Category Archives: military contractors

$700 Toilet Seats

Hey guess what, everybody! Someone found $900 million worth of stuff in the Pentagon’s sofa cushions:

The Army program charged with keeping thousands of eight-wheeled Strykers running over the past decade had its eye so much on wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that it neglected to keep its books.

It accumulated nearly $900 million worth of Stryker replacement parts – most of them in an Auburn warehouse – with much of the gear becoming outdated even as the military continued to order more equipment, according to a Defense Department Inspector General report released late last year.

Take, for instance, the $57 million worth of obsolete infrared equipment the Army has not installed in Strykers since 2007. It lingered at the Stryker warehouse until the Inspector General called attention to it last year.

Or, the 9,179 small replacement gears called pinions the Army bought as a temporary fix for a Stryker suspension problem that surfaced between 2007 and 2009. The Army took care of the root malfunction in 2010, but kept buying pinions.

It needed only 15 of the gears. The 9,164 extra pinions are worth $572,000, the Inspector General reported.

Yes, Republicans. Do tell me how we can’t possibly cut the Pentagon budget without “endangering the homeland.” I’m all ears. And while you’re at it, remind me how food stamps and Head Start are budget-busters but the Pentagon ordering hundreds of millions of dollars of parts it can’t even use is not.

The Stryker inventory is purchased from major defense contractor General Dynamics, which has a no-bid contract. They, of course, had no comment. Of interest:

The military had awarded General Dynamics a no-bid contract that promised to reimburse its expenses for maintaining the Strykers while adding a fee, giving the company little incentive to control costs.

Yes, that would be wrong. Because freedom and SHUT UP.

BTW I find it amusing that the article quotes Lexington Institute “defense analyst” Daniel Goure, who is quoted as saying of the error,

“This is truly much ado about nothing” he said. “It’s essentially miscommunication.”

Goure appears all over the mainstream press with regularity. You’ll see him quoted in the New York Times and he’s on NPR, Fox and NBC, to name a few. As he was in this story, Goure is always identified merely as a “defense analyst with the Lexington Institute.” First of all, he’s a vice president, not a mere “analyst.” And then, of ocurse, no one ever bothers to mention that Goure worked in the Bush Administration Defense Department, was part of the PNAC study group that gave us the glorious Iraq War, and that the Lexington Institute is another one of those free-market, the-Constitution-is-cemented-in-the-18th-Century far-right talking point factories which has taken such extreme positions as advocating we withdraw from NATO. Furthermore, the Lexington Institute is funded by the same defense contractors that its “analysts” are always defending in the press (indeed, Lexington Institute founder James Courter was a lobbyist for such defense contractors as Lockheed Martin and SRI International.) So, y’know, just your average military industrial complex neocon.

This $900 million “no big deal” is proof of the grift and graft you get when the for-profit private sector bellies up to the government sugar tit. But again, it’s no big deal! Only $900 million! Quit yer whining! (By the way, that’s 90 times more than what we give Big Bird.)

Fiscal phonies.

By the way, we only needed 15 pinions but somehow managed to buy 9,179 of them? And nobody noticed? Shouldn’t there be some kind of Congressional investigation?

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Filed under budget, military contractors, Pentagon

>Going Rogue Electric Boogaloo

>[UPDATE]:

More on this from Wired. And we wonder how the U.S. government gets faulty intelligence about things like Saddam Hussein having WMD?

—————————

Nobody could have anticipated this:

Former Spy With Agenda Operates a Private C.I.A.

WASHINGTON — Duane R. Clarridge parted company with the Central Intelligence Agency more than two decades ago, but from poolside at his home near San Diego, he still runs a network of spies.

Over the past two years, he has fielded operatives in the mountains of Pakistan and the desert badlands of Afghanistan. Since the United States military cut off his funding in May, he has relied on like-minded private donors to pay his agents to continue gathering information about militant fighters, Taliban leaders and the secrets of Kabul’s ruling class.

