Newsflash:
Issues End Corporate Rule End Wars and Occupations The Pentagon's Phony Budget War
Wednesday, 26 March 2014 18:57

The Pentagon's Phony Budget War Featured

Written by  Mattea Kramer | TomDispatch

Or How the U.S. Military Avoided Budget Cuts, Lied About Doing So, Then Asked for Billions More

Washington is pushing the panic button, claiming austerity is hollowing out our armed forces and our national security is at risk. That was the message Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel delivered last week when he announced that the Army would shrink to levels not seen since before World War II.

Headlines about this crisis followed in papers like the New York Timesand members of Congress issued statements swearing that they would never allow our security to be held hostage to the budget-cutting process.

Yet a careful look at budget figures for the U.S. military -- a bureaucratic juggernaut accounting for 57% of the federal discretionary budget and nearly 40% of all military spending on this planet -- shows that such claims have been largely fictional. Despite cries of doom since the across-the-board cuts known as sequestration surfaced in Washington in 2011, the Pentagon has seen few actual reductions, and there is no indication that will change any time soon.

This piece of potentially explosive news has, however, gone missing in action -- and the “news” that replaced it could prove to be one of the great bait-and-switch stories of our time.

The Pentagon Cries Wolf, Round One
As sequestration first approached, the Pentagon issued deafening cries of despair. Looming cuts would “inflict lasting damage on our national defense and hurt the very men and women who protect this country,” said Secretary Hagel in December 2012.

Sequestration went into effect in March 2013 and was slated to slice $54.6 billion from the Pentagon’s $550 billion larger-than-the-economy-of-Sweden budget. But Congress didn’t have the stomach for it, so lawmakers knocked the cuts down to $37 billion. (Domestic programs like Head Start and cancer research received no such special dispensation.)

By law, the cuts were to be applied across the board. But that, too, didn’t go as planned. The Pentagon was able to do something hardly recognizable as a cut at all. Having the luxury of unspent funds from previous budgets -- known obscurely as “prior year unobligated balances” -- officials reallocated some of the cuts to those funds instead.

In the end, the Pentagon shaved about 5.7%, or $31 billion, from its 2013 budget. And just how painful did that turn out to be? Frank Kendall, who serves as the Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics, has acknowledged that the Pentagon “cried wolf.” Those cuts caused no substantial damage, he admitted.

And that’s not where the story ends -- it’s where it begins.

Sequestration, the Phony Budget War, Round Two
A $54.6 billion slice was supposed to come out of the Pentagon budget in 2014. If that had actually happened, it would have amounted to around 10% of its budget. But after the hubbub over the supposedly devastating cuts of 2013, lawmakers set about softening the blow.

And this time they did a much better job.

In December 2013, a budget deal was brokered by Republican Congressman Paul Ryan and Democratic Senator Patty Murray.  In it they agreed to reduce sequestration. Cuts for the Pentagon soon shrank to $34 billion for 2014.

And that was just a start.

All the cuts discussed so far pertain to what’s called the Pentagon’s “base” budget -- its regular peacetime budget. That, however, doesn’t represent all of its funding.  It gets a whole different budget for making war, and for the 13th year, the U.S. is making war in Afghanistan. For that part of the budget, which falls into the Washington category of “Overseas Contingency Operations” (OCO), the Pentagon is getting an additional $85 billion in 2014.

And this is where something funny happens.

That war funding isn’t subject to caps or cuts or any restrictions at all. So imagine for a moment that you’re an official at the Pentagon -- or the White House -- and you’re committed to sparing the military from downsizing. Your budget has two parts: one that’s subject to caps and cuts, and one that isn’t. What do you do? When you hit a ceiling in the former, you stuff extra cash into the latter.


It takes a fine-toothed comb to discover how this is done. Todd Harrison, senior fellow for defense studies at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, found that the Pentagon was stashing an estimated extra $20 billion worth of non-war funding in the “operation and maintenance” accounts of its proposed 2014 war budget. And since all federal agencies work in concert with the White House to craft their budget proposals, it’s safe to say that the Obama administration was in on the game.

Add the December budget deal to this $20 billion switcheroo and the sequester cuts for 2014 were now down to $14 billion, hardly a devastating sum given the roughly $550 billion in previously projected funding.

