Obama Happy to Cut Broad Range of Services to Preserve Pentagon Pork

In another manifestation of Obama’s continuing move to the right, his latest stunt has been to out-Republican the Republicans as a defender of the Pentagon. The GOP, which is out to cut $100 billion more from Obama’s version, has targeted the Department of Defense for $15 billion from an initial request of over $500 billion. From a statement released by the Administration:

The bill proposes cuts that would sharply undermine core government functions and investments key to economic growth and job creation and would reduce funding for the Department of Defense to a level that would leave the department without the resources and flexibility needed to meet vital military requirements….If the president is presented with a bill that undermines critical priorities or national security through funding levels or restrictions, contains earmarks or curtails the drivers of long-term economic growth and job creation while continuing to burden future generations with deficits, the president will veto the bill.

Contrast this stand-fast position on the military budget with Obama’s willingness to throw pretty much anyone else under the bus. John Walker provided a pithy illustration of the guns v. everything else tradeoff in a mock letter to low income Americans. Key section:

So, despite your problems, you are going to be “asked” to sacrifice. Your president is planning to cut $2.6 billion from Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which helps people afford keeping their homes warm during the winter, despite the fact that due to the economic downturn the number of poor people needing help has increased significantly.

As a result of your going without heat next winter, we will be able to afford almost one whole week of fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which cost about $468 million a day. Although when you add in the many hidden costs like increased long-term veteran’s health care due to the conflicts, your sacrifice is probably only really going to cover maybe half a week.

Before we get into pesky questions like, “So tell me how we think we are going to accomplish anything positive in Afghanistan?”, consider some key examples from a paper presented this month at the Center for Defense Information entitled Evaluating Weapons: Sorting the Good from the Bad (hat tip reader Crocodile Chuck). I suggest you read the paper in its entirely, but it depicts a defense apparatus preoccupied with expensive new toys and bureaucratic perquisites over operational effectiveness. Some key extracts (boldface ex headings ours):

RULE 1: Weapons are not the most important ingredient in winning wars. People come first; ideas are second and hardware is only third….

RULE 2: Not all weapons are equally important in war. Their importance is unrelated to their cost.

That is exactly why in 1963 the theater commander, General Westmoreland, reviewing the remarkable firefight successes of units combat testing a remarkably light and reliable new automatic rifle, the commercially-produced AR-15, immediately demanded that the AR-15 replace the M-14 throughout Vietnam over the violent objections of the entire U.S. Army ordnance bureaucracy, all die-hard defenders of the M-14 they had spawned. Fearing Army-wide replacement of their pet, the small arms bureaucrats delivered to Westmoreland in late 1964 a “militarized,” heavier, less effective version of the AR-15, the infamous early M-16A1, which they deliberately furnished with a powder that would make it jam in combat.3 As a result, young GIs died with jammed M-16s in their hands. It took three years and a brutally incisive congressional investigation4 to force the Army bureaucracy to fix the M-16 they had sabotaged.

Other examples of crucially important, cheap and therefore neglected systems spring quickly to mind. Acquiring a better five ton truck has far more impact than C-5 or C-17 airlifters on the mobility and sustenance of our troops in battle but doesn’t receive one-hundredth as much congressional or public attention. Similarly, our troops have no squad radio that is effective in jungles, woods and cities. Such a $250 walkie-talkie would do more for winning firefights and saving GI lives than the elaborate, $15 billion JTRS digital do everything command and control radio network that is the Defense Department’s current infatuation….

Victory at sea is equally unrelated to weapons cost. By the end of 1914, 28 diminutive German submarines, each one-fortieth the cost of a battleship, had wrested control of the seas from the 47 mighty battleships, 195 cruisers and 200 destroyers of the Royal Navy. The battleship had become irrelevant forever though the obstinacy of hidebound admirals and the corrupting power of lucrative procurement budgets kept the battleship in full tilt production for 30
more years.

And in its carrier reincarnation, the battleship is still soaking up the lion’s share of the U.S. Navy budget to this day. The preoccupation with $14 billion carriers
escorted by $1 to $3 billion destroyers has led to virtually complete Navy neglect of strategically essential coast control capabilities like $175 million minesweepers, $60 million coastal patrol ships, $35 million fast missile-torpedo boats and $4 million riverine-estuarine warfare boats. In the 1991 Gulf War, the Navy’s perennially inadequate minesweeping forces made it too dangerous to launch a 17,000 Marine amphibious assault that General Schwarzkopf had planned. Recently, in the Indian Ocean, the U.S. Navy’s utter lack of coastal patrol and fast attack boats left our merchant ships mostly unprotected against pirates in rubber skiffs. As a result, we witnessed the ludicrous scene of using a $1 billion destroyer to subdue four rifle-armed pirates in a 25-foot inflatable…

Similarly, real air-to-air combat is separated by a chasm from the technologist’s dangerously beguiling dream of beyond-visual-range (BVR) combat: push a button, launch a missile at a blip on the scope at 25 miles, then watch the blip disappear without ever having laid eyes on the target. That concept of combat, oblivious to the inconvenient details of real air-to-air fights, leads to huge, cumbersome fighters loaded down with tons and tons of heavy stealth skins, massive radars and missiles, and failure-ridden electronics of unmanageable complexity. The most recent fighter built in pursuit of the BVR combat delusion, the F-22, has a $355 million sticker price and costs $47,000 per hour to fly, making it impossible to fly the hours necessary to train pilots adequately (people first!) and impossible to buy enough fighters to influence any seriously contested air war.