Well, that’s just peachy. Any rich asshole, or person with rich asshole friends, can field their own private CIA or NSA. Hell why not? Can’t imagine there being a problem with everyone fielding their own private spy operation, can you?

Oh, and this:

His dispatches — an amalgam of fact, rumor, analysis and uncorroborated reports — have been sent to military officials who, until last spring at least, found some credible enough to be used in planning strikes against militants in Afghanistan. They are also fed to conservative commentators, including Oliver L. North, a compatriot from the Iran-contra days and now a Fox News analyst, and Brad Thor, an author of military thrillers and a frequent guest of Glenn Beck.

For all of the can-you-top-this qualities to Mr. Clarridge’s operation, it is a startling demonstration of how private citizens can exploit the chaos of combat zones and rivalries inside the American government to carry out their own agenda.

Yeah this is so awesome. How great that a bunch of rich assholes can decide all on their own that they don’t like the policies of the duly elected President of the United States, and just go off to pursue their own foreign espionage campaigns. How awesome that they can feed certain salacious bits of information to their rich asshole-funded private propaganda machine, too.

First of all: how is this legal?

Second of all: how is this legal?

Third of all: Can you imagine what our allies are thinking when they read this? WTF? “We thought so-and-so represented the United States government!” “Oh, no! He’s just running his own rogue operation. Pay no attention!”

None of this would even be possible if we hadn’t decided a few years ago to “outsource” critical national security operations like intelligence gathering to “private contractors.” Who thought that was a good idea, anyone know? That is a colossally stupid idea.

Of course, this is the same U.S. government which decided it was a good idea to out a CIA agent just out of spite. So, I’m not surprised.

But back to my first question: How is this not illegal? It appears it is, but someone at the Pentagon decided to use some clever semantics to skirt the law:

Four months later, the security firm that Mr. Clarridge was affiliated with, the American International Security Corporation, won a Pentagon contract ultimately worth about $6 million. American officials said the contract was arranged by Michael D. Furlong, a senior Defense Department civilian with a military “information warfare” command in San Antonio.

To get around a Pentagon ban on hiring contractors as spies, the report said, Mr. Furlong’s team simply rebranded their activities as “atmospheric information” rather than “intelligence.”

Mr. Furlong, now the subject of a criminal investigation by the Pentagon’s inspector general, was accused in the internal Pentagon report of carrying out “unauthorized” intelligence gathering, and misleading senior military officers about it. He has said that he became a scapegoat for top commanders in Afghanistan who had blessed his activities.

This whole thing stinks to high heaven. Wonder if Darrell Issa will be investigating this? I’m guessing … no.

As they say … stay tuned.

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Filed under Afghanistan War, CIA, military contractors

>Punishing BP

>More ideas on punishing BP here. And it turns out my idea for giving BP the equivalent of the corporate person’s death penalty isn’t so crackpot after all:

And killing BP in return would hardly be unprecedented: In America’s first 100 years, we shut down an average of 2,000 “rogue corporations” each year.

Heh.

——————————

Yes, we can. It’s called “discretionary debarment” and it seems to be the best way to finally stand up to the oil giant:

Over the past 10 years, BP has paid tens of millions of dollars in fines and been implicated in four separate instances of criminal misconduct that could have prompted this far more serious action. Until now, the company’s executives and their lawyers have fended off such a penalty by promising that BP would change its ways.

Yeah, that worked out swimmingly, didn’t it?

I don’t know why our regulatory agencies are content to let corporations like BP get away with repeated misconduct while looking the other way. Oh wait, yes I do know why. We all know why: it’s just another case of corporations infiltrating every aspect of our government. From regulatory capture to lobbying to astroturfing to outright bribery and graft, our government now represents corporate interests, not the peoples’ interests. And this is the predictable result.

However, it’s the only government we’ve got, and we do have the power to change it. I love right wingers who tell me this is all an example of how “government doesn’t work,” when in fact it is the corporate interests which have corrupted government to begin with. So what are we supposed to do, turn our government over to the fraudsters? Plus, I may not be able to influence BP’s board of directors but I sure as hell have a say over who represents me in Washington.

