Two Critics Of Government Spending Are Forcing The Army To Build Tanks It Doesn’t Want

By Annie-Rose Strasser on Apr 29, 2013 at 11:45 am

Credit: U.S. Army

Congress is forcing the Army to spend nearly half a billion dollars building tanks that Army officials insist they don’t want, with money they say could be better spent elsewhere, according to a new report from the AP.

Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) are the two members of congress at the helm of the effort to spend $436 million on upgrading the Abrams tank, “a weapon the experts explicitly say is not needed.” The reason? Both represent Ohio, home to the nation’s only tank manufacturing plant, which would profit from the money.

The move is contradictory for the two politicians; both are also vocal advocates for fiscal austerity, and have made careers insisting that the government cut what they see as wasteful spending. It would seem that pushing for tank production against the will of the Army — as Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno put it, “If we had our choice, we would use that money in a different way” — is in direct contradiction to that aim.

Still, Rep. Jordan defended his push for the funding, saying, “The one area where we are supposed to spend taxpayer money is in defense of the country.” This is a common line among Republicans. The House GOP’s proposed budget also seeks to restore funding the military says it doesn’t need.

Indeed, Republicans have pushed to maintain defense spending while pushing for cuts to mental health programs, cancer treatment, food safety inspectors, and preschool programs. They have repeatedly ignored or dismissed the assertion from military generals that President Obama’s budget, which would have made targeted cuts to military programs, was an acceptable path to spending reduction.

A cut to one specific program would by no means be a drastic setback for the military; between 2001 and 2011, military spending nearly doubled. American voters, much like the military’s generals, also support scaling back the military’s spending.


This material [the article above] was created by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It was created for the Progress Report, the daily e-mail publication of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Click here to subscribe.

Enough Already—Just Drive Over that Speed Bump!

Enough with even trying to negotiate with the hostage takers on the Right. As the nation approaches the so-called fiscal cliff – I have an urgent message for our Democratic members of Congress—and that is—go off the dang cliff!

Indefensible: The Truth About Pentagon Spending

A mountain of misleading rhetoric from big Pentagon contractors has buried the facts.
By Suzie Dershowitz

Suzie Dershowitz

Today, there’s a debate raging about the federal budget, our national spending priorities, and how best to protect our national security and our men and women on the front lines.

With the U.S. war in Iraq officially over and our operations in Afghanistan drawing down, this is the perfect time to stop partisan squabbling and rethink the way we fund the Pentagon. Americans on both sides of the aisle agree that economic security goes hand-in-hand with national security. A majority of us support cutting the defense budget by 18 percent, or more than $100 billion, according to a recent Stimson Center study.

It’s time we started spending smarter on our military and weapons. We need a sensible, balanced, and long-term approach to national security.

But all the fear-mongering about Pentagon budget cuts potentially spurring massive job losses makes it hard to have a conversation about our national security priorities. A mountain of misleading rhetoric put forth by big Pentagon contractors — who are spending millions on lobbying and campaigns — has buried the facts. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the top 10 government contractors spent a combined total of more than $56.3 million on lobbying expenditures and more than $9 million on campaign contributions last year. A number of these companies spending millions on expanding their undue influence collect most of their revenues in taxpayer dollars. Now members of Congress are parroting their talking points.

The public has a right to know the truth. First, shelling out more money for the Pentagon budget doesn’t necessarily mean more jobs. As my colleague Ben Freeman at the Project On Government Oversight demonstrated in a recent report, the top five defense contractors were cutting jobs while being awarded more taxpayer dollars between 2006 and 2011. Over this five-year period, total employment at companies such as Lockheed Martin and Boeing declined as these military contracting giants thrived, not just in terms of federal contract dollars but in overall financial performance. Apparently these Beltway bandits have no qualms about letting workers go when it helps their bottom line.

Meanwhile, major defense contractors’ top executives enjoy compensation packages on par with Wall Street CEOs. The chief executives of Lockheed, Boeing, United Technologies, and Northrop Grumman all made between $22 and $27.6 million in total 2011 compensation. So when contractors threaten to send thousands of layoff notices leading up to the 2012 election, it’s clear they are playing politics with national security.

Military contractors’ capacity to launch such a large-scale campaign to defend their profits is symptomatic of underlying structural issues with the way the United States does national defense. The Pentagon’s budget has continued to grow unchecked for decades because our national security policy is still mired in the Cold War industrial defense paradigm. The world has shifted, and the Pentagon needs to make the transition towards leaner, smarter spending to face today’s threats, like terrorism and cybersecurity.

Mismanagement and Pentagon waste, not a lack of funding, are the real problems. In fact, authorizing less money may spur reform. Instead of wasting taxpayer dollars on building costly new weapons systems and more nuclear lab construction projects we don’t need, our military needs to reset its priorities.

The bottom line is that when private companies exert so much influence over the defense budget process, they divert resources away from what our troops and veterans need. National security policy should aim squarely at protecting the American people, not giving taxpayer-financed subsidies to multibillion-dollar corporations. Spending smarter, not bigger, on defense will make us safer in the long run.


Suzie Dershowitz is a public policy fellow at the Project On Government Oversight. www.pogo.org  Distributed via OtherWords (OtherWords.org)

Even House Republicans Can’t Stomach Spending $17,000 on a Helicopter Drip Pan.

— By Miriam Pemberton and Gabriel I. Rossman

Miriam PembertonGabriel I. Rossman

Here’s a milestone of sorts. In July, for the first time since 1998, the House of Representatives voted to maintain the current military budget rather than increase Pentagon spending. It’s the first step toward bringing the budget down.

Within the bill, which included more than $600 billion for the military, the House embedded a few gestures toward fiscal sanity. Most important was the decision of 89 Republicans to join most Democrats in shaving a billion bucks off the budget that House Republican leaders had proposed. That’s mostly a symbolic move in a budget of this size, but worth celebrating nevertheless.

