Tag Archives: budget

Mattis rips Pentagon officials for $28M wasted on Afghanistan camouflage

Defense Secretary James Mattis ripped Pentagon officials for their “cavalier” spending following a recent report that the Defense Department spent $28 million on camouflage uniforms for Afghan soldiers that don’t match up with the country’s terrain.

In a July 21 memo released to reporters on Monday, Mattis addressed a June Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) report. The document found that DOD began buying the forest-patterned uniforms in 2007, after a former Afghan defense minister saw them online and liked them.

The uniforms were purchased without testing to be used in a country that’s just 2 percent woodland.

“Buying uniforms for our Afghan partners, and doing so in a way that may have wasted tens of millions of taxpayer dollars over a 10-year period, must not be seen as inconsequential in the grand scheme of the Department’s responsibilities and budget,” Mattis wrote in the memo that was addressed to the undersecretaries for policy, comptroller and acquisition, technology and logistics.

“Cavalier or casually acquiescent decisions to spend taxpayer dollars in an ineffective and wasteful manner are not to recur,” Mattis continued in the memo.

More from The Hill

Posted by Libergirl

The Trillion-Dollar ‘National Security’ Budget

You wouldn’t know it, based on the endless cries for more money coming from the military, politicians, and the president, but these are the best of times for the Pentagon.  Spending on the Department of Defense alone is already well in excess of half a trillion dollars a year and counting.  Adjusted for inflation, that means it’s higher than at the height of President Ronald Reagan’s massive buildup of the 1980s and is now nearing the post-World War II funding peak.  And yet that’s barely half the story.  There are hundreds of billions of dollars in “defense” spending that aren’t even counted in the Pentagon budget.

Under the circumstances, laying all this out in grisly detail—and believe me, when you dive into the figures, they couldn’t be grislier—is the only way to offer a better sense of the true costs of our wars past, present, and future, and of the funding that is the lifeblood of the national security state.  When you do that, you end up with no less than 10 categories of national security spending (only one of which is the Pentagon budget).  So steel yourself for a tour of our nation’s trillion-dollar-plus “national security” budget. Given the Pentagon’s penchant for wasting money and our government’s record of engaging in dangerously misguided wars without end, it’s clear that a large portion of this massive investment of taxpayer dollars isn’t making anyone any safer.

1) The Pentagon Budget: The Pentagon’s “base” or regular budget contains the costs of the peacetime training, arming, and operation of the U.S. military and of the massive civilian workforce that supports it—and if waste is your Eden, then you’re in paradise.

The department’s budget is awash in waste, as you might expect from the only major federal agency that has never passed an audit.  For example, last year a report by the Defense Business Board, a Pentagon advisory panel, found that the Department of Defense could save $125 billion over five years just by trimming excess bureaucracy.  And a new study by the Pentagon’s Inspector General indicates that the department has ignored hundreds of recommendations that could have saved it more than $33.6 billion.

The Pentagon can’t even get an accurate count of the number of private contractors it employs, but the figure is certainly in the range of 600,000 or higher, and many of them carry out tasks that might far better be handled by government employees.  Cutting that enormous contractor work force by just 15%, only a start when it comes to eliminating the unnecessary duplication involved in hiring government employees and private contractors to do the same work, would save an easy $20 billion annually.

And the items mentioned so far are only the most obvious examples of misguided expenditures at the Department of Defense.  Even larger savings could be realized by scaling back the Pentagon’s global ambitions, which have caused nothing but trouble in the last decade and a half as the U.S. military has waged devastating and counterproductive wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, and elsewhere across the Greater Middle East and Africa.  An analysis by Ben Friedman of the conservative Cato Institute estimates that the Pentagon could reduce its projected spending by one trillion dollars over the next decade if Washington reined in its interventionary instincts and focused only on America’s core interests.