Yves here. I’m beginning to wonder about all those scenes in action movies with missiles and high tech weapons performing miraculous hits. Is some of the DoD budget also going to product positioning? Back to the presentation:

In fighters, the effect of high cost and the associated burden of high maintenance downtime are equally obvious. The F-22 costs 10 times as much as an early model F-16 fighter and, due to its huge maintenance load, can fly only half as many sorties per day. Thus, for equal investment, the F-22 delivers only one-twentieth as many airplanes over enemy territory as the F-16 a crippling disadvantage, no matter whether the F-22’s stealth and weapons work or don’t work…

Though vastly harder to implement than any outsider can conceive, honest and realistic effectiveness testing of weapons is feasible. But the inherent military bureaucratic obstacles have grown so insurmountable that I know only two examples of truly combat-representative testing, uninfluenced by the procurement bureaucracy: the uniquely brilliant and realistic 1965-1966 SAWS M-14 vs. M-16 vs. AK-47 field test and the A-10 Armament Directorate’s Lot Acceptance Verification Program (LAVP) for 30 mm rounds, a superb 1978 airborne firing lethality test against 300 fully functional Soviet and U.S. tank targets that inspired the Live Fire Testing Program mandated by the Congress. Since 1978 there have been essentially no similarly realistic effectiveness tests.

There’s even more here; you might also want to read the introduction by Chuck Spinney as a companion piece.

The presentation admittedly does not seek to estimate how much waste is taking place (and a fully efficient bureaucracy of the scale of the DoD is an unattainable goal) but the numbers contained in the presentation give reason to think the total is significant.

This admittedly dated exchange between Donald Rumsfeld and Cynthia McKinney also shows that the Pentagon was unable to account for well over $1 trillion dollars over multiple budgetary cycles. Presumably, most if not all of the missing dough was for black ops, but mystery expenditures of this sort call the very notion of a defense budget into question:

Even though the defense now accounts for a smaller portion of government spending than in Dwight Eisenhower’s era, his concerns about the power and lack of accountability of the military-industrial complex are still very much with us.

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  1. DownSouth

    Yep. The United States has two parasites that have tapped into the bloodstream of the nation, sucking out its very lifeblood. One is the military-security-energy complex, and the other is the financial services industry. Granted, there are numberous other ticks feeding on the nation, but these two are the only ones that threaten the life of the nation.

    1. rd

      You missed the third equally large one: the health-care industry.

      Each of these three industries needs to shrink by one-third through actual free market principles of supporting what works and eliminating what doesn’t. That would free up over 10% of the GDP for productive purposes. Accomplishing that would provide the US with another century of global dominance without breaking a sweat.

      These three industries have become our equivalent of the Russian make-work programs except that they then shovel the income to the top 5% instead of the general population. Communism (Animal Farm version) on steroids.

      Unfortunately, the health-financial-military-industrial-political complex is so embedded that we may actually have to collapse to Great Depression levels to break the back of the myths that maintain its life-support systems. Geithner, The Bernank, and Congress’s current policies appear well-positioned to give us that opportunity over the next few years.

      China is focusing on being able to take out satellites and carriers with inexpensive missles. Once they can reliably accomplish that, their sheer overwhelming numbers would allow for numerous victories in the Asian continent through basic infantry and armored assaults. Korea all over again.

      Even though the US relies on technology, it still needs competence to execute it. Read “Not a Good Day to Die” by Sean Naylor about how incompetent, glory-seeking personnel can take a very winnable situation and turn it into defeat in modern warfare.

      1. rd

        BTW, there are actual functioning models at country scale all around the world on how to manage these three sectors, military, health-care, and financial at the levels that Congress and the Administration claim are unachievable.

      2. bookit

        Actually, there are more than three. There now is a kind of quasi-one-world network of oligarchies built around basic human needs: energy, credit, food, health care, communication, etc. They want to control the governments of the world because they want to bring those governments’ lawmaking power and ability to use legitimized violence in house. Libertarian theology aside, it has always been the case that some economic actors find it more profitable to buy the government than to fight it. There is no such thing as “small-government corporate capitalism.”

      3. tar, etc.

        Yep, definitely add healthcare and define the problem as the same in military exploitation or financial exploitation. Exploitation is all “our” government does since the are partners in the enterprise. Until their enterprise becomes the welfare of the people, they remain incapable of meaningful reform. This can only be done by removing the money and the preoccupation with raising more money.

        There’s a good book written when the Pentagon was being privatized under Reagan called, “When the Pentagon was for Sale.” Almost seems like the good old days now, as the Pentagon is Sold and so are we.

        1. gepay1

          Another burgeoning complex is the police prison judicial complex. My small rural county of 30,000 + just spent 30 million dollars building a courthouse with ultra secure parking spaces for the judges. We need courts and and judges and police but… Isn’t it amazing how productive ordinary working people are – the day to day people who grow our food, educate our children, build our houses etc support these vast complexes of macroparasites – and not only those added on in the present but layers and layers from the past who just inherited their wealth. (I watched an earnest but not very good documentary ‘Born rich’ by an heir to the Johnson and Johnson fortune.
          We all know we don’t need a military the size that we have when at most we will be invaded by illegal immigrants from Central America looking for jobs that most US citizens don’t want to do.
          I forget the title but I read a book by a guy in the Pentagon who resorted to drinking too much to cope with his efforts at fighting the above mentioned bureaucracy to get the Bradley Armored Troop Transport in a condition where it would actually protect our troops. He was allied to the guys that did get the F-16s. There are people who want to do a good job in the government but they are vastly outnumbered by mediocrity and greed. big government small government left or right government what we want is a competent and efficient government that is looking and acting for the general welfare.
          So we have FIRE – the military-industrial complex with its new added layer of national security-intelligence – Big Pharma – the Health insurance – Big Agro – We know GE and (remember when it was said – “What’s good for GM is good for the country.” The Corporatocracy but at least there are usable products and services made from them – the police-prison- judicial complex – There are still macroparasites left from the Royal Familes of Europe (Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands is the largest single share holder of ‘Royal’ Dutch Shell. Pretty soon the only alternative left will be -‘Eat the rich’

    2. attempter

      I agree on those being the worst robbers, although I’ll have to nitpik and point out that biotech and Big Ag (specifically, the unregulated bioweapons labs also called CAFOs) are the sectors which most directly threaten our physical existence.

      (Off topic, I saved this link just for you DS:


      Even without looking at the methodology to see if it’s flawed, I know that conceptually it’s already a “tragedy of the commons”-type scam because it assumes the adverse commodification environment and then fraudulently pretends what it’s studying is immutable human nature.)

    3. James

      Actually, there’s only one. It’s called the government extortion industry, and it couldn’t care less which private sector group you ascribe it to.