Anyway, the government can suspend all of its contracts with BP via discretionary debarment:

Federal law allows agencies to suspend or bar from government contracts companies that engage in fraudulent, reckless or criminal conduct. The sanctions can be applied to a single facility or an entire corporation. Government agencies have the power to forbid a company to collect any benefit from the federal government in the forms of contracts, land leases, drilling rights, or loans.

The most serious, sweeping kind of suspension is called “discretionary debarment” and it is applied to an entire company. If this were imposed on BP, it would cancel not only the company’s contracts to sell fuel to the military but prohibit BP from leasing or renewing drilling leases on federal land. In the worst cast, it could also lead to the cancellation of BP’s existing federal leases, worth billions of dollars.

Yes that’s right. You folks diligently boycotting BP in a show of solidarity with our neighbors on the Gulf Coast might like to know that the U.S. government is currently giving billions of your tax dollars to BP to fuel our military. How many billions? This report I’ve linked to estimates around $4.6 billion over the past 10 years.

Yes that would be the same military currently deployed in the Middle East to protect “our” (read: BP and other western oil companies) access to oil. Wow, wrap your ahead around that one for a second. All of which leads most folks to believe that a full-scale discretionary debarment won’t happen:

Discretionary debarment is a step that government investigators have long sought to avoid, and which many experts had considered highly unlikely because BP is a major supplier of fuel to the U.S. military. The company could petition U.S. courts for an exception, arguing that ending that contract is a national security risk. That segment of BP’s business alone was worth roughly $4.6 billion over the last decade, according to the government contracts website USAspending.gov.

Yeah, see when you’ve got the world’s largest military deployed around far-flung reaches of the globe and that military needs the juice, then a little thing like an eco-disaster in the Gulf of Mexico probably doesn’t amount to a hill of beans. Our military needs its juice, because the juice is what enables us to protect the West’s access to oil.

Got that? No wonder our empire is crumbling. It is being crushed by the staggering weight of its own stupidity.

Anyway, if you’d really like to punish BP for its reckless behavior, you might start with this petition advocating debarment. It’s worth a shot.

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Filed under BP, corporations, Gulf oil spill, military contractors

>Why Is This Man On My TV?

>Why is Ben Venzke, CEO of Intelcenter, on my TV again? Oh that’s easy: I’m watching CBS’ “coverage” of the new (alleged) Osama bin Laden tape.

I’m trying to figure out why, whenever OBL supposedly rears his head, CBS News runs to Venzke for comment. Here’s Venzke’s latest CBS moment, which was sent around the U.S. to local CBS affiliates in a news package. Although the piece came from CBS News’ London correspondent Mark Phillips last week, I caught it on NewsChannel5 (WTVF) this morning:

Bin Laden’s audio message, one of more than 30 since al Qaeda’s 9/11 attacks, comes at a time of heightened security in the U.S. and the United Kingdom. What is particularly troubling for analysts is bin Laden’s use of language that preceded other attacks.

“Peace be upon those who follow the light of guidance,” bin Laden said in the tape.

“This phrase, which appears at the beginning and end of the message, only appears in bin Laden’s statements typically in messages that come in advance of an attack,” said Ben Venzke CEO of Intelcenter, a private contractor that works with counter-terrorism agencies. “This could be in the coming weeks or as far out as 12 or 14 weeks from now.”

Oh, well thanks for that insight (or should I say, incite?) At least CBS sorta identified Venzke’s company properly this time–I’ve seen reports going back a few years in which they refer to Intelsource as “an agency.”

They are not an “agency.” They are a military contractor. Like Halliburton, KBR, Xe (Blackwater), Boeing, Raytheon or any other military contractor. They have a contract with the Pentagon and they profit from our war on terror. They have a financial stake in scaring the crap out of people. So I’d say anything Venzke or Intelcenter has to say about Osama Bin Laden needs to be taken with that in mind and the news media should not use them as a source.

