Category Archives: defense

Rotten Cotton

[UPDATE]:

Oh, apparently we just can’t take a joke:

Republican aides were taken aback by what they thought was a lighthearted attempt to signal to Iran and the public that Congress should have a role in the ongoing nuclear discussions. Two GOP aides separately described their letter as a “cheeky” reminder of the congressional branch’s prerogatives.

“The administration has no sense of humor when it comes to how weakly they have been handling these negotiations,” said a top GOP Senate aide.

Interfering with foreign policy negotiations, hilARious!

———————————————

Well you could have knocked me over with a feather:

In an open letter organized by freshman Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., 47 Senate Republicans today warned the leaders of Iran that any nuclear deal reached with President Barack Obama could expire as soon as he leaves office.

Tomorrow, 24 hours later, Cotton will appear at an “Off the Record and strictly Non-Attribution” event with the National Defense Industrial Association, a lobbying and professional group for defense contractors.

The NDIA is composed of executives from major military businesses such as Northrop Grumman, L-3 Communications, ManTech International, Boeing, Oshkosh Defense and Booz Allen Hamilton, among other firms.

This is my shocked face:

shocked

Seriously, Republicans. Have you ever met a war you didn’t like? I guess as long as Raytheon, Northrop Grumman and Booz Allen Hamilton are filling the campaign coffers, the answer to that would be no.

And major kudos to Tennessee Senators Alexander and Corker, who refused to sign the letter. They’re probably getting slammed from the Neocon wing of the party, which means there will be red meat thrown on another issue, no doubt. But on this they are correct.

Look, elections have consequences. And every time Republicans hold the reins of power, the militarism and warmongering heat up. If you don’t want war, don’t vote Republican. Simple as that.

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Filed under defense, Iran, Republican Party, Republicans, Sen. Bob Coker, Sen. Lamar Alexander, Senate, war economy

A Tale Of Two Federal Budget Items

Wow, to hear House Republicans these days, the food stamp program called SNAP is rife with fraud and corruption, has grown too big and is adding to the budget deficit. It must die.

Meanwhile, the same people overwhelmingly supported a new defense bill which, while offering some good protections to victims of sexual assault, also was padded with lots of extra spending. Such as:

The bill also restricts the transfer of detainees from Guantánamo Bay, funds construction of a new East Coast missile defense site and gives the Pentagon $5 billion more than requested for the war in Afghanistan.

Well isn’t that peachy! Sequester, semeshter! Because we all know the Pentagon is never, ever corrupt, fraud never happens, and the Pentagon would never add to our budget deficit. Hey, empires are expensive, y’all! :

huffpo-20120208-militaryspendingUS

What a bunch of fiscal phonies. Guess they’re going to force Senate Democrats to vote against this, so they can run those lovely ads accusing such-and-such liberal of voting against helping sexual assault victims in the military. I can hear it now: “They accuse us of waging a war on women, but look what Senator McLefty CommieHippie did!”

Assholes. Two can play at that game. Look who took food out of the mouth of a hungry child so they can continue to fund wars and killing? And you call yourselves Christians? For shame.

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Filed under budget, Congress, defense, deficit, food, Pentagon, Republican Party

Pigs At The Trough, Etc.

A whistleblower lawsuit has been filed against private defense contractor Jorge Scientific, described in the link as a “billion dollar government contractor.” According to the lawsuit, Jorge’s Kabul, Afghanistan operation indulged in such flagrant and gross misconduct, it placed the U.S. mission in Afghanistan at risk.

What kind of misconduct? Take it away:

For example, they indiscriminately fired weapons and possessed grenades (legally prohibited for government contractors), and drunken Jorge supervisors tossed live ammunition into house party bonfires causing the bullets to explode and destroy property. In one case, an errant bullet struck a Jorge employee near his eye and exploding bullets regularly found their way into the nearby civilian community causing Afghani civilian and military neighbors to complain – Jorge ignored those complaints.

Oooh that’s bad. But you know, not that bad, right? Wrong:

According to court documents alcohol abuse at the Villa was so prevalent, that in an inebriated and oxycodone induced state, Sullivan once placed a loaded gun in the mouth of an Islamic Jorge employee and called him “my nigga.” Another documented incident shows a Jorge executive drunk with a firearm snagged in his waist belt and disparaging “f…ing Arabs.” In another incident, two Jorge employees driving home drunk from a bar ended up in a ditch, clearly violating local customs and Islamic codes which prohibit alcohol consumption and driving under the influence.