      It’s method is, of course, extortion, and it’s pockets are deep. It’s the final frontier for parasite capitalism, and rest assured, it won’t be done until YOU are.

  2. Jack Rip

    Highly important is the fact that we have to stop going to war at the drop of a hat. Iraq was clearly an ideology-based war delivered to us by right-wingers and Haliburton. Afghanistan is just a nightmarish blood bath that has to be stop.

    We need half the military we have and the sooner we do it the better off the country will be.

    Then we have a health care system that robs the whole country to satisfy a tiny group of health insurance companies.

    Obama is a worse disaster than W Bush.

    1. Cynthia

      Our government should’ve never been allowed to evolve into a form where its executive branch wield far more power than its other two branches combined. But now that it has, America is losing its roots in democracy and thus gaining roots in autocracy. So whenever I hear others say that Obama must do this or that to get our nation back on track, speaking as though he should be crowned emperor with a monopoly on power, I want to remind them that our nation’s founders fought tooth and nail to prevent autocracy from taking root in the New World. Allow me to also remind them that autocracy has a long and sordid history of shaping foreign and domestic policy so that wealth and power remain concentrated in the hands of the moneyed and military elites, leaving the people powerless and penniless.

      And now that Obama and his tight circle of advisers is mimicking Bush and his tight circle of advisers, we might as well kiss our government of and by and for the people goodbye and say hello to a government of and by and for the elites!

    2. Dirk77

      Correction: we need 10% of the military we have, along with 10% of the financial services industry.

      Another thing: Yves’first sentence about Obama’s move to the right. Friends have argued, and I now almost agree, that Obama was never about ideology; he has been and is about political expediency. This can explain his focus on consensus and compromise at all cost—no matter where the “other side” is standing. I mean if you have principles, a belief in what is right or should be right, then compromise is what you try to get the other guy to do; it’s a last resort. With Obama it’s the first. In that amoral world, there is no left and right, there is just survival. His portraying himself as a liberal was, again, just expediency. My generation too. I’m so proud.

  3. toxymoron


    Chuck terminates his introduction by citing James Madison: “A popular government without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy, or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance, and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.”

    I am fully convinced, and this entry is further proof, that you are one of the most important means of acquiring that information. It is not only your very knowledge on financial matters (which brought me here in the first place), but also, or even more, the guidance you provide through all matters left and right.

    Thank you

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Thanks for the kind words, but a lot of credit goes to the Naked Capitalism community. Readers provide me with a great deal of informative material and input, both on the site and by e-mail. Many times I’m just connecting dots.

      1. Strata

        I have searched this site for an email portal and could not find it. Where can I and other new readers/subscribers contact contributors?

  4. b

    “Yves here. I’m beginning to wonder about all those scenes in action movies with missiles and high tech weapons performing miraculous hits. Is some of the DoD budget also going to product positioning? ”

    Of course it is. There are special movie “liaison officers” who decide which film will get support and they are on the set to provide “assistance”, i.e. take care that the film shows what the Pentagon wants. A supported film will have cost free access to military hardware etc, can film on a carrier for example, a not supported film will have no access.

    Here is for example the website of the Air Force Entertainment Liaison Office

    See also:
    Military interference in American film production

    Operation Hollywood: How the Pentagon shapes and censors the movies by David L. Robb

    1. Crazy Horse

      Interesting choice of words— reporters are referred to as embeded with military operations. My ear always hears it as in bed with, because that is the function of reportage in made for TV wars like Rumsfeld’s Shock and Awe campaign.

    2. Cedric Regula

      Of course, and the government will even supply presidential actors, gratis, even for a speaking part, as we saw when Bush declared victory in Iraq from aboard that aircraft carrier, wherever it was.

    3. Mark P.

      “Yves here. I’m beginning to wonder about all those scenes in action movies with missiles and high tech weapons performing miraculous hits.”

      The colossal sham of anti-missile missile spending that’s been going on for decades has been well-documented. Nevertheless, the corruption wrought by military-industrial contracting money reaches everywhere.

      Not merely the strategic defense concept of defending a nation against incoming ICBMs via antimissiles, but even the lowly Patriot theater missiles we’ve been fielding and — more significantly — selling around the world for two decades have been proven to NOT WORK in reality.

      Case in point: MIT scientist Theodore Postol, who’d at one time worked for the U.S. government on R&D for such programs, in April 1992 told a House committee that for the Patriot, contrary to claims of a success rate of 80% in Saudi Arabia and 50% in Israel, the “intercept rate during the Gulf War was very low. The evidence … indicates that Patriot’s intercept rate could be much lower than 10 percent, possibly even zero.”

      Postol then looked at SDI and its descendants, publicly publishing an analytical piece in _Scientific American_. Wrongly, he thought his tenured MIT position would protect him. MIT has two economic faces: the money it receives via its Lincoln Labs complex for military R&D is in fact appreciably larger than what it earns as a fee-based educational institution (Both sums are in the billions). Postol was effectively crucified, barely retaining tenure after a long battle and direct harassment that included repeated visits by Pentagon DSS agents to take apart his office. All attempts to investigate/research the actual record of antimissile research were systematically blocked, often with the effective cooperation of MIT administration.

      ‘DoD Bars Inquiry on Fraud at Lincoln Lab’

      ‘Missile Dispute Enters 7th Year As Air Force Takes Over Inquiry’

      ‘Ted Postol Involved in NMD Debate’

  5. Andy

    Best piece on the site in a long while. MOD in the UK equally getting fricked over in the UK by the same band of global defense contractors whilst those in the field still cannot get the basic field Arms to fight peasants. See recent wrangles about new aircraft carriers and Trident Subs.

    The one debacle you missed out on was the refuelling planes (175 or so) which has been a complete DOD farce but which should announce in next few days if EADS or Boeing.

    Well done!

  6. bill wilson

    2 points:

    1. Spending 1/2 of world military expenditures is not affordable when running a deficit equal to 10% of GDP.

    2. Receipts from personal income taxes barely cover the defense budget. There is basically nothing left for interest on the debt or any real government program.

    Defense needs to see a 50% hit over a short time frame if the deficit is to be attacked.

