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Posts Tagged ‘Pentagon’
January 17th, 2014 at 7:06 pm
Bob Gates, with Panache
Posted by Troy Senik Print

I’ve watched with interest over the past few weeks as the media has feasted on excerpts from the new memoir, Duty, by former Secretary of Defense Bob Gates. This is a pretty well-worn Washington tradition: do advance publicity for an otherwise workmanlike book by leaking its few moments of genuine provocation, then sit back and watch the sharks circle.

Truth be told, I don’t regard most of the “revelations” as befitting the name. Is anyone surprised that President Obama’s heart didn’t seem to be in the Afghan War (for Obama, it was only “the good war” relative to Iraq, not in absolute terms). Is anyone shocked that Vice President Biden consistently displays a facile approach to foreign policy? Are we stunned that Hillary Clinton and President Obama admitted behind closed doors that their opposition to the surge in Iraq was based on cynical political calculations (I actually find this somewhat heartening—I’d rather think of them as skilled, amoral politicos than complete naifs).

Gates—like his predecessor, Donald Rumsfeld, and his successor, Leon Panetta—is a decent man who genuinely wanted what was best for the country and the military. He’s also, it turns out, a bit of a firecracker (it helps in that job). From Joel Gehrke, writing at the Washington Examiner:

Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates didn’t hide his contempt for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., when asked to answer Reid’s claim that he “denigrated” colleagues “to make a buck” with his new memoir.

“It’s common practice on the Hill to vote on bills you haven’t read, and it’s perfectly clear that Sen. Reid has not read the book. He will find that I do denigrate him,” Gates cracked back at a Politico event promoting his new book, Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War.

I like the cut of his jib.

December 12th, 2013 at 4:18 pm
Reminder: The Pentagon Can be Big Government Too
Posted by Troy Senik Print

Those of us on the right tend to be more defensive about the Pentagon than most organs of the federal government, and with good reason: it’s unquestionably a legitimate function of the federal government to maintain a military and protect America’s security interests, both at home and abroad. Too often, however, we get caught in a false dichotomy about the Department of Defense, with hawks unwilling to entertain the notion of the military seeing its budget cut by even one red cent and a certain strain of libertarians wanting to cut the military to the bone.

In between those two poles is a more sensible position: the military should receive absolutely everything it needs to discharge its core mission of defending the country and our interests abroad … and should be brought to heel like any other government agency when it wastes that money. And believe me, there’s a lot of waste.

Reuters is currently in the midst of chronicling this dysfunction with a series of articles on the incredibly flawed accounting and procurement techniques used by the Pentagon. The most recent installment is jaw-droppingly detailed. It’s a very long read, but one worth your time. A sample:

In its investigation, Reuters has found that the Pentagon is largely incapable of keeping track of its vast stores of weapons, ammunition and other supplies; thus it continues to spend money on new supplies it doesn’t need and on storing others long out of date. It has amassed a backlog of more than half a trillion dollars in unaudited contracts with outside vendors; how much of that money paid for actual goods and services delivered isn’t known. And it repeatedly falls prey to fraud and theft that can go undiscovered for years, often eventually detected by external law enforcement agencies.

The consequences aren’t only financial; bad bookkeeping can affect the nation’s defense. In one example of many, the Army lost track of $5.8 billion of supplies between 2003 and 2011 as it shuffled equipment between reserve and regular units. Affected units “may experience equipment shortages that could hinder their ability to train soldiers and respond to emergencies,” the Pentagon inspector general said in a September 2012 report.

Because of its persistent inability to tally its accounts, the Pentagon is the only federal agency that has not complied with a law that requires annual audits of all government departments. That means that the $8.5 trillion in taxpayer money doled out by Congress to the Pentagon since 1996, the first year it was supposed to be audited, has never been accounted for. That sum exceeds the value of China’s economic output last year.

You’ll be horrified by the waste and sheer administrative bloat. You’ll be even more disturbed, however, when you read how difficult efforts at reform have been. Read the whole thing here.