And the story’s still not over.

When it was time to write the Pentagon budget into law, appropriators in Congress wanted in on the fun. As Winslow Wheeler of the Project on Government Oversight discovered, lawmakers added a $10.8 billion slush fund to the war budget.

All told, that leaves $3.4 billion -- a cut of less than 1% from Pentagon funding this year. It’s hard to imagine that anyone in the sprawling bureaucracy of the Defense Department will even notice. Nonetheless, last week Secretary Hagel insisted that “[s]equestration requires cuts so deep, so abrupt, so quickly that... the only way to implement [them] is to sharply reduce spending on our readiness and modernization, which would almost certainly result in a hollow force.”

Yet this less than 1% cut comes from a budget that, at last count, was the size of the next 10 largest military budgets on the planet combined. If you can find a threat to our national security in this story, your sleuthing powers are greater than mine. Meanwhile, in the non-military part of the budget, sequestration has brought cuts that actually matter to everything from public education to the justice system.

Cashing in on the “Cuts,” Round Three and Beyond
After two years of uproar over mostly phantom cuts, 2015 isn’t likely to bring austerity to the Pentagon either. Last December’s budget deal already reduced the cuts projected for 2015, and President Obama is now asking for something he’s calling the “Opportunity, Growth, and Security Initiative.” It would deliver an extra $26 billion to the Pentagon next year. And that still leaves the war budget for officials to use as a cash cow.

And the president is proposing significant growth in military spending further down the road. In his 2015 budget plan, he’s asking Congress to approve an additional $115 billion in extra Pentagon funds for the years 2016-2019.

My guess is he’ll claim that our national security requires it after the years of austerity.

Link to original article from TomDispatch

Read 6358 times Last modified on Wednesday, 26 March 2014 19:12

End Corporate Rule

  • Democrats Introduce Bill that Could Lead to Impeachment for Justices Thomas and Scalia
    Democrats Introduce Bill that Could Lead to Impeachment for Justices Thomas and Scalia

    On Thursday, a group of Democratic lawmakers proposed a law to establish a Code of Conduct  for the Supreme Court.

    It’s surely to have Supreme Court Justices Thomas and Scalia quaking in their Tea Party boots because it would mean they would actually have to be independent of political and other influences. They would also have to have the appearance of independence.  They would have to stay away from political activity. That part would be really hard.

    Written on Sunday, 06 July 2014 14:47 Read more...
  • California makes an official call for a U.S. Constitutional Convention to overturn Citizens United
    California makes an official call for a U.S. Constitutional Convention to overturn Citizens United

    On June 23rd the State Senate passed AJR 1, making California the second state in the union to officially call for an Article V constitutional convention for the sole purpose of passing a United States constitutional amendment that would effectively overturn Citizens United v. FEC and limit the corrupting influence of money in our electoral process.

    Written on Thursday, 26 June 2014 13:29 Read more...
  • New Organization Hangs Sign: 'Whistleblowers Welcome'
    New Organization Hangs Sign: 'Whistleblowers Welcome'

    A new organization called ExposeFacts—backed by well-known source of The Pentagon Papers Daniel Ellsberg—is debuting itself in Washington, DC on Wednesday as a new place where government and corporate employees aware of wrongdoing can more safely and securely report their concerns.

    Written on Sunday, 08 June 2014 13:54 Read more...
  • 'Astroturf' Groups Leading Drive to Kill Open Internet
    'Astroturf' Groups Leading Drive to Kill Open Internet

    The telecommunications industry is creating and funding front groups which pose as consumer organizations and aggressively lobby to kill net neutrality, journalist Lee Fang revealed in an article published in Vice on Friday.

    Written on Sunday, 08 June 2014 13:39 Read more...
  • John Oliver Calls on Angry Internet Trolls to Save Net Neutrality (video)
    John Oliver Calls on Angry Internet Trolls to Save Net Neutrality (video)

    It’s a sad state of affairs when a country that touts freedom of the press depends upon cable TV comedy shows to hear the real news.

    Written on Friday, 06 June 2014 04:19 Read more...
  • Oligarchy Enshrined
    Oligarchy Enshrined

    Why the Supreme Court’s McCutcheon ruling is good news for the super-rich and bad news for progressive Democrats.