Naturally, these alcohol-and-oxy parties were paid for by the U.S. taxpayer. And then we have this alleged incident, which is so bad you almost want to laugh:

In yet another incident captured on video, Jorge’s security manager for the entire country of Afghanistan was so intoxicated he was choking on his own vomit. When one of the relators tried to retrieve the medic from his bedroom to provide treatment, the relator found the medic himself intoxicated and drugged on ketamine to the point of incoherence, unresponsive with a syringe and a bag of horse tranquilizer on the floor and blood trickling from the medic’s arm.

Man I hope some of that video ends up on YouTube.

If these were military personnel there would be courts-martial and the like. But they’re not. They’re private contractors, and they’re going to keep feeding at the trough. Any repercussions will be swept under the rug. The company will change its name and land itself another cushy security contract, while Republicans continue to sell the idea that cutting our defense budget puts the country at risk.

Your tax dollars at work.

7 Comments

Filed under Afghanistan War, defense, privatization, war economy

Feeling Safer Yet?

God I’m so glad we’re still taking our shoes off at the airport and having our e-mails read by the NSA:

The hammering on the wall of America’s premier storage vault for nuclear-weapons grade uranium in pitch-darkness six weeks ago was loud enough to be heard by security guards. But they assumed incorrectly that workmen were making an after-hours repair, and blithely ignored it.

Minutes earlier, a perimeter camera had caught an image of intruders — not workmen — breaching an eight-foot high security fence around the sensitive facility outside Knoxville, Tenn. But the guard operating the camera had missed it. A different camera stationed over another fence — also breached by the intruders — was out of service, a defect the protective force had ignored for 6 months.

In theory, the pounding might have been the work of a squad of terrorists preparing to plant a powerful explosive in the wall of the Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility (HEUMF), a half-billion dollar vault that stores the makings of more than 10,000 nuclear bombs. Instead, it was a group of three peace activists, including an 82-year old nun, armed only with flashlights, binoculars, bolt cutters, bread, flowers, a Bible, and several hammers.

Are you kidding me? The story goes on to report that the activists “waited 15 minutes or so for the Mayberry-style guards to make an appearance.”

Here’s the worst part: we’ve outsourced security and operations at this facility to two private contractors, WSI-Oak Ridge and Babcock & Wilcox Technical Services. So y’all can just stop throwing up your hands and saying the government can’t do anything right because this is yet another epic private contractor fail. Babcock & Wilcox has pocketed more than $5 billion to operate this facility in East Tennessee over the past 10 years.

This part really got me:

[…] Inside the HEUMF, which the activists were able to deface, and pit with hammers — but not breach — the harvested material is stored in thousands of barrels and small casks placed on racks, in the open, according to an NNSA video tour of the inside.

Given the obvious risks, the HEUMF’s designers initially envisioned it buried underneath a large earth berm, a relatively cheap approach to nuclear security that has been zealously embraced by the nuclear mandarins in Tehran. But at the last moment before construction started, the NNSA reversed course and opted instead to build its aboveground “prison,” based on advice that doing so would be quicker and cheaper to build and easier to defend.

That advice came from Babcock & Wilcox, which had already secured the guard force contract, according to a 2004 DOE report. The cost savings claim was discredited at the time by security experts from Sandia National Laboratories and by Friedman’s Inspector General office; he concluded that constructing the aboveground version would cost an extra $25 million, and staffing it with a guardforce four times larger would cost taxpayers an extra $177 million over its lifespan. It would also need extra cooling.

NNSA allowed Babcock & Wilcox “to continue redesigning the facility even when initial attempts to reduce the cost and improve the security of the facility failed,” Friedman complained. Michael C. Kane, then an NNSA executive and now a top Energy Department official, told him in a letter, however, that NNSA and its local site managers were convinced an aboveground “Defense-in-Depth security design” was the best course.

Nobody could have anticipated that the for-profit entity which got the operations contract would build a facility that cost more to operate! I’m so shocked!

/sarcasm

I really don’t want to hear how much shinier/sparklier/cheaper/better private contractors are. I also don’t want to hear about the budget deficit from phony fiscal hawks who are pocketing tens of thousands of dollars in campaign donations from these private companies. And finally, I don’t feel good knowing that our nuclear weapons programs are being handled by private, for-profit corporations. This is atrocious. If I were King I’d make this shit illegal.

But hey, war and nuclear weapons are just another “job creating enterprise,” right? That swords into plowshares stuff is so hippie-dippie! There’s money to be made, y’all! Come on!