  7. Paul

    I think that this is a political stunt… and I hope that it may work. Obama’s plan was to cut all of the easy stuff so that Republicans will have to make hard choices. Almost on queue the Republicans said that his budget was bloated and wasteful.

    Now it will be interesting to see what budget the republicans propose. I don’t see how they can get to a substantially reduced budget deficit from here without either:
    1. Accounting gimmicks that the CBO will see through.
    2. Cutting pet projects that they have vowed never to cut (DoDefense & Homeland Security)
    3. Cutting third-rail programs (“I want small govt, but don’t touch my Medicare! (and social security)”)
    4. Pushing out cuts to FY 2014 or later.

    Obama is baiting the Republicans so that hopefully one of the Tea Party members will publish a budget that cuts the third-rail, at which point he can turn popular sentiment against them.

    I truly don’t believe that Obama thinks this is the best budget.

    1. Frobn

      I don’t believe it is a political stunt. I believe that Obama knows we are at the end game and is doing all he can to make sure the elites get the last pennies from the poor and former middle classes.

      1. Cynthia

        The moment I heard from Philip Giraldi (see link below) that Obama chose Rahm Emanuel, an Israel Firster, to be his right-hand man was the same moment I knew that Obama would keep us up to our eyeballs in war against the Muslim World. And the moment I learned from Glenn Greenwald (see link below) that Rahm Emanuel is the Dr. Frankenstein behind the Blue Dogs’ rise to power was the same moment I knew that Obama was nothing more than a puppet for our moneyed elites. So I’ve pretty much written Obama off as a president who’ll stand up against America’s war machine and standing up for ordinary working Americans!



    2. Mickey Marzick in Akron, Ohio


      Interesting point of view…

      Is Obama “moving to the RIGHT” to force a debate [GUNS versus BUTTER] that would appear to favor the LEFT in the long run? To put DOD – the most sacred of US cows – under budgetary scrutiny is long overdue, but it is especially poignant at this juncture. No longer free to choose guns and butter, Americans will now be forced to choose guns or butter – to admit that there are limits to power, even our’s.

      Would such a debate have even occurred without the financial crisis and subsequent deficit hysteria? Have the Republicans been hoisted on their own petard? They have made the DEFICIT – ISSUE #1. Significant deficit reduction without any additional tax increases can come from only three pieces of the Federal PIE: Defense, Social Security, and Medicare. To pretend otherwise is noncents. And Democrats will not likely fare any better in such a debate either. Core constituencies in each party will be further alienated whatever the result.

  8. rjs

    clearly there is something wrong here; the mock letter to low income Americans illustratrates spending priorities that we already knew about, but can someone please tell me how the adminstration could arrive at that decision? what is the thinking behind that? surely they know the arithmetic…

    the past 5 weeks of heat oil for me was $640; clearly some people are going to freeze…

  9. Wild Bill

    Thanks for half the story. How much weaponry do we sell? How many Americans are employed in the defense industry? Shouldn’t we subtract those benefits from the costs to determine fiscal value? What if we ended both wars now — wouldn’t unemployment skyrocket and crush us? Our two main exports are war and financial fraud, and most Americans are comfortable sending both overseas. Without them, we can’t support the millions of unskilled Americans who are unable to support themselves. “Another great situation you’ve gotten us into, Ollie.”

    1. Jim Haygood

      Recessions occurred after WW I, WW II, and as Vietnam was being wound down (1973-74). But it didn’t mean that it would have been a good idea to keep the wars going into order to avoid postwar recession. War is malinvestment, and it’s worth stopping even at the cost of some transitional pain.

      1. ohioralph

        Excellent comment about malinvestment. Economics is not a zero sum game. Eliminate the malinvestment and in return you receive real investment. Economic displacement of unemployment is very short term. Gain in real investment continuous and forever. I believe this is called the seen and the unseen.

    2. sartre

      “Thanks for half the story. How much weaponry do we sell?…”
      The larger question is– How much weaponry we sell to other nations is in turn funded by US taxpayer funded aid? Israel and Egypt are just two examples. Once again a ponzi scheme to prop up the military industrial complex with taxpayer money.

  10. Jim Haygood

    ‘In another manifestation of Obama’s continuing move to the right …’

    Peace Laureate O’Bomber stated plainly enough during his campaign in the summer of 2008 that Iraq was the wrong war; that Afghanistan was harboring thirty or forty or fifty thousand America-hating militants; and that he was going to amp up the war there and take them out. True to his promise, troop levels in Afghanistan have tripled since then.

    But in terms of fixing the budget, ending the Afghan war is only a minor issue. A nation situated in a friendly neighborhood such as North America should be able to defend itself at a cost of 1% of GDP. The U.S. spends nearly 5% of GDP protecting rich countries such as Germany, Japan and South Korea, and maintaining bases in a hundred others.

    The only route to a sustainable budget is to disband NATO, close the foreign bases, bring the troops home — all of them — and make goddamned sure that they are never again dispatched outside the borders without a Congressional declaration of war that passes constitutional muster.

  11. Stephen Malagodi

    “Recognizing the State as an integral part, a division if you will, of the Economy, it is possible to see the budget as a simple income and expense balance sheet. Any policy that benefits the business class enhances the income side of the ledger, while the costs ~and benefits~ of social services are to be kept at the barest minimum, as that’s on the expense side – the cost of doing business. If we understand that it is the primary function of government to protect wealth, then it makes no sense to tax the wealthy! And we don’t.

    So spending on war is not seen as a cost, but rather an investment in economic interests, opportunities or threats to be dealt with. Spending on health care, education and housing is considered a regrettable cost of social stability and must be ‘cut’ for the sake of ‘fiscal responsibility.’

    So who is broke? The regulatory and service budgets of State. That division of the Economy is losing money, or to look at it another way, is costing the business of the Economy too much. The remedy? Cut expenditures as far as possible while maintaining social stability.

    Who is not broke? The Economy that is sitting on trillions of dollars and refusing to invest. If we’re going to look at the budget, we must look at the Economy as a whole, not just at the Government sector.”

    from: http://bit.ly/eohr8M

    1. Paul Nkunda

      Thanks for this, as well as the link to your blog. I especially appreciated the Thomas Merton excerpts.