October 3rd, 2013 at 9:57 pm
Thanks to United Airlines, Navy-Air Force Football Game Back On

It took United Airlines offering to bailout the Pentagon, but it looks like the privately funded Navy-Air Force college football game will be played as scheduled this Saturday.

On Tuesday, Obama administration officials at the Department of Defense had suspended all athletic contests at the three service academies because of the government shutdown.

But after an outcry over the cravenly political move, United Airlines offered to fly the entire Air Force football team for free to Annapolis. That, apparently, shamed Pentagon officials into letting the game go on as scheduled.

It’s good to see that college kids training to defend our nation won’t be used as pawns by liberals trying to score political points over the funding impasse. But it’s still distasteful that this disgusting strategy was used in the first place.

February 22nd, 2013 at 11:09 am
Sequester Kabuki
Posted by Troy Senik Print

There’s no question that the forthcoming federal spending cuts under the sequester aren’t ideal, particularly given the indiscriminate way in which they’ll be applied. Republicans in Congress, however, have rightly determined that indelicate cuts are a better option than a compromise that does little or nothing to arrest the trajectory of our debt crisis (even if they haven’t quite worked out the messaging yet).

Standing firm on that principle means accepting some pretty large cuts to defense, but as Byron York notes in a must-read column for the Washington Examiner, the Pentagon is going out of its way to make the situation seem much worse than it really is:

Over many decades of defense budget battles, the Pentagon has often used a tactic known as a “gold watch.” It means to answer a budget cut proposal by selecting for elimination a program so important and valued — a gold watch — that Pentagon chiefs know political leaders will restore funding rather than go through with the cut.

So now, with sequestration approaching, the Pentagon has announced that the possibility of budget cuts has forced the Navy to delay deployment of the carrier USS Harry S. Truman to the Persian Gulf. With tensions with Iran as high as they’ve ever been, that would leave the U.S. with just one carrier, instead of the preferred two, in that deeply troubled region.

“Already, the threat of these cuts has forced the Navy to delay an aircraft carrier that was supposed to deploy to the Persian Gulf,” Obama said at a White House appearance on Tuesday, in case anyone missed the news.

Some military analysts were immediately suspicious. “A total gold watch,” said one retired general officer who asked not to be named. Military commentator and retired Army Lt. Col. Ralph Peters called the Navy’s move “ostentatious,” comparing it to “Donald Trump claiming he can’t afford a cab.”

… Meanwhile, with a budget higher than it was even at the peak of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the Pentagon is resisting attempts to force it to audit its own finances. Congress passed a law back in 1990 requiring such an audit, to no avail. Last year, Sens. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., and Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., introduced the Audit the Pentagon Act, which would try again to force a look inside the maze of Pentagon spending.

Now, with the Defense Department sounding the alarm about sequestration, some budget hawks on Capitol Hill are doubtful. “It’s difficult to take these doomsday scenarios seriously when the Pentagon can’t even audit its own books,” says a spokesman for Coburn. “We would argue that the Defense Department has the authority to reprioritize funding toward vital needs and away from less vital spending. As Sen. Coburn has detailed, the department spends nearly $70 billion each year on ‘nondefense’ defense spending that has nothing to do with our national security.”

Yes, the Pentagon does represent some of the most vital spending that takes place in Washington. But conservatives especially should remember that it remains, on many levels, a conventional bureaucracy, prone to defend well-established power centers and jealous of every dollar that comes its way.

The goals of cutting spending and preserving national security are not mutually exclusive.

January 7th, 2013 at 3:17 pm
Hagel Should Not Get the Opportunity

Ashton seems to accept with some equanimity the idea the Chuck Hagel will be confirmed as Secretary of Defense. Hmmm…. At least one GOP senator ought to announce that Hagel will be confirmed only over his (the senator’s) dead body.