Donald Trump, of course, ran for president as a businessman who would clean house and institute unprecedented efficiencies in government.  Instead, on entering the Oval Office, he’s done a superb job of ignoring chronic problems at the Pentagon, proposing instead to give that department a hefty raise: $575 billion next year.  And yet his expansive military funding plans look relatively mild compared to the desires of the gung-ho members of the armed services committees in the House and Senate.  Democrats and Republicans alike want to hike the Pentagon budget to at least $600 billion or more.  The legislative fight over a final number will play out over the rest of this year.  For now, let’s just use Trump’s number as a placeholder.

Pentagon Budget: $575 billion

2) The War Budget: The wars of this century, from Iraq to Afghanistan and beyond, have largely been paid for through a special account that lies outside the regular Pentagon budget.  This war budget—known in the antiseptic language of the Pentagon as the “Overseas Contingency Operations” account, or OCO—peaked at more than $180 billion at the height of the Bush administration’s intervention in Iraq.

As troop numbers in that country and Afghanistan have plumetted from hundreds of thousands to about 15,000, the war budget, miraculously enough, hasn’t fallen at anywhere near the same pace.  That’s because it’s not even subject to the modest caps on the Pentagon’s regular budget imposed by Congress back in 2011, as part of a deal to keep the government open.

In reality, over the past five years, the war budget has become a slush fund that pays for tens of billions of dollars in Pentagon expenses that have nothing to do with fighting wars.  The Trump administration wants $64.6 billion for that boondoggle budget in fiscal year 2018.  Some in Congress would like to hike it another $10 billion.  For consistency, we’ll again use the Trump number as a baseline.

War Budget: $64.6 Billion

Running Total: $639.6 Billion

3) Nuclear Warheads (and more): You might think that the most powerful weapons in the U.S. arsenal—nuclear warheads—would be paid for out of the Pentagon budget.   And you would, of course, be wrong.  The cost of researching, developing, maintaining, and “modernizing” the American arsenal of 6,800 nuclear warheads falls to an obscure agency located inside the Department of Energy, the National Nuclear Security Administration, or NNSA. It also works on naval nuclear reactors, pays for the environmental cleanup of nuclear weapons facilities, and funds the nation’s three nuclear weapons laboratories, at a total annual cost of more than $20 billion per year.

Department of Energy (nuclear): $20 Billion

Running total: $659.6 billion

4) “Other Defense”: This catchall category encompasses a number of flows of defense-related funding that go to agencies other than the Pentagon.  It totals about $8 billion per year. In recent years, about two-thirds of this money has gone to pay for the homeland security activities of the FBI, accounting for more than half of that agency’s annual budget.

“Other Defense”: $8 Billion

Running Total: $677.6 billion

The four categories above make up what the White House budget office considers total spending on “national defense.”  But I’m sure you won’t be shocked to learn that their cumulative $677.6 billion represents far from the full story.  So let’s keep right on going.

5) Homeland Security: After the 9/11 attacks, Congress created a mega-agency, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).  It absorbed 22 then-existing entities, all involved in internal security and border protection, creating the sprawling cabinet department that now has 240,000 employees.  For those of you keeping score at home, the agencies and other entities currently under the umbrella of DHS include the Coast Guard, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency, the Transportation Security Agency, the U.S. Secret Service, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE), and the Office of Intelligence Analysis (the only one of America’s 17 intelligence agencies to fit under the department’s rubric).

How many of these agencies actually make us safer?  That would be a debatable topic, if anyone were actually interested in such a debate.  ICE—America’s deportation force—has, for instance, done far more to cause suffering than to protect us from criminals or terrorists.  On the other hand, it’s reassuring to know that there is an office charged with determining whether there is a nuclear weapon or radioactive “dirty bomb” in our midst.

While it’s hard to outdo the Pentagon, DHS has its own record of dubious expenditures on items large and small.  They range from $1,000 fees for employees to attend conferences at spas to the purchase of bagpipes for border protection personnel to the payment of scores of remarkably fat salaries to agency bureaucrats.  On the occasion of its 10th anniversary in 2013, Congressman Jeff Duncan (R-SC) excoriated the department as “rife with waste,” among other things, pointing to a report by the DHS inspector general that it had misspent over $1 billion.