Less publicized was a much smaller gesture. Congress voted to block Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY), the chair of the House committee in charge of spending, from steering a contract to his district in Kentucky to buy $17,000 drip pans for Black Hawk helicopters.

$17,000 whats? You know, pans that catch leaking transmission fluid. As The New York Times reported in May, other Army helicopters do fine with a $2,500 model. Congress ruled that the chair of the spending committee couldn’t reward a frequent campaign contributor with a contract that somebody else could fulfill at 1/8th the cost to the taxpayer.

Rogers’ drip pans deal would have cost about $5 million over three years — chump change in the budget Congress was voting on. So why did they axe this particular sweet deal? Maybe they were a little worried that it would become the next $800 toilet seat.

Back in the 1980s, this fixture on a Navy plane — we’re not talking the price of a toilet mind you, just the seat — epitomized military waste. As a symbol the public could really visualize, its discovery expedited contracting reform. Other egregious examples emerged: a $436 claw hammer that looked like the kind you could pick up at the hardware store for $15, and a $7,622 coffee maker before espresso bars became commonplace, to name a few.

A pan that catches transmission fluid might not trigger the same outrage as that pricey toilet seat. But with the nation careening toward the edge of a fiscal cliff, the timing is right. As conservative lawmakers make speeches in the coming months about their belief that Pentagon spending must be preserved at the expense of everything else, the $17,000 drip pan offers a handy rebuttal.

So Congress tried to head this particular program off before it got too much publicity. Of course, at the same time it rejected other modest, sane, cost-cutting gestures, such as nixing the Pentagon’s $72 million advertising budget for NASCAR races.

We won’t get too carried away with this glimmer of hope that a sane approach to military spending is around the corner. Still, 89 Republicans and most Democrats did say no to Rep. Rogers, the “Prince of Pork.” And for the first time since before the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Congress voted to trim its leaders’ aspirations for the overall military budget. It’s a start.


Miriam Pemberton is a Research Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies. Gabriel Rossman is a student at Wesleyan University. Distributed via OtherWords (OtherWords.org)

Sen. Jon Tester Urges Ending Outdated Military Spending

(U.S. SENATE) – Pointing to the potential for saving billions of dollars, Senator Jon Tester is urging the Secretary of Defense to consider reducing the number of U.S. military bases and installations overseas—specifically Cold War-era bases in Europe.

The U.S. currently operates more than 1,000 military installations on foreign soil, including 268 in Germany, 124 in Japan and 87 in South Korea.  Approximately 370,000 U.S. military forces are currently deployed in more than 150 countries around the world.

In a letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Tester is urging scrutiny of “our military’s overseas footprint, with special consideration to our Air Force facilities in Europe.”

“The days of a strong basing presence in a Cold War-era Europe is no longer relevant with today’s expeditionary force construct,” Tester wrote.  “Given the U.S. military’s advanced technology and the capability of our forces to deploy throughout the world from stateside bases, I believe there may be added value in further reducing our foreign basing footprint.”  “If we can save taxpayers money, we should do it now, not later,” Tester added.

Tester’s letter to Gates appears below.

The Honorable Robert M. Gates
Secretary of Defense
1000 Defense Pentagon
Washington, DC 20301

Dear Secretary Gates:

I write in regards to the President’s recent directive for the Department of Defense to conduct a comprehensive review of our military’s missions and capabilities. I welcome this effort to eliminate waste, cut defense spending where we can afford to make cuts, and improve the efficiency and effectiveness of our military — particularly at a time when so many programs of critical importance to my constituents are on the chopping block. I certainly look forward to the Pentagon’s recommendations.

Your proposed cuts of $78 billion over the next five years are a good first step down the path of fiscal responsibility, and I appreciate your steadfast leadership on this issue. As the Defense Department looks for the additional $400 billion in cost-effective savings mandated by the President by 2023, I strongly urge you to closely scrutinize our military’s overseas footprint, with special consideration to our Air Force facilities in Europe.

The days of a strong basing presence in a Cold War-era Europe is no longer relevant with today’s expeditionary force construct.  Given the U.S. military’s advanced technology and the capability of our forces to deploy throughout the world from stateside bases, I believe there may be added value in further reducing our foreign basing footprint. 

The Defense Department’s April 8th announcement on the Force Posture Revision in Europe is encouraging, but it was focused primarily on Army Brigade Combat Team posturing in the European Theater.  I believe we need to look at operational and strategic requirements across the Department as they are measured with effectiveness and fiscal responsibility. With that in mind, I recently announced my support for a commission to address cost-savings subsequent to a review of our overseas facilities. If we can save taxpayers money, we should do it now, not later.

As you continue looking at different cost-cutting measures, your attention to this matter would be greatly appreciated.  And as you continue to identify ways in which our military can be made more efficient and effective, I trust that you will continue working with Congress in a close and productive manner.

Tester is an outspoken advocate for cutting government spending and the national debt.  After meeting with the co-chair of the national Debt Commission earlier this year,  to support a comprehensive, credible plan to cut spending and the national debt.

Americans aren’t buying what GOP politicians are trying to sell about the need to end medicare and social security as we know them.  There are better ways to cut government spending and cut the national debt, without stripping seniors of their health care and retirement income. A good place to start is taking a hard look at the purpose and the huge amount of money America spends on military operations overseas – especially on Cold War-era military bases in Europe and Asia. We are not the world’s army nor are we their police force.

Moving forward, we need a responsible, long-term, bipartisan strategy for cutting debt and cutting spending. That plan should include making Medicare and Social Security stronger for future generations. It should include fair tax reform. And it should include spending cuts – including cuts to defense spending where we can afford them.