  12. Philonius

    I read this post earlier this morning, then heard former GOP Sen. Alan Simpson on NPR saying we do have to curb the defense budget, but the prime example of doing so was the (albeit cheap) medical insurance premiums paid by retired vets.

    This is where I see the disease coming to the surface. Why is it that people are the first ones that are asked to take cuts and not the corporations? Not once in the interview I heard did Mr. Simpson say anything about cutting the budget for weaponry. We must spend more on armament that people in the military budget… does anyone have any idea of what that difference is?

  13. Keenan

    American is faced with an identity crisis: Is she to continue the path of empire, largely at the behest of corporatist interests to the detriment of her citizens, or does she forsake the imperial pursuits which conflict with her founding ideals. Ron Paul has been a lone voice and a true leader in posing this question to the nation.

    1. Francois T

      Speaking of Ron Paul, my biggest surprise was to witness his son Rand, berate his colleagues in the Senate for their willingness to continue to support the Patriot Act.

      THere is a lot of Rand Paul’s positions I dislike, but I’ll give him this: he truly believes in civil liberties, which are, BTW, the parents of a truly, long-term sustainable modern economy.

      But don’t tell that to the bought and paid for Rent-a-Congress we’ve got now. After all, their economy is doing cojonudo; hence, why should they bother with ours, since we are still stupid enough to vote for them?

  14. Paul Nkunda

    Instead of going into Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program to help poor people heat their homes warm during the winter, poor people will be required to sacrifice even more so that still more money can go into very expensive, obscene (and perfectly useless) new weapons such as the XM25.

    The XM25 is a perfect example of why Obama’s privatized war for profit in Afghanistan is being waged in the first place.

    In a Dec 20, 2010 article at exiledonline, the War Nerd has this to say about the XM25. (And you may laugh, but despite his moniker, fringe reporters like the “War Nerd” are far better at cutting through official BS than MSM reporters, simply because MSM reporters *are* the BS; 99 percent of them are nothing more than government stenographers.)

    And so here’s what the War Nerd had to say about the XM25:

    “It’s being hyped as a “game-changing” weapon that will literally blow the Taliban out of their hiding places and turn the tide in Afghanistan….”

    After describing in detail how the Pentagon is promoting this weapon, he goes on to say:

    “That’s the hype, anyway, the story being peddled by media whores like Rick Sanchez, who did a gee-whiz story on the XM25 a while back.

    My basic rule is that if Rick Sanchez said that water is wet, I’d start to doubt it, so I’ve got a couple of doubts about this story. First, it’s very hard to tell if the XM25 works as well as we’re hearing, because U.S. armed forces procurement is a big, sleazy business and involves more lies and propaganda than Stalin’s show trials ever generated. There are proven cases of Army officers working with contractors from the big weapons companies to rig tests to make new weapons systems look good. If you take a look at this recent video of the XM25 putting on a show for the tame media, you’ll see what I mean.

    First, you’ll notice that the reporters are told what’s going to happen by Col. Tamilio, the Army’s public-relations honcho for the new weapon. And he tells them, “You’re not going to see anything” because the XM25 is firing dummy rounds, training rounds, non-explosive. After the soldier handling the weapon fires two rounds, Tamilio tells them the test went “two-for-two,” but they’re taking his word for it. All they actually saw was a guy shooting the thing twice.

    Defense contracts are the sweetest you can imagine, which is why defense contractors bribe the hell out of everybody from congressmen to foreign dictator’s nephews to get them to buy. If you want a classic example of what defense procurement sleaze looks like, take a look at the career of former congressman Randy “Duke” Cunningham, now better known as “Federal Inmate Cunningham.”

    The XM25 has a typical history for a big-money American weapons system. By the time suckers like Rick Sanchez get brought to the proving range to see it shown off, this weapons system has been through a career as sleazy as Duke Cunningham’s….


    1. Cedric Regula

      Looks to me like this would conceivably “work”, but I think it’s more of a “bang for the buck” problem.

      The trade off is what new capability this really brings when we already have things like mortar, grenade launchers, shoulder fired guided TOW missiles even with night vision sites, etc…

  15. sditulli

    Why is crony capitalism associated with the right and not the left. Their is no reason to call something you don’t like as a “rightist” agenda; as I’m pretty sure most of the tea-party which would be consider the right flank of the gop party is very much against bad military spending.

    This comes down to entrench special interests.

    But as an aside its also a decision on our future battles. Some believe the threat is still against a future peer-super power (Stratfor seems to believe that view in their new book) over these Democracy building hell hole wars against pre-stone age societies.

    1. Francois T

      Crony capitalism should be placed in its proper political context, person v corporation.

      Right v left is a quaint distraction from a bygone era. It died the 9th of November 1989.

  16. steelhead23


    For those who haven’t seen this, the above vid is a good companion to the above post. Obama is a Republican!

    As regards “Making the world safe for democracy” it would appear that the DoD has finally succeeded. Apparently Middle Eastern peasants, fed-up with the antics of elite puppets installed and supported by the U.S. military have become “ready for democracy.” Oh the irony – the Empire shrinks as the unwashed, apparently channeling Thomas Jefferson, demand freedom. The success of the U.S. reshaping the world through the injudicious use of its military is breathtaking. Blow-back baby.

    BTW – Given that the U.S. will NEVER pay off its debts, what say we sell a couple of carrier battle groups to China? These assets currently guard the flow of oil from the Persian Gulf. On a percentage basis, Asia is more dependent on this resource than is the U.S. Why not let them guard it? Just an idea. I’m quite certain China would be interested.

  17. ex-PFC Chuck

    Thank you, Yves, for bringing attention to the work of these heroic people who have been fighting the dysfunctional defense establishment for over three decades now. The people at the Center for Defense Information come from within that establishment; most of them are retired uniformed officers or civilian DOD employees, or long-time Congressional staffers who specialized in foreign policy and defense issues. Pierre Sprey, the man whose essay you quote extensively, was personally responsible along with the founder of the military reform movement in the late 1970s, the late USAF Col. John Boyd, for forcing down the throat of a kicking and screaming Air Force bureaucracy the two most cost-effective major weapons systems of that service since World War II: The F-16 and the A-10.