DHS was supposed to provide a better focus for efforts to protect the United States from internal threats.  Its biggest problem, though, may be that it has become a magnet for increased funding for haphazard, misplaced, and often simply dangerous initiatives.  These would, for instance, include its program to supply grants to local law enforcement agencies to help them buy military-grade equipment to be deployed not against terrorists, but against citizens protesting the injustices perpetrated by the very same agencies being armed by DHS.

The Trump administration has proposed spending $50 billion on DHS in FY 2018.

Homeland Security: $50 Billion

Running Total: $717.6 Billion

6) Military Aid: U.S. government-run military aid programs have proliferated rapidly in this century.  The United States now has scores of arms and training programs serving more than 140 countries.  They cost more than $18 billion per year, with about 40% of that total located in the State Department’s budget.  While the Pentagon’s share has already been accounted for, the $7 billion at State—which can ill afford to pay for such programs with the Trump administration seeking to gut the rest of its budget—has not.

Military Aid at the State Department: $7 Billion

Running Total: $724.6 Billion

7) Intelligence: The United States government has 16 separate intelligence agencies: the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA); the National Security Agency (NSA); the Defense Intelligence Agency; the FBI; the State Department Bureau of Intelligence and Research; the Department of Homeland Security Office of Intelligence Analysis; the Drug Enforcement Administration Office of National Security Intelligence; the Treasury Department Office of Intelligence and Analysis; the Department of Energy Office of Intelligence and Counterintelligence; the National Reconnaissance Office; the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency; Air Force Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance; Army Military Intelligence; the Office of Naval Intelligence; Marine Corps Intelligence; and Coast Guard Intelligence. Add to these the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), which is supposed to coordinate this far-flung intelligence network, and you have a grand total of 17 agencies.

The U.S. will spend more than $70 billion on intelligence this year, spread across all these agencies.  The bulk of this funding is contained in the Pentagon budget—including the budgets of the CIA and the NSA (believed to be hidden under obscure line items there).  At most, a few billion dollars in additional expenditures on intelligence fall outside the Pentagon budget and since, given the secrecy involved, that figure can’t be determined, let’s not add anything further to our running tally.

Intelligence: $70 Billion (mostly contained inside the Pentagon budget)

Running Total: $724.6 Billion

8) Supporting Veterans: A steady uptick of veterans generated by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has dramatically increased the costs of supporting such vets once they come home, including the war wounded, some of whom will need medical care for life.  For 2018, the Veterans Administration has requested over $186 billion for its budget, more than three times what it was before the 2001 intervention in Afghanistan.

Veterans: $186 billion

Running Total: $910.6 Billion

9) Military Retirement: The trust fund set up to cover pensions for military retirees and their survivors doesn’t have enough money to pay out all the benefits promised to these individuals.  As a result, it is supplemented annually by an appropriation from the general revenues of the government.  That supplement has by now reached roughly $80 billion per year.

Military Retirement: $80 Billion

Running Total: $990.6 Billion 

10) Defense Share of Interest on the Debt: It’s no secret that the U.S. government regularly runs at a deficit and that the total national debt is growing. It may be more surprising to learn that the interest on that debt runs at roughly $500 billion per year.  The Project on Government Oversight calculates the share of the interest on that debt generated by defense-related programs at more than $100 billion annually.

Defense Share of the Interest on the Debt: $100 billion

Grand Total: $1.09 Trillion

That final annual tally of nearly $1.1 trillion to pay for past wars, fund current wars, and prepare for possible future conflicts is roughly double the already staggering $575 billion the Trump administration has proposed as the Pentagon’s regular budget for 2018.  Most taxpayers have no idea that more than a trillion dollars a year is going to what’s still called “defense,” but these days might equally be called national insecurity.