Even after all my years on and/or covering Capitol Hill, I don’t quite understand all the ins and outs of how a “hold” works. But surely, if Jesse Helms could put a permanent hold on William Weld’s nomination to be an ambassador, then why can’t/won’t another senator kill the Hagel nomination with such a hold?

If not, this is clearly a nomination that can be filibustered to death. As well it should be. The only man in the United States Senate to refuse to sign an open letter (signed by all 99 other senators) condemning Russian anti-Semitism has no business being confirmed to a job that might entail the provision of troops or weapons for defense of Israel.

The man appears, to many, to be an anti-Semite. Opponents make quite a case that he should never set foot in the top office at the Pentagon.

June 4th, 2012 at 3:52 pm
The Pentagon’s $3 Billion Battleship

Technically, the pricey new ship in the U.S. Navy’s fleet as of 2014 is a destroyer named DDG-1000.  It comes equipped with electromagnetic “railguns,” a “wave-piercing” hull that doesn’t leave a wake, and “advanced sonar and missiles.”

But before you get too excited, the DDG-1000 program might get terminated before too long for two reasons.

The first is that like the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the DDG-1000 is threatening to set records with cost overruns.  According to Fox News, at $3.1 billion per ship a DDG-1000 costs about twice as much as current destroyers.  (The total price tag hits $7 billion each “when research and development is added in…”)

The second is perhaps even more problematic.  Chinese Rear Admiral Zhang Zhaozhong issued a warning about the alleged capabilities of the ‘super-stealth’ DDG-1000.  All he would need to overcome the ship’s technological advantages would be to swarm the vessel with several fishing boats laden with explosives.  If one gets through – on a suicide mission, of course – it could literally blow up US taxpayers’ investment.

Nice things cost money, and even the best technology can be laid to waste by comparatively low-tech responses.  Still, public and private watch dog groups need to keep an eye on how the DDG-1000 develops.  We can’t afford not to.

January 11th, 2012 at 2:55 pm
Ramirez Cartoon: The Department of Wishful Thinking
Posted by CFIF Staff Print

Below is one of the latest cartoons from two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Ramirez.

View more of Michael Ramirez’s cartoons on CFIF’s website here.

November 22nd, 2011 at 6:08 pm
The Supercommittee Fallout Begins
Posted by Troy Senik Print

I’ve been shouting from the rooftops for as long as anyone would listen that the Congressional Supercommittee was (a) a bad idea (b) doomed to failure and (c) destined to put the funding of America’s military forces in danger because of triggered cuts that could add up to more than a trillion dollars.

Now that’s all coming true and the lines are beginning to get drawn in the sand. From today’s coverage in Politico:

Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) vowed to eliminate the automatic cuts, which would take effect in 2013, citing dire warnings from his panel’s analysts and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta about the impact of an additional $500 billion reduction on the nation’s security.

“I will not be the armed services chairman who presides over crippling our military,” he said just before the supercommittee admitted defeat Monday afternoon…

President Barack Obama later said he would veto any attempt to undo the spending cuts. “There will be no easy offramps on this one. We need to keep the pressure up to compromise, not turn off the pressure,” he said.

The president’s callousness is stunning. Fully funding the men and women of the United States military is not an “easy offramp” — it’s a strategic and moral necessity. An easy offramp would be proposing an increase in the debt ceiling without offering any spending cuts during a time of record national debt. An easy offramp would be allowing Congress to grope its way through the supercommittee process without any leadership from the White House. In short, an easy offramp would be everything President Obama has done to avoid any responsibility for reducing the national debt.

It’s time for the Congress to make a stand — and not just the Republicans. Many Democrats will understand that it’s both good policy and good election-year politics to keep the Pentagon from being gutted. And let’s hope they’re not just limited to Capitol Hill. Nothing would put the issue in starker terms than Defense Secretary Leon Panetta — a good man and one who has consistently opposed this reckless policy — standing in solidarity with a bipartisan congressional majority against the president. If he’s worthy of his job, that’s exactly what he’ll do.