Here’s the icing on the cake:

Over the years, NNSA has steadily said less and less to Babcock & Wilcox about how to do its work. It eliminated its regional office in 2002 and turned oversight over to an office located on-site. The philosophy it has adopted recently — with the strong support of lawmakers on Capitol Hill — is called the Contractor Assurance System. It essentially means that the government cannot tell the company how to operate or guard the site; it can only hold the company responsible when it fails to accomplish its mission.

I’m not holding my breath on that “holding the company responsible” stuff. The staff on site has been “reassigned or retired” and that should be sufficient, right? Your tax dollars at work!

By the way, the peace activists who revealed this dangerous security failure are facing felony charges.

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Filed under defense, national security, privatization, Tennessee

Let’s Not And Say We Did

Sen. Lindsay Graham unwittingly makes the anti-war crowd’s point:

Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-S.C., translated Cheney’s argument that defense spending is “not a spigot you can turn on and turn off, that you need to keep money flowing in a predictable way so you can plan for the next war.

Ah, yes! We must “plan for the next war”! This is what we call the Permanent War Economy. Because if we didn’t “plan for the next war,” then what? What other options might be at our disposal the next time some uneducated people from a rudimentary Third World country terrorize the nation armed only with boxcutters? Amazing to think of the possibilities.

Indeed, this was the entire point of Rachel Maddow’s excellent book, Drift. If we’re constantly planning for the next war then war becomes inevitable. This was not what the founders of our nation intended — far from it.

In Drift, Maddow writes of Thomas Jefferson’s opposition to standing armies thusly:

“Were armies to be raised whenever a speck of war is visible in our horizon,” he warned Congress in his sixth annual presidential message, “we never should have been without them. Our resources would have been exhausted on dangers which never happened, instead of being reserved for what is really to take place.”

Of course, America’s history is not one of being on a permanent war footing, as Maddow notes. Far from it. We didn’t plan for World War II — World War I was supposed to be “the war to end all wars,” remember? Consumers sacrificed, industries were nationalized, men signed up for the armed services, Rosie The Riveter went to the factory, Mom canned produce from the victory garden, families bought war bonds, and Hollywood went to work churning out the propaganda. In less than four years it was all over. Amazing, isn’t it? Our soldiers returned victorious and we rewarded them with an incredibly generous thank-you: the GI Bill offered low-interest mortgages, business loans, tuition and living expenses for those wishing to go to college or vocational school, unemployment compensation, and more.

Fast forward to 2008, and we have Republicans like Sen. John McCain and Pres. George W. Bush opposing a new GI Bill for Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans because it “will hurt the military’s efforts to retain its troops.”

Yes of course. Because you don’t stand down in the Permanent War Economy. Wars never end. Occupations never end. We must feed the beast. We must give people an incentive to sign up for military service, and removing other viable options for employment and opportunity are a great way to go about that. In the Permanent War Economy, we must keep “planning for the next war.” The cycle never ends.

Or does it? Alternately, we can take Graham and Cheney at their word and realize what they’re really saying: war is a choice. We really don’t need to “plan for the next war.” Our military is already 10 bazillion times bigger than that of every other nation on earth combined. Can’t we just say we’re done and call it a day?

Instead of planning for the next war, why don’t we:

• Plan to be global leaders in alternative energy via that “Apollo project for green energy” we’re always hearing about;

• Plan to feed and educate every one of our citizens;

• Plan to cure cancer, which as we all know isn’t just one disease but thousands of diseases;

• Plan to create a network of bullet trains around the nation so you can go from, say, Los Angeles to Las Vegas or San Francisco in an hour and a half;

• Bring high-speed internet to every rural community in the country;

• Cut the population of stray dogs and cats in this country by 75%;

• Jet packs. Dammit, shouldn’t we have our jet packs by now?

Those are just a few thoughts off the top of my head. I just think there’s a bunch of better stuff we could be planning for besides the next war.

10 Comments

Filed under defense, peace, Pentagon, war economy

Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One Before

Q: What’s the difference between a single mother on welfare and the F-35 fighter jet?
A: The welfare mom actually works:

August 5, 2011 (by Lieven Dewitte) – For the third time in less than a year, the Pentagon has grounded all F-35 joint strike fighters because of a mechanical problem. The F-35s thus join the F-22 Raptors in stand down mode.

All flight and ground operations for the Joint Strike Fighter were ceased after the integrated power package (IPP) on a U.S. Air Force variant test aircraft failed on August 2nd during a ground maintenance run at Edwards Air Force Base.

The 20 operational test and training aircraft were parked and will stay that way until engineers and technicians can find why a power system that starts and cools the aircraft failed during an engine ground test Tuesday at Edwards Air Force Base in California. Flight and ground tests could potentially be suspended for a few weeks.

