Originally published March 1, 2020 by TomDispatch.com, with this Tomgram: Mandy Smithberger, Letting the Pentagon Loose With Your Tax Dollars
Who doesn’t remember, as a child, making that Christmas wish list for Santa and his elves? As it happens, in this century — and in the post-Christmas season, no less — a Pentagon already sporting the highest budget ever is still making such wish lists, officially known as “unfunded requirements lists,” for the orange-haired Santa in the White House and especially his Mitch McConnellized elves in Congress. (The hope: to up the already sky-high presidentially recommended national security budget by an additional $18 billion).
The U.S. Navy, for instance, has a modest $6 billion wish list that includes yet more of the most expensive weapons system in history, the F-35 jet fighter (who cares if it actually works or not!), more Northrop Grumman E-2D Hawkeye surveillance aircraft, as well as more Boeing-Textron V-22 Ospreys. And don’t forget that extra little under-the-tree favorite, a $2.7 billion Virginia-class submarine from General Dynamics and Huntington Ingalls!
Who could resist that Army wish list coming in at $7 billion, a mere bagatelle (or, as Jackie Gleason used to say on The Honeymooners, “a mere bag of shells”). It includes “an additional 60 upgraded Stryker double V-hull combat vehicles” for only $375 million, eight new AH-64 Apache attack helicopters for just $283 million, and so on. The Air Force (knowing its president) asked for a modest extra billion dollars for his new Space Force — and then there was the request (pretty please!) from the Missile Defense Agency (who knew we even had one?) for more missile interceptors and a new missile defense battery for a little more than a billion extra dollars.
I mean, what a deal! Anyway, who could resist the cute little guys who just want another seasonal gift or two (or three or four or five or more) and another surprise visit from Santa? And is it really too much to request when, as director of the Center for Defense Information at the Project On Government Oversight and TomDispatch regular Mandy Smithberger points out today, the full “defense” budget is a modest trillion-dollar-plus affair. No wonder the kids are just so damn eager to add a few extra bucks and gifts to it. Tom
Creating a National Insecurity State
Spending More, Seeing Less
By Mandy Smithberger
Hold on to your helmets! It’s true the White House is reporting that its proposed new Pentagon budget is only $740.5 billion, a relatively small increase from the previous year’s staggering number. In reality, however, when you also include war and security costs buried in the budgets of other agencies, the actual national security figure comes in at more than $1.2 trillion, as the Trump administration continues to give the Pentagon free reign over taxpayer dollars.
You would think that the country’s congressional representatives might want to take control of this process and roll back that budget — especially given the way the White House has repeatedly violated its constitutional authority by essentially stealing billions of dollars from the Defense Department for the president’s “Great Wall” (that Congress refused to fund). Recently, even some of the usual congressional Pentagon budget boosters have begun to lament how difficult it is to take the Department’s requests for more money seriously, given the way the military continues to demand yet more (ever more expensive) weaponry and advanced technologies on the (largely bogus) grounds that Uncle Sam is losing an innovation war with Russia and China.
And if this wasn’t bad enough, keep in mind that the Defense Department remains the only major federal agency that has proven itself incapable of even passing an audit. An investigation by my colleague Jason Paladino at the Project On Government Oversight found that increased secrecy around the operations of the Pentagon is making it ever more difficult to assess whether any of its money is well spent, which is why it’s important to track where all the money in this country’s national security budget actually goes.