Unfortunately, it gets even worse for CBS News when you realize what the Pentagon contracts Intelsource to do. In fact, the Pentagon hires Intelsource to search for videos and other communications from terrorist groups–videos like this latest one of Osama bin Laden. Isn’t that interesting? So in other words, the Pentagon hires Intelsource to find videos of Osama bin Laden. Then when they find one, the CEO of the company which was hired to find the video in the first place goes onto the news to verify its authenticity.

Well isn’t that cozy. So, do we know that Venzke and Intelsource have ginned up phony terror videos which they then verified in their media appearances? Actually, it has been alleged by a few conspiracy-oriented blogs. I won’t link them, as I can’t vouch for these blogs. But there was one instance where an expert accused Intelsource of doctoring an OBL video it found and released (Venzke of course denied doing any such thing).

But all of that is beside the point. The issue is not whether Intelsource has behaved unethically, since we don’t know. The issue is that CBS News has provided a military contractor with the opportunity to do so. They should never have put their news division on such ethically shaky ground.

Could it get worse? Why yes, it can: I e-mailed my concerns to a NewsChannel5 anchor with whom I’m on friendly terms. I knew they did not generate the report but since that’s where I saw it, I asked them to pass my concerns along up the news division chain. My friend responded first with thanks that I’d call it to their attention, noting they were unaware of Venzke’s role as a military contractor.

But they then said there is nothing they can do about it because

quite frankly, it’s something that comes to us and we don’t have the resources all the time to catch that kind of thing.

Our broken news media: is feature, not bug.

I wonder if this is what Viacom intended of its news division. The Pentagon contracts with a company to find videos of terrorists and when that company finds them, the CEO gets to flaunt their authenticity on the news. No one is the wiser but we all stay very, very scared.

Mission accomplished.

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Filed under fear porn, media manipulation, military contractors, Osama bin Laden

>Rifle Jesus Lives

>[UPDATE 2]:

Trijicon will remove Bible verses from its government rifle sights. I mean, duh. You get a government contract, you modify your product.

—————————–

[UPDATE]:

Faithful America responds with a petition.

—————————–

Well now I’ve heard everything:

Coded references to New Testament Bible passages about Jesus Christ are inscribed on high-powered rifle sights provided to the United States military by a Michigan company, an ABC News investigation has found.

The sights are used by U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and in the training of Iraqi and Afghan soldiers. The maker of the sights, Trijicon, has a $660 million multi-year contract to provide up to 800,000 sights to the Marine Corps, and additional contracts to provide sights to the U.S. Army.

U.S. military rules specifically prohibit the proselytizing of any religion in Iraq or Afghanistan and were drawn up in order to prevent criticism that the U.S. was embarked on a religious “Crusade” in its war against al Qaeda and Iraqi insurgents.

[…]

Trijicon confirmed to ABCNews.com that it adds the biblical codes to the sights sold to the U.S. military. Tom Munson, director of sales and marketing for Trijicon, which is based in Wixom, Michigan, said the inscriptions “have always been there” and said there was nothing wrong or illegal with adding them. Munson said the issue was being raised by a group that is “not Christian.” The company has said the practice began under its founder, Glyn Bindon, a devout Christian from South Africa who was killed in a 2003 plane crash.

Well, fuck you and your $660 million contract, which I hope is yanked out from under your greedy little war profiteering hands faster than you can say “I never knew ye, ye evildoers.” What kind of sick fuck thinks putting Bible verses in rifle sights used by soldiers in war is anything close to appropriate? Are you people crazy?

I’m sick of these idiots and their Rifle Jesus and their warmongering in the name of the Lord. I’m sick of your twisted religion that glorifies death and your assumption that anyone who doesn’t agree with you “isn’t a Christian” so their opinion doesn’t count.

You’re an abomination.

And to “the church,” which I realize is a diverse bunch: shame on you, too. The only way someone could justify such heresy with the remark that “the issue was being raised by a group that is “not Christian” is because the church has been timid on issues of war and violence. Yes, there have been plenty of church folks who have spoken out against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan but not enough have spoken out when their fellow Christians have used the Bible to endorse all sorts of corrupted theology. So shame on us all.