September 26th, 2011 at 7:55 pm
Congressional Analysis Shows Pending Pentagon Cuts Would Gut National Defense
Posted by Troy Senik Print

In my column last week, I detailed the devastation that the Pentagon will be in for should the bipartisan congressional “supercommittee” not enact major debt reduction by early next year. While paring back the size of the federal government is essential, the Obama Administration was unspeakably reckless in allowing defense cuts that could reach over $1 trillion to be triggered automatically should the committee fail to act.

The staff of the House Armed Services Committee has now released their analysis of the proposed reductions and, according to a report in Politico, the outcomes could be every bit as dire as warned:

The analysis notes that the Navy would need to take two aircraft carrier battle groups out of service and the Air Force would lose a third of its fighters. The Marine Corps would no longer be able to maintain forward-deployed amphibious forces around the world. New weapons systems, such as the Navy and Marine Corps’ versions of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, would be canceled. The U.S. nuclear arsenal would be drastically reduced and modernization plans scrapped.

Aside from the troop cuts, there would also be massive layoffs of Pentagon civilian employees and the elimination of many jobs in the defense industry, according to the analysis.

The Obama Administration never runs out of supplicants. Whether it’s labor unions, “green energy” firms, or corporate friends who can get a waiver from Obamacare in the blink of an eye, there seems to be no one that the administration doesn’t have unlimited cash available for on an on-demand basis. No one, that is, except the men and women of the United States military.
February 17th, 2011 at 7:20 pm
Military Engine Few Want Finally Gets Voted Down

A funny thing happened when House Republicans opened up the process to allow amendments to spending bills: a bipartisan coalition voted overwhelmingly to cancel a $3 billion boondoggle.

Interestingly, the project killed was the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter’s alternative engine.  Following a well-trodden path to budgetary immortality, contractors General Electric and Rolls Royce spread the work around many states hoping enough Congress members would vote to keep the money flowing to their districts.

No more.  Both the Bush and Obama administrations have called for the termination of the alternative engine program as a way to cut waste in the Pentagon’s budget.  After years of work and billions in spending everyone involved anticipates billions more in appropriations before the engine becomes operational.

With yesterday’s vote to stem the tide of red ink on the books, let’s hope there are more chances for an open budget process that saves taxpayers money.

January 13th, 2011 at 7:41 pm
U.S., Japan Discuss Joint Missile Defense Development

Defense Secretary Robert Gates is finding a much more favorable response from Japan than China about how to get tougher with North Korea.  On the Tokyo leg of Gates’ weeklong Asian tour, the Pentagon chief “discussed the potential export to allies of missile defense capabilities both countries are developing,” according to reporting by Reuters.

CFIF recently profiled missile defense expert Brian Kennedy about the rationale for implementing a broad-based system of missile defense to deter not just a North Korean nuclear strike, but also one from China.  You can read the entire article here.

February 11th, 2010 at 7:15 pm
The Pentagon Goes Green

A few years ago, in more innocent times, I decided to find and read all the “non-partisan” government reports in order to get a better handle on the details of policy.  When I asked a friend of mine who worked in D.C. for recommendations on where to start, he said, “Don’t.  There aren’t any unbiased reports because they’re all consensus documents created to support a political agenda.”  Even the Pentagon’s Quadrennial Defense Review?!  “Yes,” came the reply.

Any doubt in my mind was erased after reading that the military’s most recent review designates “climate change” as a national security threat.  (Small digression: I thought progressives like Obama got votes in the presidential campaign for scoring Republicans on being the Party of Fear.  Now, every issue from childhood obesity to global warming is a threat akin to a terrorist attack.)

Maybe bureaucratic sclerosis is to blame since the parts dealing with climate change are based on the same faulty evidence in the now discredited report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.  If that’s the case, though, that means the Obama suits writing the top brass’s most important self-assessment are not only wrong, they’re outdated.  My guess is the odds of this section being the only one with glaring deficiencies is pretty low.  Thank you, Washington, for creating another report unworthy of reading.

H/T: National Review Online