    Thirty six years after his retirement from active duty and nearly fourteen years after his death, Boyd’s name is still radioactive within much of the USAF establishment. He made a practice of seeking out young, up and coming officers before they had been corrupted by business as usual and recruiting them to become reformers:

    “. . one day you will come to a fork in the road…. And you’re going to have to make a decision about which direction you want to go…. If you go that way you can be somebody. You will have to make compromises and you will have to turn your back on your friends. But you will be a member of the club and you will get promoted and you will get good assignments…. Or you go that [the other] way and you can do something – something for your country and for your Air Force and for yourself. If you decide you want to do something, you may not get promoted and you may not get the good assignments and you certainly will not be a favorite of your superiors. But you won’t have to compromise yourself. You will be true to your friends and to yourself. And your work might make a difference…. To be somebody or to do something. In life there is often a roll call. That’s when you will have to make a decision. To be or to do? Which way will you go?”*

    From Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War, by Robert Coram, p 285-286 (italics in the original) http://tinyurl.com/y88aa68

  18. Dave Lewis

    It’s time to make some hard choices. The US government can either be the policeman for the world (at risk of losing domestic support) or aim to maintain domestic civility (at risk of losing its place in the world order).

    As the entitlement funding inflection point- when the un-funded liabilities (some $4.6T) manifest in the archaic cash accounting methods of the US Treasury (about which more here: http://dharmajoint.blogspot.com/2011/02/us-budget-entitlement-funding.html) these hard decisions will be forced upon the state.

    So much for gracefully solving one’s problems.

  19. C

    I cannot tell you about the navy, but the section on the air force is pretty much bunk.

    BVR combat is very real: No modern air force has relied on weapons that required a human to do manual aiming for decades: There’s just too much speed to not rely on the homing capabilities of modern air to air missiles. Therefore, air to air war comes down to being able to shoot at targets before they can shoot at you, and having missiles that are far superior to enemy countermeasures. We can’t make planes that are harder to hit as long as we have pilots in them: The performance envelope of planes is determined by what the human body can stand.

    So the cost saving measure for air to air combat is to make sure your plane has no pilot. When the plane doesn’t need instruments, a pressurized cabin, and is not limited by the G forces a human body can stand, you can build smaller planes that are harder to hit and can carry the same payloads as an F22 can.

    Another issue is how much air superiority hardware does the US really need. Look at Iraq or Afghanistan: Conflicts where there was such overwhelming superiority in the air that. In the first Iraq war, the Iraqi air force got 4 confirmed kills, total. In Operation Iraqi Freedom, there was no air to air combat at all. So how many planes designed for air to air combat as a primary purpose does the US really need? Multirole fighters with modern missiles are still better than what every potential enemy can field.

    1. alex

      “the section on the air force is pretty much bunk”

      Take anything Pierre M. Sprey writes with a large grain of salt. It’s unfortunate that Yves chose to highlight his essay, as some of the others are much better. While some of Sprey’s general criticisms are good (unrealistic testing, ignoring critical small ticket items) his criticisms there are the same as many others. However, he spends most of the time criticizing specific technologies, and there he’s both one-sided and often very dated. I think he’s trying to relive his glory days as part of the Fighter Mafia forty years ago. He’s convinced that the F-16, whose design he played a part in, is the greatest fighter ever designed and no successor need ever be built. If you look at some of his other stuff making detailed comparisons of different fighter designs, he rarely looks at anything after the 1970’s.

      Ironically, while praising the IAF, he ignores that for many years they’ve used both F-16’s _and_ F-15’s, the latter as an air superiority fighter that flies cover for the less capable F-16’s.

      Tellingly he criticizes the Sparrow missile, and ignores the fact that it started being replaced 20 years ago by the AMRAAM. Most of his criticisms of the ineffectiveness of air-to-air missiles are based on laughably dated technology.

      His touting of the M-16 is also very interesting. While advocating real-world testing of weapons, Sprey ignores the way it was soundly denounced by troops testing it in combat early in the Vietnam war. Read the late Col. David Hackworth for an earful about that, as he was an infantry commander in Vietnam involved in the early combat trials.

      Even Sprey’s historical “lessons” are often very flawed. He wrote: “By the end of 1914, 28 diminutive German submarines, each one-fortieth the cost of a battleship, had
      wrested control of the seas from the 47 mighty battleships, 195 cruisers and 200 destroyers of the Royal Navy. The battleship had become irrelevant forever …”

      First, it was WWII, not WWI, that showed that the battleship was obsolete. He ignores the Battle of Jutland and the fact that without the British surface fleet keeping the German surface fleet bottled up the German surface fleet would have been able to blockade Britain more effectively than the submarines did. Most of all, the British blockade of German shipping is one of the most important factors in the Allied victory in WWI. But I guess those inconvenient facts wouldn’t fit well into his narrative.

  20. Paul Tioxon

    Empire of Bases





    Stuff they forgot to delete:


    And last but not least, what happens if US people go Egyptian:


  21. Cedric Regula

    Having worked in the defense industry in a previous life, I can relate it is much, much, much worse than “The Three Blind Men and the Elephant (or Donkey)” parable when it comes to understanding “theater of war” issues. Especially at sub-contractor level.

    But my gut instinct is that if we could find the defense budget, then shred it, we may remain a superpower for at least a little while longer.

  22. Max424

    YS: “I’m beginning to wonder about all those scenes in action movies with missiles and high tech weapons performing miraculous hits.”

    Hey, they work, Yves. Yes, on rare occasion, a laser guided warhead will slip its leash and surface skip its way into a schoolhouse or hospital. But sh+t happens, right, in — undeclared — war?

    The problem with these type of munitions is, they’re expensive, and you can only deliver em one at a time. And its hard to bring the peace with a missile here, and a missile there, isn’t it?

    No, no; if you want cost effective victory, you call in the B-52s.