So the next time you hear the president, the secretary of defense, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, or a hawkish lawmaker claim that the U.S. military is practically collapsing from a lack of funding, don’t believe it for a second.  Donald Trump may finally have put plutocracy in the Oval Office, but a militarized version of it has long been ensconced in the Pentagon and the rest of the national security state.  In government terms, make no mistake about it, the Pentagon & Co. are the 1%.

 

By William D. Hartung / TomDispatch

Posted by The NON-Conformist

 

NC’s Final budget delivers hits to legal services, emergency judges, Department of Justice

It’s only been a little over 24 hours since the North Carolina General Assembly introduced its final budget and its already well on its way to a House vote after passing the Senate on Tuesday.

There is plenty to read in the 438-page document and plenty to get confused about. Below are a few highlights from the Justice and Public Safety budget:

Raise the Age

Lawmakers have finally agreed to raise the juvenile age of prosecution from 16 and 17 years old to 18 years old. The final budget allocates $519,600 the first fiscal year toward “Juvenile Justice Reinvestment Act Planning” and $478,000 the second fiscal year.

The budget policy decision mandates that 16- and 17-year-olds who are accused of committing misdemeanors and two classes of felonies no longer be automatically prosecuted in the adult criminal system.

The policy decision also increases the information available on juveniles to law enforcement and establishes a juvenile jurisdiction advisory committee to help with implementation. You can read more about the decision beginning on page 309 of the budget.

The proposed budget would cut $1.7 million in legal services programs across the state, affecting those most in need and almost assuredly creating unequal access to justice.

The Access to Civil Justice Act funds all traditional legal services programs, including Legal Aid Legal Aid of North Carolina (LANC), Legal Services of Southern Piedmont and Pisgah Legal Services.

As written in the final budget, the provision means that $1.50 of every court fee imposed in District and Superior Courts would no longer be distributed to the North Carolina State Bar for legal services. It could also mean reducing LANC staff across the state by 50 to 60 or more positions.

More from NC Policy Watch

Posted by Libergirl

US Eyes $1.1 Trillion National Security Budget for 2018

Even With State Dept Cuts, Overseas Spending Continues to Rise

The most recent figures related to President Trump’s proposed increases in Pentagon spending, along with cuts at the State Department, show the general national security budget of the United States rising once again, with the 2018 proposal in the ballpark of $1.1 trillion.

Needless to say, that’s the biggest military budget on the planet by a far measure. As the figures are broken down into their component parts, however, it becomes particularly shocking just how money is disappearing not just into the general war-fighting budget, but into related costs of having such a massive military for so long.

For interest, Veterans Affairs is expected to eat up $183.5 billion, which by itself comes very close to being the second largest military budget on the planet, just behind China’s $200 billion overall cost for its vast military. Figuring in other retirement costs, the cost of retirees is even bigger.

This $1.1 trillion also includes over $112 billion that just represents the interest on the military’s share of America’s massive national debt. This interest alone would be more than the cost of NATO’s next two largest member nations’ militaries, Britain and France.

Even cuts in international affairs don’t really put a debt into how much the cost of everything else is rising, and with plans for a massive modernization scheme related to America’s massive nuclear weapons arsenal, the $21.8 billion nuclear weapons expenses for 2018 could easily explode manyfold, with the expectation that they’ll dump well over $1 trillion just in the modernization scheme over the years to come.

The costs of retirees and debt are likewise things that could rapidly grow out of control, as increases in the amount being spent on fighting in the present inevitably leads to even more retirees and an even vaster debt to service.

By Jason Ditz/AntiWar

Trump’s budget slashes $3.6 trillion from domestic programs over 10 years

Trump’s budget slashes $3.6 trillion from domestic programs over 10 years

Trump’s budget slashes $3.6 trillion from domestic programs over 10 years
The Trump administration’s $4.1 billion budget proposal calls for increased spending on law enforcement, the military and the US-Mexico wall, but cuts spending for programs for the poor by slashing funding for Medicaid and cutting food stamps.

