NOT ONLY DO WE SPEND TOO MUCH ON DEFENSE, BUT IN MANY CASES, WE SPEND IT BADLY
FEW HAVE THE GUTS TO SPEAK OUT ABOUT THIS. ONE WHO DID—AND DOES—IS CHUCK SPINNEY
Thirty years ago a story appeared in Time magazine which rocked the Pentagon—and, in particular—the world of the MICC—the Military Industrial Congressional Complex which President Eisenhower warned us about with such vigor and prescience just before leaving office.
His worst fears were more than justified. We have created a permanent cabal of the military, defense contractors and Congress which has been feeding at the public trough since World War II—while mostly either drawing or losing wars we shouldn’t have been involved in the first place.
Meanwhile, the earning power of most Americans has increased but little since the Seventies—and is now in decline. On important reason is that we have spent truly extraordinary amounts of money on the wrong things—the most recent being an entirely unnecessary war in Iraq. But, even more to the point, whether there be war or peace, we have allowed the MICC to frighten us into spending trillions of dollars for no good reason. Certainly, we need a strong military, but there is a difference between strength and extravagance—between prudence and greed. Currently, greed is in the ascendant to the point where our entire National Security budget—of which the defense budget is only a part—exceeds $1 trillion dollars. In effect, we spend more on defense than the rest of the world put together.
Find the 1983 Time Magazine article here:
It is well worth reading.
Franklin C. "Chuck" Spinney (born May 2, 1945) is an American former military analyst for the Pentagon who became famous in the early 1980s for what became known as the "Spinney Report", criticizing what he described as the reckless pursuit of costly complex weapon systems by the Pentagon, with disregard to budgetary consequences. Despite attempts by his superiors to bury the controversial report, it eventually was exposed during a United States Senate Budget Committee on Defense hearing, which though scheduled to go unnoticed, made the cover of Time Magazine March 7, 1983.
This is what Time Magazine said about that famous story:
The cover story was written by Walter Isaacson, who has since gone on to write acclaimed biographies of Henry Kissinger, Ben Franklin, Albert Einstein and Steve Jobs. Presidential photographer David Hume Kennerly took the photos of Spinney that graced the cover package. The cover itself was an illustration of Spinney by Burt Silverman, who also [Bizarre Connection Alert!] did the cover art for Jethro Tull’s Aqualung album (you can see the resemblance here).
We don’t always agree with Mr. Spinney, and he hasn’t always been right, but we always find his thinking relevant and intriguing. We’re pleased that he continues to grace Battleland with it regularly, a decade after leaving the Pentagon, when he’s not out sailing.
Chuck’s courageous action in giving testimony before Congress—at the risk of his career—did not solve the problem—but it almost certainly had some effect; and sometimes all you can do is slow down a bad situation rather than stop it. That is still well worth doing. If nothing else, you have set change in motion.
Was he fired? Surprisingly, he was not, largely because the powers that be in the Pentagon were terrified of Congressional retribution. Instead—incredibly—he was shunned by the system and left to work on whatever he chose for the rest of his career. He put his time to good use—and any Spinney piece is well worth reading.
I met Chuck in the mid Nineties through a mutual friend and have remained in touch ever since. He is a genuine American hero—with the moral courage to do the right thing—and I’m honored to know him.
We need more like him.