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Filed under military contractors, religious right

>Permanent War Economy Electric Boogaloo

>Beating swords into plowshares? Saxby Chambliss isn’t a fan:

An effort by Sen. Saxby Chambliss to force the Pentagon into buying more F-22 fighter jets is reviving tensions between the Georgia Republican and a stalwart in his own party, Sen. John McCain (Ariz.).

Chambliss won narrow approval at a closed-door Senate Armed Services Committee markup for his amendment authorizing $1.75 billion to purchase seven F-22 Raptors from Georgia-based Lockheed Martin — despite strong objections from McCain, the ranking Republican on the panel, and a veto threat from President Obama.

This is corporate welfare for the war economy in a nutshell. Sen. Saxby Chambliss is trying to force us to spend $1.75 billion — that’s with a B folks — on a program the Pentagon doesn’t even want!

The F-22 is obsolete:

It is a cold war relic, designed for defense against the Soviet Union. It has never flown in combat, much less in the wars this country is actually fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

But Republicans and a handful of breakaway Democrats in Congress want to stay on the F-22 gravy train :

During the closed markup, Chambliss got support from three other Democrats and one Independent: Sens. Edward Kennedy (Mass.), Robert Byrd (W.Va.) — both voting by proxy — Mark Begich (Alaska) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.).

Lieberman supports it because although Lockheed Martin assembles the F-22 in Marietta, Ga., the engines are built by Pratt & Whitney in Connecticut. I’d guess the other Senators have similar jobs incentives for keeping an obsolete fighter jet the Pentagon doesn’t want in production. After all, that is the point: that is why companies like Lockheed Martin spread their production around the country, to maximize their influence in Congress.

And it’s not just jobs: some in Congress have their personal fortunes at stake, too. For example, Rep. Phil Gingrey of Georgia, a vocal F-22 defender, owns stock in Boeing, Lockheed Martin’s partner in the F-22.

I’ve written about this issue before here. It would be nice if we could cut wasteful Pentagon programs that cost in the billions of dollars and transition that money to job-creating programs in the green energy sector, for example, or healthcare reform.

People need jobs. America needs to manufacture things. Would it be so hard to transition away from manufacturing an obsolete fighter jet to making solar panels and wind turbines? Heck, we transitioned from manufacturing consumer goods to manufacturing for war during World War II.

Of course, it doesn’t work that way anymore.

It’s not like the Pentagon has suddenly become all touchy-feely, we-are-the-worldy, everyone hold hands and sing Kumbaya. They simply wish to cap the F-22 fleet at 187 planes, which should be sufficient. Sec. Gates wants to transition production to the F-35 instead, also made by Lockheed Martin. This isn’t a cut in Pentagon spending at all, it’s just changing to a different kind of fighting weapon. And its controversial because people like Saxby Chambliss want to preserve jobs in their states.

One of these days, maybe a few centuries from now, we’re going to look back on an America that built its economy on war toys at a time when the people needed healthcare and clean energy. And we’re going to wonder what the hell were we thinking?

But for now, the permanent war economy rolls on.

Huzzah.

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Filed under budget, economy, military contractors

>Shameless Shilling For The F-22

>This is depressing, yet entirely predictable. On Monday I wrote we needed to watch for those retired military “analysts” boosting the F-22 without disclosing their financial ties to military contractors like Lockheed Martin and Northrup Grumman.

As if on cue, Fox News brings us this:

Yesterday, Lt. Gen. Tom McInerney appeared on Fox News to discuss the Somali pirates situation, and managed to use it as an opportunity to shill for the F-22:

McINERNEY: I’d put F-22s and combat air patrol out there, two of them, with tankers. … The reason I’d put the F-22s is because they can go 1.6 to mach 2, and they have a very quick reaction time and a 20 millimeter canon.