    Do you have nettlesome Taliban and al-Qaeda evil-doers holding a ridge line northern Afghanistan? Call Diego Garcia, and scatter the bastards…into Pakistan. Is one star short of five General Schwarzkopf pitted against 350,000 Iraqi soldiers trying — frantically and unsuccessfully — to dig into and under the sands of southern Iraq? Don’t frontally attack them, Swartzy, call Diego Garcia, and bury the hapless motherf+ckers, by the tens of thousands.

    You know, the B-52 got a bad rep in Vietnam, but if you want to defend freedom, to this ringing and glorious day, the B-52 continues to be our one true blue, irreplaceable, war-winning wonder-weapon.

    Now, a poem.

    The Humble and Patriotic B-52 … by Max.

    B-52, B-52
    Patrolling the skies so blue
    B-52, oh B-52
    Slaughtering the enemy
    And some collaterals too
    Is what do, do, do …

    1. Max424

      Insert the word you, please, into the poem. It should read: you do, do, do; not, do, do, do.


      PS: There is also an its that should read it’s. Sorry. Sadly, misplaced apostrophe’s is my middle name.

  23. Glen

    It’s been much more cost effective to “conquer” our foreign friends by subjecting them to American fast food and American banking. These may be slow, but these are effective and proven means to rob and kill.

    Unleashing the military to try and do the same job is a losing proposition.

    1. alex

      But you can’t accuse us of being unethical, as we test those more cost effective weapons on ourselves first.

  24. Francois T

    People First?

    Yup…first to be scammed, that is.


    Defense Bill Raids Personnel Funds to Pay For Weapons
    The measure also trims personnel and maintenance accounts from previous versions of the measure to pump up weapons procurement for Afghanistan and Iraq by almost $2 billion.
    via The Associated Press: Wrap-up bill clears Senate hurdle.
    Every year about this time a tiny trickle of little-noticed news stories weeds its way into the papers, usually in the back sections. It’s the same narrative every year: Congress lumps all the unpassed appropriations bills together, slaps them full of pork, and quietly passes them (often in the dead of night) while everyone is already thinking about Christmas.
    The defense bill is always the worst and most morally reprehensible, and this year is no exception. It should be noted that defense pork is one of America’s great bipartisan traditions. The scheme is the same every year, regardless of who is in the majority: Congress quietly shoves in earmarks for unnecessary and ridiculously expensive weapons programs, and pays for them by gutting the existing budgets for actual soldiers.
    What most people don’t understand about earmarks is that they are not achieved by simply adding to the top number for the whole federal budget. Earmarks have to come out of the approved number for that particular appropriations bill. So if you want a highway earmark, the money has to come out of some other highway program.
    In the defense bill, it usually works like this: Congress sticks in a few extra airplanes or ships as a handout to this or that member, usually in exchange for his vote somewhere else on some other issue. To pay for those earmarks, the favored targets for cutting are usually two parts of the defense bill: Personnel (i.e. military pay) and Operations and Maintenance (which includes such things as body armor, equipment, food, training, and fuel). Those of you who wondered over the years how it could be that soldiers in Iraq could somehow be left without body armor, well, here’s your explanation. They usually took the armor off those kids in order to pay off some congressman with an extra helicopter or two.
    My old friend Winslow Wheeler, a former Senate aide who is now a well-known watchdog on defense spending, points out that this year is no different. There are over 1,700 earmarks in the defense bill that just passed, worth $4.2 billion, but those are
    … just the earmarks they will admit to. Not counted in that tally are the 10 C-17s for $2.5 billion, nine F-18s for a half a billion dollars (in the war funding part of the bill), plus the added $465 million for the GE engine…
    And where did the money to pay for all that come from? This is another annual trick. Usually if you add up all the earmarks, the total amount spent will roughly mirror the amount of the cuts in personnel and O&M. Wheeler found the following:

    * $1.9 billion in gross reductions to the Military Personnel (pay) account based on the arbitrary justification that there was need for an “undistributed adjustment,” or in some cases “reimbursables.”

    * $2.1 billion in net reductions from the O&M account in the base bill; $1.4 billion of that reduction was based on phony justifications (indirectly based on some flimsy GAO analysis never made public), such as “historic underexecution.” (If you want to review my analysis of this flimsy GAO analysis , see it athttp://www.cdi.org/friendlyversion/printversion.cfm?documentID=4535.)

    * The House and Senate Appropriations Committees also raided the direct war fighting O&M account in Title IX of the bill by $1.5 billion.

    * Total O&M raids, thus, amount to $3.6 billion.

    So, $3.6 billion in O&M cuts added to $1.9 billion in personnel cuts = $5.5 billion.
    And $4.2 billion in earmarks added to $3 billion for the F-18s and the C-17s, plus $465 million for the Joint Strike engines (which the administration claims it doesn’t want) = $7.66 billion.
    It’s always amazed me that this stuff isn’t more of an issue with the right. We’re talking about robbing soldiers to pay defense executives. They pull this scam like clockwork every year and nobody ever says a word — weird stuff.

    Just lovely.

  25. Eureka Springs

    According to wiki the next two largest in line, covering nearly two billion people in a far more volatile neighborhood.

    USA: between $1.01 and $1.35 trillion in fiscal year 2010

    China’s 2010 military budget 80 billion

    Russia 2009 budget: 40 billion

    Why on earth should we not lower our defense budget to at least double or less these two countries combined budgets of 120 billion?

    America, 240 billion or less… would be double the next two largest “players” in the world combined.

    We are insane! Much as I appreciate Yves, Walker and anyone else broaching this subject… we are simply beginning to negotiate (with papers citied in the post) from a point of insanity. We should be talking about cutting more than a trillion per year… and would still be the largest by far.

    1. hillbilly idiot #21,000

      Re: “Why on earth should we not lower our defense budget to at least double or less these two countries combined budgets of 120 billion?”

      Because we’re kicking their asses sonny boy, and that’s the way we like it, uh huh, uh huh!

