The Pentagon’s waste and why we should do something about it

Please go on to read the whole article, link at the end.

From spending $150 million on private villas for a handful of personnel in Afghanistan to blowing $2.7 billion on an air surveillance balloon that doesn’t work, the latest revelations of waste at the Pentagon are just the most recent howlers in a long line of similar stories stretching back at least five decades. Other hot-off-the-presses examples would include the Army’s purchase of helicopter gears worth $500 each for $8,000 each and the accumulation of billions of dollars’ worth of weapons components that will never be used. And then there’s the one that would have to be everyone’s favorite Pentagon waste story: the spending of $50,000 to investigate the bomb-detecting capabilities of African elephants. (And here’s a shock: they didn’t turn out to be that great!) The elephant research, of course, represents chump change in the Pentagon’s wastage sweepstakes and in the context of its $600-billion-plus budget, but think of it as indicative of the absurd lengths the Department of Defense will go to when what’s at stake is throwing away taxpayer dollars. Continue reading

Less oversigh or more delays for expensive F-35’s upgrades

“This modernization effort is like a new program with estimated costs of about $3 billion over the next six years,” Michael Sullivan, director of acquisition and sourcing management issues at GAO, told the House Armed Services Committee on March 23. “That price alone would qualify it as a major defense acquisition program in it own right and it should be managed as such.”
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Northrop Grumman’s B-21

At a “state of the Air Force” press conference, Air Force secretary Deborah James and Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh listed seven companies that will build components for the new plane. They didn’t provide many details as to what those contributions will be, but a quick look at the history of the companies provides some indication of how this project will be built. It also shows the program is being designed to have broad political support by spreading the work across numerous states and congressional districts.

Veteran military reformer Franklin “Chuck” Spinney described political engineering as “business as usual” for programs of this kind. “By designing overly complex weapons, then spreading subcontracts, jobs, and profits all over the country, the political engineers in the Defense Department deliberately magnify the power of these forces to punish Congress, should it subsequently try to reduce defense spending by terminating major procurement programs.”
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The F-35 won’t be ready for combat until 2022

The Director of Operational Test and Evaluation (DOT&E) recently released a scathing assessment of the F-35 program as part of his annual report. Buried inside 48 pages of highly technical language is a gripping story of mismanagement, delayed tests, serious safety issues, a software nightmare, and maintenance problems crippling half the fleet at any given time.

The report makes clear just how far the F-35 program still has to go in the development process. Some of the technical challenges facing the program will take years to correct, and as a result, the F-35’s operationally demonstrated suitability for combat will not be known until 2022 at the earliest. While rumors that the program office would ask for a block buy of nearly 500 aircraft in the FY 2017 budget proposal did not pan out, officials have indicated they may make such a request next year. The DOT&E report clearly shows any such block commitments before 2022 are premature. Continue reading

Google Pentagon

Eric Schmidt, the former chief executive officer of Google, will head a new Pentagon advisory board aimed at bringing Silicon Valley innovation and best practices to the U.S. military, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said on Wednesday.

Carter unveiled the new Defense Innovation Advisory Board with Schmidt during the annual RSA cyber security conference in San Francisco, saying it would give the Pentagon access to “the brightest technical minds focused on innovation.”
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Americans do not think their miltiary is the most powerful in the world, even though it is

“I will take umbrage with the notion that our military has been gutted,” Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Paul Selva stated during a Pentagon press briefing in early February. “I stand here today a person that’s worn this uniform for 35 years. At no time in my career have I been more confident than this instant in saying we have the most powerful military on the face of the planet.” The American public, it seems, would beg to differ. According to a to a Gallup pollconducted the same week as Selva’s testimony, just 49 percent of Americans “think the United States is number one in the world militarily,” the fewest since the question was first asked in 1993. An equal number of Americans (49 percent) believed that the United States was “only one of several leading military powers.”

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Smarter defense spending

By a U.S Marine infantry veteran:

Strengthening the military is not simply a matter of demanding more taxpayer dollars for the Department of Defense. We don’t simply need more defense spending—we need smarterdefense spending. And, if Republicans want to legitimately claim to be the party of fiscal responsibility, then they must lay out robust plans to tackle waste and inefficiency within the Pentagon- not just give lip service to the issue.  Continue reading

New Report: 500 F-35s may be built before proven combat ready

Tests of how Lockheed Martin Corp.’s F-35 will perform in combat won’t begin until at least August 2018, a year later than planned, and more than 500 of the fighter jets may be built before the assessment is complete, according to the Pentagon’s test office.

“These aircraft will require a still-to-be-determined list of modifications” to be fully capable, Michael Gilmore, the U.S. Defense Department’s top weapons tester, said in his annual report on major programs. “However, these modifications may be unaffordable for the services as they consider the cost of upgrading these early lots of aircraft while the program continues to increase production rates in a fiscally constrained environment.” Continue reading

5% Digest (week 06/04/15)

Director of Central Intelligence John Brennan stated,

It’s a long war, unfortunately. But it’s been a war that has been in existence for millennia, at the same time—the use of violence for political purposes against noncombatants by either a state actor or a subnational group.