“It doesn’t take an Air Force general to see how bizarre McInerney’s military reasoning is,” Gawker’s Ryan Tate writes, noting that the F-22 — an exceedingly expensive fighter jet designed for air combat — could do nothing to solve the current problem.

Indeed, McInerny spread good ol’ fashioned propaganda and misinformation:

He neglected to mention virtually every U.S. fighter made in the last 30 years carries such a cannon (usually the six-barrel M-61 Vulcan), including the F/A-18 Hornet already in use by the U.S. Navy. He also fails to mention that, no matter how fast the F-22 might be, it can’t be based off an aircraft carrier. So its reaction time could never be as good (from a land base on, say, the Arabian Peninsula) as a Hornet or other existing Navy jet floating in the waters nearest the pirates.

As I noted yesterday, we were attacked on Sept. 11 by the lowest of low-tech: men armed with box-cutters, slipping through lax airport security. It seems the world of warfare has changed and big, expensive weapons systems can’t combat the low-tech terrorism we’re seeing on the high seas or on the streets of Baghdad. I’m not saying we don’t need any big fancy weapons systems, I’m just thinking we don’t need any more.

And here’s Fox News putting an “analyst” with ties to a defense contractor on the air so he can pluck a piece of news from the headlines and fashion it into a talking point to save the F-22.

Utterly predictable.

How utterly reprehensible. He should have his “military analyst” pass revoked.

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Filed under FOX NEWS, media, military contractors

>Permanent War Economy Redux

>I just came from a coffee with Congressman Jim Cooper and a few other bloggers–the first of many, I’m told, so if you’re a Nashville blogger who didn’t get word of this meeting, don’t feel left out, as there will be others.

Our conversation hopscotched around a variety of topics, but one issue of interest to me was Defense Secretary Gates’ plan to halt production of the F-22 in late 2011. It’s a decision Cooper supports–I liked his statement earlier this week that “we no longer have the luxury of running the Defense Department as a hometown jobs program”–but it’s significant that Cooper and Sen. John McCain were the only members of Congress to signal support for the plan.

It of course all comes down to politics, and Cooper told us that of the 60 people on the Armed Services Committee, “I may be the only one who doesn’t have a major defense contractor or base in their district.” It’s why Lockheed Martin’s F-22 is assembled from parts made in 44 states, he noted; that’s not a manufacturing necessity, but a political one. It spreads their sphere of influence over a broad swath of congressional districts.

What’s alarming is that our snooze media has done its usual half-assed job of reporting on the proposed Pentagon budget, framing it as a budget cut when it is in fact a budget increase. And while lots of attention has been given to the phase-out of the F-22, not too much attention has been given to the part of Gates’ budget which calls for accelerating production of the F-35.

Republican Senators Chambliss and Isakson have vowed to keep F-22 production going, and they will make an economic argument, which I find morally reprehensible:

His tactic likely will be to target union-state Democrats and convince them that the F-22 is a “shovel-ready” jobs program and a necessary deterrent.

Excuse me, but if you base your economy on building weapons, then aren’t you also basing your economy on war? Aren’t you pretty much guaranteeing more unnecessary debacles like Iraq? What are we building all of these weapons for, if not to use them? If they’re just for “show,” as a “deterrent,” then how many of these damn things do we need?

It’s a popular saying these days that America no longer manufactures anything; I’ve probably said it myself. But it’s not true. We make weapons. Lots of ’em.

Isn’t this the “permanent war economy” we’ve all said we don’t want?

Over in Fort Worth, Texas, Lockheed Martin expects to do very nicely under Gates’ proposed budget, the F-22 notwithstanding:

Even with no additional F-22 work, Lockheed Aeronautics, which is based in Fort Worth, should “be a $20 billion company within five years,” Stevenson said. It was worth $11.5 billion last year.

Wall Street analysts were nearly unanimous in the view that Lockheed should fare well under Gates’ plan.

Gee, that’s nice. Too bad about that ethanol plant that just declared bankruptcy, though. Ditto these biofuels producers that also declared bankruptcy in recent weeks.