“We looked at this budget through the eyes of the one’s paying the bills,” said Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Mick Mulvaney told reporters at the White House on Tuesday.

“[F]or years and years we’ve looked at the budget in terms of the people in the back end of the program, the recipients of the taxpayer’s money, and we haven’t spent nearly enough time focusing our attention on the people who pay the taxes. Compassion needs to be on both sides of that equation,” he said.

Under this view, Medicaid, a federal-state health care program for the poor and disabled, would be slashed by more than $600 billion over 10 years. It also envisages capping payments to states and providing more flexibility to manage Medicaid recipients.

During question time, a reporter asked Mulvaney about Donald Trump’s announcement as a candidate that he would “Save Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid without cuts – gotta do it,” and whether the Trump was keeping his promises now that he’s president.

“We are not kicking anyone off any program who really needs it,” Melvaney responded. “We have plenty of money in this country to take care of everyone who needs help. But not enough for everyone who doesn’t need help.”

Trump is the first president to propose parental leave, Mulvaney said.

The budget outlines a paid parental leave program that accesses a state’s unemployment insurance scheme, but doesn’t include how the federal government will allocate funds to the program or how much. That’s because the states are being asked to figure out how to fund the program, which will probably fall on employers to fund, as unemployment insurance does in most states.

“The proposal will allow states to establish paid parental leave programs in a way that is most appropriate for their workforce and economy. States would be required to provide six weeks of parental leave and the proposal gives it broad latitude to design and finance the program,” stated the budget.

Under the budget plan, $191 billion would be cut from the food stamp program over a decade, representing a 30 percent reduction. The program currently serves 42 million people, a number that hasn’t changed much in a sluggish, recovering economy.

“We need people to work,” Mulvaney told reporters on Monday. “If you are on food stamps, we need you to go to work. If you are on disability and you should not be, we need you to go back to work.”

More than eight in 10 food stamp recipients, or 83 percent, are for households with children, the elderly or a disabled person. The average food stamp benefit is $133.85 a month, or the equivalent of $1.50 a meal. Working people who rely on food stamps are often times using it to supplement their lower income jobs where state and federal minimum wages have not been adjusted to meet living expense increases.

 

More from RT

Posted by The NON-Conformist

War, Militarism, and Middling Opposition Different Administration Same Story

In the run-up to budget discussions, the Trump Administration floated various proposals for a dramatic increase in military spending on top of the already bloated $596 billion Pentagon budget. This, figure doesn’t even represent the true expenditures devoted to war-making and militarism in the $1.1 trillion discretionary side of the national budget. The $596 doesn’t include the $65 billion in veterans spending and $26 billion for nuclear weapons. That brings the total to about $690 billion or 63% of all discretionary spending! To fund this outrageous theft of the peoples’ resources for the military/industrial/complex, the Administration called for unprecedented cuts to various Federal agencies and departments since everything is supposed to be revenue neutral.

Now a reasonable person might conclude that for an oppositional party that claims to be the voice of the downtrodden and committed to social justice informed by “liberal values,” Trump’s proposals to take a meat cleaver to state agencies in order to increase military spending and indeed his whole budget recommendations would be a godsend for democrats since militarism has a direct impact on working people and the poor. Even republican president Dwight Eisenhower understood this in what today’s right-wing U.S. culture would read as a radical statement:

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.

Yet, instead of vigorous opposition and mass mobilizations from the loyal opposition, the democrat party is still trying to hold the public’s attention with the nonsensical drama related to supposed collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign., As though collusion between campaigns and foreign governments is something new – think Nixon’s efforts to sabotage peace efforts in the ‘68 campaign and Reagan’s campaign’s coordination with Iran and release of U.S. hostages that sunk Carter’s presidency.