Terrorism has taken many forms over the years. What is more challenging now is, again, the technology that is available to terrorists, the great devastation that can be created by even a handful of folks, and also mass communication that just proliferates all of this activity and incitement and encouragement. So you have an environment now that’s very conducive to that type of propaganda and recruitment efforts, as well as the ability to get materials that are going to kill people. And so this is going to be something, I think, that we’re always going to have to be vigilant about. There is evil in the world and some people just want to kill for the sake of killing…This is something that, whether it’s from this group right now or another group, I think the ability to cause damage and violence and kill will be with us for many years to come.”

Micah Zenko summarised Brennan’s whole speech:

To summarize, the war on terrorism is working, compared to inaction or other policies. But, the American people should expect it to continue for millennia, or as long as lethal technologies and mass communication remain available to evil people.

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5% Digest (week 30/03/15)

Physicians for Social Responsibility’s (PRS) study concluds that the death toll from 10 years of the “War on Terror” since the 9/11 attacks is at least 1.3 million, and could be as high as 2 million.

It is heavily critical of the figure most widely cited by mainstream media as authoritative, namely, the Iraq Body Count (IBC) estimate of 110,000 dead. According to the PSR study, the much-disputed Lancet study that estimated 655,000 Iraq deaths up to 2006 (and over a million until today by extrapolation) was likely to be far more accurate than IBC’s figures.

Nafeez Ahmed argued that

total deaths from Western interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan since the 1990s – from direct killings and the longer-term impact of war-imposed deprivation – likely constitute around 4 million (2 million in Iraq from 1991-2003, plus 2 million from the “war on terror”), and could be as high as 6-8 million people when accounting for higher avoidable death estimates in Afghanistan.

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5% Digest (Week 23/03/15)

Gregory D. Johnsen wrote a detailed account of the rise of Huthis in Yemen. Adam Baron argued that the power struggle is primarily local and foreign intervention will be a very bad idea.

But what is abundantly clear at the moment is that this remains, by and large, an internal Yemeni political conflict—one that, despite frequent sectarian mischaracterizations and potential regional implications, remains deeply rooted in local Yemeni issues.

And if history is a guide, foreign intervention will only stand to exacerbate the situation. Ironically, talk now centers on a potential Saudi Arabian and Egyptian military intervention in Yemen, a scenario that immediately brought to mind the memory of North Yemen’s 1960s Civil War which saw both sides intervene—albeit on different sides—in a matter which only appeared to draw the conflict out further. This is not to say that there isn’t a place for foreign powers to aid Yemeni factions in negotiating some new political settlement. But any nation that aims to make Yemen’s fight their own is more than likely to come out on the losing side.

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5% Digest (week 09/03/15)

British MPs voted in favour of keeping defence spending at 2% of GDP. Just 40 MPs voted and the result carries no legal force.

Rory Stewart, Conservative MP for Penrith and the Border and chairman of the defence select committee, warned MPs that Britain could not continue to rely on the military might of America and be a “freeloader”. “This 2% is needed because the threats are real. The world is genuinely getting more dangerous,” he said.

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5% Digest (week 02/03/15)

In Seumas Milnes’s piece ‘The demonisation of Russia risks paving the way for war‘, he argues that “Ukraine – along with Isis – is being used to revive the doctrines of liberal interventionism and even neoconservatism, discredited on the killing fields of Iraq and Afghanistan.” Hundreds of US troops are arriving in Ukraine and Britain is sending 75 military advisers of its own. This is a direct violation of last month’s Minsk agreement, negotiated with France and Germany – Article 10 requires the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Ukraine.

But when the latest Minsk ceasefire breaks down, as it surely will, there is a real risk that Ukraine’s proxy conflict could turn into full-scale international war.

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5% Digest (January 2015)

It is reported by Guardian that the Pentagon’s internal watchdog has questioned the air force’s increased spending on drones, suggesting its $8.8 billions spending on 46 armed Reaper drones is a waste of money.

As purchases of General Atomics’s MQ-9 Reaper ballooned from 60 aircraft in 2007 to the current 401, air force officials did not justify the need for an expanding drone fleet, the Pentagon said.

During that time, costs for purchasing one of the signature counter-terrorism weapons of Barack Obama’s presidency increased by 934%, from $1.1bn to more than $11.4bn, according to a declassified September report by the Pentagon inspector general. Purchasing costs are a fraction of what the drones cost to operate and maintain over their time in service: in 2012, the Pentagon estimated the total costs for them at $76.8bn.