I’m trying to remember the last time a defense contractor went bankrupt.

It’s certainly disappointing to me that our best argument supporting the phase-out of an expensive and obsolete fighter jet is that “we’re still increasing the Pentagon’s budget, so quit yer whining!” Why is there never a conversation about slashing the size of our military, period? And by the way: Why are we still spending $10 billion a month on Iraq?

I can certainly foresee a future in which political pressure on “union-state Democrats” wins out, and we keep manufacturing the F-22 so Georgia doesn’t lose any jobs while at the same time boosting production of the F-35 for the people in Texas. And this is how we grow our military and maintain the power and influence of the military industrial complex. The permanent war economy is here and it’s, well, permanent.

I don’t have any answers but I sure do have some questions. Rep. Cooper told us he’s the ranking Democrat on a panel looking into reform of the defense contracting process. I eagerly anticipate hearing what this panel has to say. Because right now, the defense contractors have far too big an interest in making sure we’re building more and bigger weapons, which means they have an interest in making sure we are always under threat. It’s now part of our “economic stimulus.” People forget we were attacked on Sept. 11 by some individuals armed with no more than boxcutters. All of the fighter jets in the world wouldn’t have prevented that.

With that in mind, for those who missed Jon Stewart’s smackdown on the media misinformation surrounding the Defense budget, enjoy:

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart M – Th 11p / 10c
Full Metal Budget
thedailyshow.com
http://media.mtvnservices.com/mgid:cms:item:comedycentral.com:223883
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Economic Crisis Political Humor

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Filed under budget, economic stimulus, military contractors

>The Permanent War Economy

>[UPDATE]: Via ACK, my Congress Critter Jim Cooper’s statement on the Pentagon budget:

“Congress will surely debate these recommendations, but let us debate them on their merits. America is fighting two wars and a recession; we no longer have the luxury of running the Defense Department as a hometown jobs program. That’s why, in the words of Secretary Gates, we must rise above parochial interests and do what’s in the best interest of the nation as a whole. I hope my colleagues will join me in accepting his challenge.”

Wow, it’s nice to see someone in Congress admit that we’ve been operating the Pentagon this way. The “permanent war economy” has not been a tinfoil hat conspiracy theory of the progressive left after all. This is certainly encouraging.

Maintaining the F-22 purely as an economic stimulus exercise is immoral, and it doesn’t make fiscal sense, either. At some point we will see the folly of waging war to create jobs. Could that time be now?

———————–

File this one under it’s about damn time:

In a blow to Lockheed Martin, the Pentagon has decided to end funding of the F-22 fighter jet. 

The decision by Defense Secretary Robert Gates will rouse widespread opposition in Congress and is likely to bog down the 2010 budget approval process, with F-22 supporters maneuvering to secure more money.

The Pentagon will fund four of the radar-evading stealth fighters in the upcoming 2009 emergency war-spending request, but those additional aircraft will do little to keep the production line in Marietta, Ga., open beyond 2011. Each F-22 costs about $140 million.

Gates announced the decision at a press conference on the Defense budget on Monday afternoon. He said the recommendations were his own and that he received no guidance from outside the Pentagon. But he did confer with military and civilian leaders at the Defense Department, he said.

Gates said he consulted closely with the president, but that he “received no direction or guidance from outside this department on individual program decisions.”

The planes are outmoded; designed to fight Soviet jets, they’ve been useless in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

But Lockheed Martin argues that production of the F-22 employs 25,000 people (here they claim it’s 95,000, which may include Lockheed Martin’s suppliers). If the economic argument is the only one they’ve got, then by all rights they should lose this one hands down. For years we progressives have bemoaned the permanent war economy, which conservatives have pooh-poohed as a lefty tin-foil hat theory. But if you’re going to argue for keeping an outdated military fighter jet in production simply because it employs a bunch of people, what the hell do YOU call that, if not a war economy?

The Christian Science Monitor summed it up well back in March:

As a Democrat more interested in spending money on butter than guns, Mr. Obama does not see guns as butter. His priorities are healthcare, energy, and education. Some Democrats even want a 25 percent cut in defense spending.