  26. F. Beard

    A quote from “Catch 22”:

    Major Major’s father was a sober God-fearing man whose idea of a good joke was to lie about his age. He was a long-limbed farmer, a God-fearing, freedom-loving, law-abiding rugged individualist who held that federal aid to anyone but farmers was creeping socialism. He advocated thrift and hard work and disapproved of loose women who turned him down. His speciality was alfalfa, and he made a good thing out of not growing any. The government paid him well for every bushel of alfalfa he did not grow. The more alfalfa he did not grow, the more money the government gave him, and he spent every penny he didn’t earn on new land to increase the amount of alfalfa he did not produce. Major Major’s father worked without rest at not growing alfalfa. On long winter evenings he remained indoors and did not mend harness, and he sprang out of bed at the crack of noon every day just to make certain that the chores would not be done. He invested in land wisely and soon was not growing more alfalfa than any other man in the county. Neighbors sought him out for advice on all subjects, for he had made much money and was therefore wise. “As ye sow, so shall ye reap,” he counseled one and all, and everyone said, “Amen.” from Catch 22, page 83

    Note: I did not have to type in the above, someone else found it appropriate in a comment at http://boingboing.net/2010/09/09/pentagon-attempting.html

    To me, that is how many of us think, particularly and especially the government backed counterfeiting cartel, those “God-fearing, freedom-loving, law-abiding rugged” individualists, the FR bankers.

  27. Glen

    The real insanity is that America is spending it’s way into non-existence to fight Vietnam all over again.

    We are already engaged in an economic war and China is winning big time. Prior to Bush, estimates were that China would have an economy equal to America’s by about 2040. Bush and Obama’s policies have sliced decades off that estimate. Of course it helps that most of America’s corporate elites seem to have decided that helping China win is the right thing to do.

    Japan and Taiwan will be the canary-in-the-coal-mine. Watch for Japan to re-arm with nukes, and Taiwan to announce that they are forming an economic alliance with the mainland.

    1. Lidia

      This started with Nixon, did it not?

      I think it’s interesting that the real period of US mfr. decline coincided with Nixon’s “opening” China.

      Capitalism had no other choice but to involve China; now the end game which Nixon put off for a decade or more is clear.

      Opening China to Western capitalism was not a choice, but an imperative.

      1. Lidia

        “an imperative” = a mathematical imperative. (Capitalism must expand consumption exponentially the way fractional reserve banking must expand exponentially).

  28. Ron

    Obama campaigned on widening the Afghanistan war and renominated Bush Sec of Defense so please no surprise in his priorities nor the Democrats.

    1. David

      But Bush was drinking his shots off camera (off budget) in relation to the wars. So not quite an accurate picture of our national drunkeness.

  29. Larry Elasmo

    Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for DPAP (Defense Procurement and Acquisition Policy).

    According to their website, here is their vision:
    Acquisition excellence through leadership with integrity.

    And here is their mission:
    Enable the Service Components and Other Defense Agencies to effectively deliver equipment and services that meet the needs of the warfighter through innovative policy, guidance, and oversight while being good stewards of the taxpayers’ money.


    Gotta love the part about “needs of the warfighter” and “being good stewards of the taxpayers’ money”.

    If you are an ambitious American looking to get ahead in life, there are two career paths open to you: Securitization (how to creatively repackage debt) or weaponization (how to shoot people and blow things up).

    Or you might try combining these two career paths into one: securitized weaponization or weaponized securitization, depending whether you prefer literally blowing things up (while making lots of money) or wearing a nice suit while you blow up the economy (and make lots of money in the process)

    If you fuck up at either one, there’s no need to worry because the taxpayer will bail you out, so take your pick.

  30. rps

    Obama’s proscribed class warfare agenda is a mistake. He can rescind the Bush tax-cuts for the top tier instead of destroying social safety-nets.

    “….All accumulation. of personal property, beyond what a man’s own hands produce, is derived to him by living in society; and he owes on every principle of justice, of gratitude, and of civilization, a part of that accumulation back again to society from whence the whole came.” Agrarian Justice, T. Paine

  31. rps

    “Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things. Among them are H. L. Hunt (you possibly know his background), a few other Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or business man from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid.” D.D. Eisenhower

    1. psychohistorian

      Really! Maybe their number use to be negligible but they dumbed down the educational system since then and made many, many more stupid people.

      How fast do you think Dwight is spinning in his grave?

  32. HJ James

    In addition to preserving Pentagon Pork, coverage of Obama’s FY 2010 budget proposal in the Government Executive Magazine shows that it is also intended to: broaden and deepen the power of the military-industrial complex, hasten the race-to-the-bottom for labor, and further undermine social connections.

    This budget proposes a DoD increase of 4.3%, which is considerably more modest than the proposed 8.5% increase to “Ze Department of Homeland Security” and only slightly less than the proposed 5.8% increase for the State Department and related “programs.” Obama’s budget also proposes a10.7% increase for Veterans Affairs. Additionally, the budget calls for the hiring of 3,000 new federal employees next year – 70% of whom will be earmarked for security agencies with the majority going to “Ze Homeland Security Department.” (As a federal employee, I welcome the addition of a few more Americans who can amplify the adverse personal, familial, and community impacts of widening attacks on all public employees.)

    Now here are some of the sacrifices proposed by Obama: A 12.6% reduction in the EPA’s budget, a 24.3% reduction in the Justice Department’s budget*, a 2.6% reduction in budgets for both Health and Human Services and Housing and Urban Development Departments, a 5.2% reduction in the Labor Department’s budget and 8.8% reduction in the Transportation budget.

    Also notable is a proposed 4.5% increase in the budget for the Treasury Department.

    See http://www.govexec.com/story_page.cfm?articleid=47104&oref=todaysnews and http://www.govexec.com/story_page.cfm?articleid=47105&oref=todaysnews for the details. You can read the entire Orwellian budget plan at http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/omb/budget/fy2012/assets/budget.pdf

    * In explaining the proposed Justice Department budget, the Executive Branch includes a claim that that the budget will support “…continued robust efforts to crack down on financial fraud.” It also states that funding for the Justice Dept’s national security efforts will be increased. The budget reductions are euphemistically described as “Makes Targeted Investments and Tough Choices for State and Local Assistance Initiatives.”

  33. Turtora

    Hello, i came to this blog while trying to find something else, but to my joy i found this site. Keep doing what you might be performing, its excellent.

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