By John LaForge
Spring Quarterly 2018
The current fiscal year’s military budget is $786 billion, if one includes the Dept. of Defense ($586 billion) and the military portion from other departments ($182 billion). This is over $2.1 billion every day or $87 million/per hour.
Of the federal government’s discretionary spending, 55 percent goes to the military, according to Steve Lopex in the Los Angeles Times, June 6, 2015.
Unlike federal human service and education programs that are defunded or cancelled at the first hint of fraud or mismanagement, military contractors have bilked the treasury out of hundreds of billions of tax dollars for decades and yet have barely suffered any consequences. The ballistic missile defense program is an example of decades of failure that nevertheless continues to be funded, even after spending over $200 billion trying to hit incoming warheads moving faster than four miles-per-second. Failed tests in public schools bring demands for closings, but failed anti-missile tests are declared reasons for more billions.
“The Pentagon in 2008 spent more money every five seconds in Iraq than the average [US worker] earned in a year,” according to John Whitehead in CounterPunch Feb. 16. Whitehead, president of the Rutherford Institute, found the figures in a Nov. 12, 2010 report in BusinessInsider online by Robert Johnson and Ujala Sehgal. The report also noted that while the US makes up only 5 percent of the world’s population, it accounts for “almost 50 percent of the world’s total military expenditure—more on the military than the next 19 biggest spending nations combined.”
In 2007, Walter Pincus reported that “$15 billion a month (roughly $20 million an hour) is what the United States spends on foreign wars.” (Washington Post, Dec. 27, 2007) With the US now waging war in several more countries than they were 11 years ago, $15 billion per month is likely a low estimate.
US shooting wars in hot areas cost small fortunes every day. “While many [US workers] can barely afford the cost of heating and cooling their own homes, the US government spends $20 billion annually just to provide air conditioning for military installations in Iraq and Afghanistan,” NPR’s All Things Considered reported June 25, 2011.
The extravagance has been partly detailed by the Project on Government Oversight. As analyzed by Whitehead, the Pentagon paid: $71 for a metal pin that should cost just 4 cents; $644.75 for a gear smaller than a dime that sells for $12.51: more than a 5,100 percent increase in price; $1,678.61 for another tiny part, also smaller than a dime, that could have been bought within the Department of Defense (DoD) for $7.71: a 21,000 percent increase; $71.01 for a straight, thin metal pin that the DoD had on hand, unused by the tens of thousands, for 4 cents: an increase of over 177,000 percent.
A 2011 study by the Government Accountability Office found that $70 billion worth of cost overruns by the Pentagon were caused by management failures. Even the reserved editors at the New York Times asked, “What Would You Do With an Extra $70 Billion?”
“Chaos and Uncertainty,” a study done in 2013 by Todd Harrison for the Center for Strategic & Budgetary Assessments, found it cost an average of $2.1 million per year for every US soldier serving in Afghanistan. Management of the war system is also badly compromised, according to the Washington Post which reported Dec. 5, 2016: “The Pentagon buried an internal study that exposed $125 billion in administrative waste in its business operations amid fears Congress would … slash the defense budget.”
Reuters correspondent Scot J. Paltrow, disclosed that between 1996 and 2013, a colossal $8.5 trillion (with a “t”) had gone unaccounted-for in the Pentagon expenditures. Paltro’s article was titled, “Faking It: Behind the Pentagon’s Doctored Ledgers, A Running Tally of Epic Waste.”
It appears over charging and fraud by military contractors has only worsened since Sept. 10, 2001, when then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld announced at a news conference, “According to some estimates, we cannot track $2.3 trillion in transactions.” Rumsfeld warned that the accounting disaster was “monumental,” and “terrifying,” adding that it would take “a period of years to sort it all out.” The next day’s World Trade Center news (9/11) buried this scandal permanently.