 11,660; $491 million comes from having more military personnel than it thought; and $294 million comes from cuts to the Permanent Change of Station program to move military personnel and their families.  If $2 billion can be cut due to personnel miscalculations at the Pentagon, imagine how much more savings are possible by taking a harder look at boondoggles like the F-35, LCS, MEADS, or the literally untold number of civilian contractors.  As 57,000 kids are set to loose access to Head Start from sequestration, this budget sloppiness not only betrays the taxpayers trust, but starves the least fortunate Americans from investments that promote social mobility and shared prosperity.

To read the article, click here.

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The Wrong Investment

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The Air Force wants to buy 2,400 F-35’s, and that’s 2,400 missed opportunities to make the right investment in America’s future. This isn’t just because the F-35 is overpriced and underperforming, but with an average cost of $137 million per plane and counting, each F-35 we buy costs 47,902,098 free lunches for hungry students in need.  When it comes down to investing in kids or an expensive plane that doesn’t work as intended, where will you stand?

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Leaner and Meaner

aghanistan-troops-usa1Last month Secretary of Defense Hagel laid out a vision for a sequestered Pentagon that included an either/or choice of a smaller but technologically advanced force,
or a larger, but outdated one.  According to the Secretary, shrinking the overall force size from 570,000 to 380,00 would allow for continued investments in high-end technologies, but a smaller force would require a drawdown from global responsibilities.  Alternatively, the Pentagon could retain its global force size, but reduced investments in equipment modernization would leave our forces vulnerable.

Of course this isn’t an either/or situation, the Pentagon can live with sequestration level budget cuts, so long as more thought is given to how we use the military to promote national security and not the Congressional-military-industrial complex.  As the largest recipient of discretionary dollars, the Pentagon should take the largest cut from sequestration, but a decade of wars and blank checks have the left the organization bloated and rudderless.  To protect federal investments in our future prosperity, new strategic choices need to be made, such as ridding ourselves of the assumption that our national security is advanced by military occupations of foreign lands that transform societies into something palatable to Western tastes, and a serious reorganization of fighting forces to produce a flatter and more efficient fighting structure.

To read the article, click here.

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Take a Minute to Watch…

Based on the very real book, The Pentagon Wars, the satirical HBO version does as good a job as any in describing just how acquisition malpractice goes down at the Pentagon.  The clip tells the tale of the Bradley Fighting Vehicle, that is “a troop transport that can’t carry troops, a reconnaissance vehicle that’s too conspicuous to do reconnaissance, and a quasi-tank that has less armor than a snow-blower, but has enough ammo to take out half of D.C”.  Unfortunately the same malpractice applies to new weapon systems like the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and the Littoral Combat Ships.

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The Choice is Clear

 

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The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is not only a bum deal for the military, but each plane costs the American public critical investments in the our future prosperity.  Each F-35 we buy hurts kids, educational access and achievement, and public safety.  We simply can’t afford a $1.5 trillion boondoggle that has more to do with Congressional Pork than national security.  When you see the opportunities missed with each F-35 bought, you too will see that the choice is clear.

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LCS Shaping Up as Next F-35

The acquisition malpractice known as “concurrency” infects another weapons system.   In a hearing last week on the troubled Littoral Combat Ship weapons LCS-Together-630x337program, the House Armed Services Committee failed to strike back against the same ‘buy before we fly’ practice that’s led to massive delays and cost-overruns for the F-35 fighter jet.  Like with that weapons boondoggle, “concurrency” happens when the Pentagon pushes ahead with buying weapons before testing is complete, this leads to delays and overruns as uncovered defects require retrofits to already purchased weapons.  For the LCS, the Pentagon will have bought and paid for 24 LCS’s by 2016 before they have been fully vetted for battle worthiness.  The Government Accountability Office has recommended slowing down production of the LCS until technology has caught up, however defense contractors say this will lead to higher costs. While food stamps are getting cut and seniors lose Meals on Wheels, we can ill afford another too big to kill weapons system.

To read the article, click here.

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When Congress Fails, Communities Step Up

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They get it

While a deadlocked Congress unable to untangle themselves from special interests protecting their pork projects fails to enact the nation’s priorities, local communities and states are stepping up to the plate.  Yesterday the Massachusets State House considered a resolution asking Congress to prevent cuts to healthcare, housing, and social service programs; close corporate tax loopholes; raise income taxes on top earners; and reduce military spending by pulling troops out of Afghanistan.  This comes after a majority of voters in 91 cities and towns across Massachusetts passed a similar non-binding resolution in November 2012. It’s past time for Congress to reflect the will of the American people rather than will of lobbyists protecting pork projects.

To read the article, click here.