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November Reading List

  1. Fracking could carry unforeseen risks as thalidomide and asbestos did, says report 
  2. This headline will subtly mislead you and science says that probably matters
  3. 5 Key Takeaways From the Latest Climate Change Report
  4. Why Ebola hit West Africa hard
  5. Nuclear Arms Control in China Today
  6. Texas oil town makes history as residents say no to fracking 
  7. The secular stagnation hoax
  8. The Pentagon’s Arguments for Runaway Arms Trading Are Indefensible
  9. World’s first solar cycle lane opening in the Netherlands
  10. Raytheon acquires cyber firm for $420 million
  11. America’s New Mercenaries
  12. What’s the environmental impact of modern war?
  13. Petraeus joins pro-fracking choir at Harvard’s Belfer Center
  14. Stakes are high as US plays the oil card against Iran and Russia
  15. Foundation of US nuclear system showing cracks
  16. Midterms 2014: The Red Wedding for Democrats
  17. Can (green) energy policy create jobs?
  18. Death Wears Bunny Slippers
  19. It is the 0.01% who are really getting ahead in America
  20. The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and UK healthcare
  21. Is neoliberalism at last unravelling in Britain?
  22. For Whom the Wall Fell? A balance-sheet of transition to capitalism 
  23. Ministers’ shale gas ‘hype’ attacked
  24. Some Very Initial Thoughts on the US-China Deal
  25. The social, political and ecological pathologies of the Ebola Crisis cannot be ignored
  26. F’d: How the U.S. and Its Allies Got Stuck with the World’s Worst New Warplane
  27. Spied on by BP
  28. How did the first world war actually end?
  29. Don’t Throw Billions at an Obsolete Nuclear Arsenal
  30. Hard Evidence: are we facing another financial crisis? 
  31. Growth: the destructive god that can never be appeased
  32. Cameron is right to warn of another recession, but wrong to blame the world
  33. The Top 5 Foreign Policy Lessons of the Past 20 Years
  34. The .01 Percent Blow Their Fortunes on Yachts, Personal Jets and America’s Politicians
  35. How much is owed to Gaza? Does anyone know? This is not a rhetorical question. I’m really asking!
  36. International arms firm Lockheed Martin in the frame for £1bn NHS contract 
  37. We Love the Pentagon’s ‘Encyclopedia of Ethical Failure’
  38. Massive Rail Deal Gives China’s Push Into Africa a Major Win
  39. Exaggeration Nation
  40. Barclays boycotted over Israel arms trade shares
  41. Firms invested £17bn in companies making cluster bombs, report says
  42. There is Nothing Natural about Gentrification
  43. 41 men targeted but 1,147 people killed: US drone strikes – the facts on the ground 
  44. The ‘crass insensitivity’ of Tower’s luxury dinner for arms dealers, days after poppy display 
  45. Fracking firm’s plans to look for gas in North Yorkshire criticised by environmental groups
  46. House Republicans just passed a bill forbidding scientists from advising the EPA on their own research
  47. Justifying War: “Just” Wars  

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5% Digest (October 2014)

After the Cold War, the Pentagon needs to find a new way to justify its wasteful spending and the defense and security contractors need to find a new cause to make profits. Bob Hennelly tells the story:

In 1998, President Bill Clinton tasked former Senators Gary Hart, a Colorado Democrat, and the late Warren Rudman, a New Hampshire Republican, to chair the U.S. Commission on National Security/21st Century. The Commission panel was a cross-section of the military-industrial-media complex. Its members included Leslie Gelb, longtime New York Times correspondent and editor; Norman Augustine, former CEO of Lockheed-Martin; and Army General John Galvin.

The panel gave its report and recommendations in January 2001. Both Senators Rudman and Hart concluded that it was not a matter of “if” the U.S. would suffer a mass-casualty terrorist strike but “when.” Among the panel’s recommendations was the massive integration of all of the nation’s domestic security, disaster planning and recovery functions into one behemoth called the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
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5% Digest (September 2014)

Journalist Ahmed provided a brief history of the rise of Islamic State, arguing the complicity of US and British in its creation and rise through deliberate tactical actions, ill-conceived policies and indirect/direct financial support.

Since 2003, Anglo-American power has secretly and openly coordinated direct and indirect support for Islamist terrorist groups linked to al-Qaeda across the Middle East and North Africa. This ill-conceived patchwork geostrategy is a legacy of the persistent influence of neoconservative ideology, motivated by longstanding but often contradictory ambitions to dominate regional oil resources, defend an expansionist Israel, and in pursuit of these, re-draw the map of the Middle East.

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USA’s 2015 budget for ‘defence’ is $1 trillion not $496 billion

Winslow T. Wheeler, “America’s $1 Trillion National Security Budget,” 16 March 2014, Truthout

Scarcity of money is not their problem.  Pentagon costs, taken together with other known national security expenses for 2015, will exceed $1 trillion.  How can that be?  The trade press is full of statements about the Pentagon’s $495.6 billion budget and how low that is.

There is much more than $495.6 billion in the budget for the Pentagon, and there are piles of national security spending outside the Pentagon-all of it as elemental for national security as any new aircraft and ships and the morale and well-being of our troops.
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