But Obama may not win the coming political dogfight with Congress over reducing production of the F-22, which the Air Force sees as its crown jewel in commanding the skies in a conflict. The plane is manufactured by some 1,000 companies in 44 states. That’s created a powerful lobby.

One thing to watch for in the coming weeks are some of these retired military “analysts” in the media. These are the folks who it was later discovered worked for lobbyists and military contractors. If retired Maj. Gen. Robert Scales hits Fox News to warn about the surrender monkeys and liberal defeatocrats in Congress, I want to know about it.

If we do lose this battle and the military continues to manufacture the outdated F-22 purely to keep people employed, I will know that any hope we had of transitioning away from a war economy would be lost. And that would make me very sad, indeed.

And to the folks in Marietta who are worried about losing their jobs, you have my condolences. It would be nice if your Republican governor would not talk about turning down federal stimulus funds with a major employer losing a big government contract. Maybe you folks could follow Tennessee’s lead and make, I dunno, solar panels or something.

Swords into plowshares, people.

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Filed under budget, military contractors, Pentagon

>Mr. Smith Went To Washington

>… And got fired for questioning KBR’s accounting:

WASHINGTON — The Army official who managed the Pentagon’s largest contract in Iraq says he was ousted from his job when he refused to approve paying more than $1 billion in questionable charges to KBR, the Houston-based company that has provided food, housing and other services to American troops.

The official, Charles M. Smith, was the senior civilian overseeing the multibillion-dollar contract with KBR during the first two years of the war. Speaking out for the first time, Mr. Smith said that he was forced from his job in 2004 after informing KBR officials that the Army would impose escalating financial penalties if they failed to improve their chaotic Iraqi operations.

Army auditors had determined that KBR lacked credible data or records for more than $1 billion in spending, so Mr. Smith refused to sign off on the payments to the company. “They had a gigantic amount of costs they couldn’t justify,” he said in an interview. “Ultimately, the money that was going to KBR was money being taken away from the troops, and I wasn’t going to do that.”

But he was suddenly replaced, he said, and his successors — after taking the unusual step of hiring an outside contractor to consider KBR’s claims — approved most of the payments he had tried to block.

Wow. So the Pentagon official in charge of oversight was fired for …. oversight!

According to a story in yesterday’s Houston Chronicle, Mr. Smith was right to question KBR’s charges:

KBR overcharged the U.S. Navy for providing meals to workers and service personnel in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, according to a Pentagon audit.

[…]

“The Navy paid approximately $4.1 million for meals and services we calculate should have cost $1.7 million, more than a $2.3 million difference,” said the audit, signed by Assistant Inspector General for Acquisition Management Richard Jolliffe.

KBR paid for 227,500 meals over a 34-day period, yet the subcontractors served only 113,654, fewer than half, and the remaining meals were discarded, the audit said. It recommended the Navy demand a refund from KBR of at least $1.4 million.

The overcharges were one element of mismanagement by Houston-based KBR, of three Navy contracts valued at $229 million for cleanup and restoration of Navy facilities damaged after Hurricane Ivan in 2004 and Katrina in 2005, the audit said.

Altogether, the audit requested that the Navy seek refunds of at least $8.5 million for “inappropriate” payments to KBR.

But wait, I thought the private sector did everything so much cheaper/faster/better/shinier/happier than the government! Oh no, there goes another piece of conservative wisdom down the toilet.

KBR’s performance has been stormy, to say the least. There’s the unsafe electrical wiring they provided troops. They failed to take action when female employees were gang-raped, and covered up the story later. They even dodged social security and medicare taxes. Of course they did! Taxes are for the little people!

In any real world, KBR would have been put out of business long ago for these and a hundred other misdeeds. But because of their strong connections to Vice President Cheney, they keep racking up the government contracts and profits have tripled.

It’s wingnut welfare at its finest. Your tax dollars at work: going straight into KBR’s pockets. Mission accomplished!

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