Heh. No wonder they call the F-35 the jet that ate the Pentagon. From last May:

The Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, and many foreign partners plan to buy thousands of the fighter-attack jets over the next two decades to replace a variety of aging aircraft, but the development schedule of the stealthy fighter has slipped five years to 2018 and the projected cost to the Pentagon for 2,457 aircraft has ballooned to $385 billion, making it by far the most expensive weapons program in history.

The Government Accountability Office reported that although Pentagon management of the program is improving, developers have only completely verified 4 percent of the F-35’s capabilities. The program received another blow this week when the Senate Armed Services Committee learned that the Pentagon will likely have to spend $1 trillion over the next 50 years to operate and maintain the fleet of F-35s. Evidently reeling from sticker shock, Sen. John McCain demanded that “we at least begin considering alternatives.” But is it too late to prevent the F-35 program from devouring the Pentagon’s future procurement budgets?

That’s a rhetorical question, right? There’s always money for war, you idiots!

After the painful debt ceiling political theater we just endured, though, this is a hard pill to swallow. I just can’t believe we’re cutting programs vital to people’s health and welfare while sinking hundreds of billions of dollars into the bottomless pit that is the Pentagon. And yes, this truly is a black hole:

Air Force officials themselves may now doubt the wisdom of the size of the commitment to the F-35. According to a recent Aviation Week story, Air Force Undersecretary Erin Conaton placed new emphasis on the importance of the Air Force’s next-generation long-range bomber. With procurement funds sure to be tight in the decade ahead, Conaton hinted that the Air Force may have to raid the F-35’s future budgets in order to help pay for the new bomber.

Ah well, nothing to see here, let’s move along to the next trillion dollar bomber program! Bygones!

You know what’s funny? President Obama has already pledged to cut $400 billion from defense, while Leon Panetta has said anything over $350 billion would be tragic. So I guess that means we’ve agreed on $385 billion, the cost of this one failing program, hmm? You wanna bet?

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Filed under budget, defense, deficit, Pentagon

Because There’s Always Money For War!

WTF? We’re slashing budgets right and left, cutting back on “entitlements” and Medicaid and Pell Grants and having hissy fits over the paltry sums of money NPR receives, but we have a spare $7.5 billion to build nuclear bombs in Oak Ridge?

It’s a YES on the new bomb plant for Oak Ridge. Last Wednesday, the Department of Energy/National Nuclear Security Administration published its Record of Decision in the Federal Register. And the decision was no surprise: they selected the alternative they previously identified as their “preferred alternative;” a Uranium Processing Facility with the capacity to produce 80 nuclear secondaries per year.

The Record of Decision came on the heels of an audit performed by the Army Corps of Engineers that projected the cost of construction will soar to $7.5 billion. Of course, no one imagines costs will be constrained to that total over the next twelve years of construction. With half a billion dollars already spent on designing the facility and designers saying they are only 50% complete, it is clear that neither common sense nor fiscal responsibility will stand in the way of the bomb plant.

What the hell? Who are we building these bombs for? We already have more nuclear weapons than any other country on earth. What are we going to do, use them on some guys armed with box cutters? If 9/11 proved anything at all it’s what a colossal waste of money our Defense budget is. Anyone else remember how the big conversation pre-9/11 was the resurgence of the ridiculous “star wars” program?

It’s not just $7.5 billion for Oak Ridge, either. We’re set to spend $100 billion on a fleet of new ballistic missile launching submarines and $55 bilion on new bombers.

Why do we need these weapons? Who are we fighting? Who is the enemy? A bunch of men in pajamas in the hills of Waziristan riding around on donkeys? Are you kidding me?

I’m not the only one wondering:

At this stage in history, U.S. nuclear weapons serve no useful purpose other than preventing another nation from using nuclear weapons against the United States. And a study by two professors of military strategy at U.S. military colleges has suggested that that mission could be accomplished with roughly 300 warheads, compared with the 1,550 deployed warheads permitted under the New START treaty, and the roughly 5,000 currently in the U.S. stockpile if one counts all categories of non-deployed weapons. Going down to these levels would save additional billions in reduced operating and maintenance costs for the arsenal as a whole.

Not only have a growing list of former secretaries of state and defense, presidents and prime ministers, scientists and retired military officials called for the elimination of nuclear weapons, but if pushed by budgetary realities so would many current U.S. military leaders. While they won’t say so publicly, if forced to choose between nukes and major conventional systems it is my bet that nukes would lose out in that particular budget battle.

That wasn’t some pot-smoking DFH, that was William Hartung, director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy.