What is so incredibly inept about the strategy to keep the focus on Russia is that the issues that could really begin the process of driving a wedge between the Trump administration and the independents and white workers who voted for Obama in ’08 and ’12 but voted Trump in 2016 — the healthcare issue, no support for an increase in minimum wage, tax cuts for the rich — are there to be exploited if the democrats were really a serious oppositional party with an alternative reform agenda. This is precisely the point. The democrat party is not a serious oppositional party.

The absence of any real opposition to the reckless use of U.S. military force — the attack on Syria, the macho demonstration bombing in Afghanistan, the provocations toward North Korea — exposed once again the unanimity among the U.S. ruling class and the state on the use of military force as the main strategy to enforce its global interests.

What this means for Black and oppressed people, in the capitalist centers in the West and in the Global South is that we cannot afford the luxury of diversionary politics when it is our bodies that are in the crosshairs of an F-16 in Libya and a Glock 9mm in the hands of a racist cop in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. For us, unrestrained militarism and war has always meant death and destruction.

It also means that attempting to build oppositional coalitions to confront and defeat militarism and neoliberal state austerity cannot depend on effective and consistent support from democrat party related structures both inside and outside of the democrat party such as many of the nonprofits and labor unions. It even means that it is becoming more difficult to build opposition to war and militarism among the U.S. left and progressives because these sectors along with the corporate media and the general public have fallen prey to what Rashna Batliwala Singh and Peter Mathews Wright calls “imperial privilege.”

Imperial privilege is this strange ability on the part of the U.S. public to “shrug off” the consequences experienced by people impacted by the direct and indirect result of U.S. militarism. That is precisely why pro-imperialist politicians like Barack Obama, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren can be designated as “progressives” and vast numbers of voters can rally around a warmonger like Hilary Clinton without suffering much moral distress.

It is also why there is not much discussion of the consequences for the people of Korea if through macho posturing the Trump administration sparks a military confrontation on the Korean peninsula or why there are no calls from the public to stop Saudi war crimes in Yemen and it seems perfectly acceptable that the entire U.S. Senate would sign-on to a letter to the United Nations condemning it for its bias against Israel. And it is why “Trump became president” of all the people after ordering the military to engage in an illegal attack on Syria.

According to Batliwala Singh and Mathews Wright:

Imperial privilege makes it possible for even the liberally-inclined to turn a blind eye to the toxic footprint of U.S. militarism at home and abroad; to fall silent at any mention of the homicidal decisions of an American President; to exclude such matters from public political discussion and to prevent them from influencing their voting patterns in any way.

So, while Trump only got a $15 billion dollar increase in the budget compromise, the “commonsense” acceptance of war by the public at this point makes it more likely that the Administration will be successful in securing billions more of the public’s resources for war-making in the 2018 budget that will be debated over coming months.

The irreconcilable contradictions of capitalism, fueled by white nationalist sentiment has produced a toxic, proto-fascist politics. This is the context in which we must build an alternative to the neoliberalism of the Democrats and the nationalist-populism of Trump.

The drive toward war, domestic repression, and the militarization of society can only be stopped by the people. But that will not occur until there is a shift in the culture and consciousness of the public. A shift in which the inherent value of all lives is recognized and a new kind of politics is practiced in which the people are able to recognize that their interests are not the same as the interests of the capitalist oligarchy and that they have a responsibility to victims of U.S. imperialism around the world.

By Ajamu Baraka/Dissident Voice

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Trump Proposes $54 Billion Defense Spending Hike

Image: CNN via CBS Philly

President Donald Trump proposed a $54 billion increase in defense spending Thursday as promised, a plan that the White House says will provide the necessary funding to ramp up the fight against ISIS, improve troop readiness and build new ships and planes.

Released as part of Trump’s $1.1 trillion budget outline for 2018, the 10% boost to the military comes at the expense of deep cuts to non-defense spending at the State Department, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Environmental Protection Agency and dozens of other federal programs.

More from CBS Philly

Posted by Libergirl