Image via WikipediaDear You—
The more I find out about what we are spending on defense – a much higher figure than what passes for our official defense budget – the more I have to shake my head in incredulity, and wonder why the American people accept this cesspool of corruption and incompetence with such equanimity. You are going to reply that few people understand the scale of the problem, and even fewer seem to care, and you are probably right; but a reasonable person might consider that the fact that over a $1 TRILLION PER YEAR is now involved would make someone, somewhere rise to the occasion, and mount an effective protest. Theoretically, it should be Congress, but since they are complicit in both the creation and maintenance of this mega-theft from the American people, it appears we shall have to look elsewhere. Arguably, we might do worse than the GAO – the Government Accountability Office – who have just issued two reports which castigate the Pentagon (the Department of Defense) for being unable to keep track of either its acquisition programs, or its current assets. In effect, the Pentagon is not quite sure what it is buying and is even more unsure of what it has bought, what it has paid, or where it all is..
Given that we are talking about some of the most costly and lethal weapons in the world here - everything from nuclear weapons to bombers costing over $2 billion each, that is not reassuring. It would appear that right now, if some nautically inclined Al Quaeda operative decided to attach his row boat to an aircraft carrier and steal it, we mightn’t even notice. Our stock control is that bad; and our cost control is worse. Let me quote directly from the July 13 2010 response to the GAO report issued by Pentagon Controller Robert Hale – as reported in Inside the Pentagon on July 29 2010. In effect, he pleaded guilty but promised to do better – which is pretty much what every previous controller has been saying for years. This is not a new problem. It is a chronic scandal of extraordinary seriousness which is not being resolved.
"The Department has begun laying a foundation for addressing weaknesses that currently impair our ability to identify, aggregate and account for the full cost of military equipment assets," Hale wrote. He added that members of DOD are working together to "define department-wide cost accounting requirements and develop the process and system capabilities needed to support better cost accounting and management."
"DOD has also acknowledged that it needs to do more to fix the problem. According to the study, interviews with top officials revealed that part of the problem is that DOD's size and complexity hampers consensus on solutions.
One might think, by the tone, that the Pentagon's "size and complexity" was a new discovery! I don't know whether to weep or to laugh. I cover a lot of this in Titanic Nation How to Avoid Icebergs: The Case For Fundamental change In The American Way Of Life, but reality keeps on intruding to point out that no matter how critical my analysis is in the book, the scale of the actual administrative chaos is even worse.
Meanwhile, as members of the MICC – the Military Industrial Congressional Complex get ever richer, our soldiers are fighting and dying in two wars, and this Great Nation is getting ever deeper into debt. The phrase ‘cynical exploitation’ comes to mind.
Farewell for the moment. Write soon. I miss your wit and your company.