It is the height of hypocrisy that Republicans and Conservadems like Joe Lieberman refuse to touch our Defense budget, yet keep crying about how the nation is broke. Oh my, we’re broke, we can’t pay our bills, oh dearest me, we’re just going to have to make grandpa go without his blood pressure medicine and grandma will have to eat cat food, what else can we do? Meanwhile we’re spending hundreds of billions of dollars on nonsense like this. We’re supposed to think of the jobs making those fighter jet engines, but somehow teachers and social workers don’t have real jobs?

This is insanity.

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Filed under budget, defense, Tennessee

>Ignorance Is Bliss

>Yeah, it’s a Rasmussen poll, but still, I have every reason to think it’s an accurate illustration of American ignorance:

Voters Underestimate How Much U.S. Spends on Defense

Voters are fairly evenly divided as to whether the federal government spends too much or too little on national defense, but most also appear to dramatically underestimate how much is actually spent.

The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that 27% of Likely Voters say the United States does not spend enough money on the military and national security. Thirty-two percent (32%) say America spends too much on defense, while a plurality (37%) thinks the nation spends about the right amount. (To see survey question wording, click here.)

But only 25% of voters believe the United States should always spend at least three times as much on defense as any other nation. Forty percent (40%) do not think the country needs to spend this much, while 35% are not sure. Interestingly, if the government were to actually spend only three times as much as any other nation, it would imply a significant cut in U.S. defense spending.

For fiscal year 2011, the total budget for defense is estimated to be around $719 billion. That does not include the cost of veterans’ care, which totals another $124 billion. By comparison, no other nation in the world spends more than $110 billion on defense. Earlier polling showed that just 58% recognize that the United States spends more on defense than any other nation in the world.

Underlying voters’ opinions on how much the United States spends on defense is the fact that many don’t know where most of the government’s money already goes. Just 40% can correctly identify that most federal spending goes towards national defense, Social Security and Medicare. Roughly the same number (38%) believes this statement to be false, while another 22% are not sure.

Considering how much of our national discourse these days is devoted to issues like our budget and budget deficit, you’d think people would know a little something about what we spend our money on.

I think Democrats and progressive groups need to devote a little more time and effort to voter education. Maybe some “The More You Know”-type PSAs or something. I don’t know, it just seems like American ignorance on a variety of topics seems to work in the Republicans’ favor, time and again.

And I have to say: this woeful ignorance of the American electorate depresses me. What the hell, America? How do we make this shit sexy so people get a fucking clue? “Real Housewives of the Congressional Budget Office”?

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Filed under budget, defense

>What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

>[UPDATE 2]:

In a world …. where a president is desperate to salvage his legacy … and his flawed “Star Wars” program ….

——————–
[UPDATE]:

I’m not the only blogger calling bullshit.

This guy takes a more scientific approach. Interesting read.

——————–

Considering how the Bush Administration could screw up eating a ham sandwich, I’m dubious about this plan:

US: Broken Satellite Will Be Shot Down

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Pentagon, under orders from President Bush, is planning to shoot down a broken spy satellite expected to hit the Earth in early March, the White House said Thursday.

U.S. officials said that the option preferred by the administration will be to fire a missile from a U.S. Navy cruiser, and shoot down the satellite before it enters Earth’s atmosphere.

White House press secretary Dana Perino said that Bush made his decision during the past week and asked experts to come up with a way to destoy the satellite. He made the decision to shoot it down because the satellite was carrying the rocket fuel hydrazine, Perino said. Initally the administration believed that the danger from the falling satellite did not pose a large problem, but decided it was best to shoot it down when experts decided that the unused hydrazine did pose a danger.

What could possibly go wrong?!

I’m no, er, rocket scientist, but this whole thing smells fishy to me. Seems the likelihood of success is pretty small, we’re just as likely to miss and screw things up worse, plus don’t these things burn up when they hit the earth’s atmosphere anyway? Remember Skylab?

The whole hydrazine thing sounds completely bogus. Surely that would burn up on re-entry?

Sounds to me like the military doesn’t want any “unfriendly governments” finding this thing. Which strikes me as really insane. We launched our current two-front war thanks to a gang of crazies with boxcutters. Our troops are being taken down by IEDs in Iraq. Why worry about foreign governments finding our old spy satellite technology?

Unless we don’t want someone finding out it isn’t as good as we said it was.

Anyway, I’m calling bullshit on the whole dog and pony show. It would be nice if someone in the media would find out what’s really going on, but I don’t hold out much hope for that. In the meantime, an ounce of cynicism is worth a pound of propaganda.

Comments Off on >What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

Filed under defense