    At the 2012 Conservative Political Action Conference, a conservative election lawyer and a baby-faced electrical engineer from Alabama with a made-for-TV Southern drawl began plotting how to unravel federal campaign finance regulations.

    Written on Tuesday, 20 May 2014 01:21 Read more...
  • Lincoln Didn't Fight the Civil War to Free the Corporations - Video
    Lincoln Didn't Fight the Civil War to Free the Corporations - Video

    This is an idea worth spreading - so - please watch & share with 5 or 10 friends. It’s important to get money out of politics and the average person back in. Also - leave a message on the YouTube and let TED know - this is one of the most important issues of the day."

    Written on Thursday, 15 May 2014 17:16 Read more...
  • Out of the Shadows: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce
    Out of the Shadows: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce

    The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is, as they boast on its website, the world's largest business organization, as well as the nation's largest corporate lobbying group. It is also a recipient of some of the largest amounts of so-called "dark" money in the country, refusing to disclose to the public its donors or even the amounts it receives. 

    Written on Tuesday, 29 April 2014 15:56 Read more...
  • Bernie Sanders Raises Battle Cry Against Citizens United: "I Vote for Democracy!"
    Bernie Sanders Raises Battle Cry Against Citizens United: "I Vote for Democracy!"

    Citizens United is not just the default reference for US Supreme Court decisions—including the 2010 Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling—that have ushered in a new era of corporate dominance of American elections. It’s the name of the conservative group that encouraged Chief Justice John Roberts and the most activist Court majority in American history to tear the heart out of what were already weak campaign finance laws.

    Written on Sunday, 13 April 2014 04:24 Read more...
  • Local protests held in response to Supreme Court donation ruling
    Local protests held in response to Supreme Court donation ruling

    PITTSFIELD -- Their signs read "Get Big Money Out of Politics," "Democracy Is Not For Sale" and "This Is What Plutocracy Looks Like." About a dozen of them stood in Park Square on Wednesday evening, one of 130 "rapid response events" coordinated nationwide to protest that morning's Supreme Court decision in McCutcheon v. FEC.    

    Written on Friday, 04 April 2014 14:38 Read more...
  • With McCutcheon Ruling, An Activist Court Opts for Full-On Plutocracy
    With McCutcheon Ruling, An Activist Court Opts for Full-On Plutocracy

    Any doubts about the determination of an activist United States Supreme Court to rewrite election rules so that the dollar matters more than the vote were removed Wednesday, when McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission was decided in favor of the dollar.

    Written on Wednesday, 02 April 2014 22:24 Read more...
  • TPM Interview: The Brown Grad Student Who Chased The NRA Out Of Rhode Island
    TPM Interview: The Brown Grad Student Who Chased The NRA Out Of Rhode Island

    Sam Bell is in the third year of a PhD program in geology at Brown University. Geology as in rocks. But Bell also moonlights as the the state coordinator of The Rhode Island Progressive Democrats, the state affiliate of the 10-year-old Progressive Democrats of America. And in his work with The Rhode Island Progressive Democrats, Bell was instrumental to the investigation that ultimately led to the National Rifle Association paying the second largest campaign finance fine in the state's history.

    Written on Thursday, 27 February 2014 22:13 Read more...
  • Thank a Postal Worker This Holiday Season
    Thank a Postal Worker This Holiday Season

    Postal workers are giving it their all this holiday season, as cards and packages and returns must be collected and delivered amidst ice storms, snowstorms and wild temperature drops.

    They deserve our thanks in 2013.

    And our support in 2014.

    Written on Thursday, 26 December 2013 23:49 Read more...
  • Fast Food Giants Gorge on Subsidies
    Fast Food Giants Gorge on Subsidies

    Thanks to a loophole that subsidizes CEO pay, McDonald's, Yum Brands, Wendy's, Burger King, Domino's, and Dunkin' Brands trimmed $64 million from their tax bills in 2011 and 2012.

    The fast food industry is notorious for handing out lean paychecks to their burger flippers and fat ones to their CEOs. What’s less well-known is that taxpayers are actually subsidizing fast food incomes at both the bottom — and top — of the industry.

    Written on Monday, 02 December 2013 23:07 Read more...
  • This Thanksgiving, Let's Celebrate AgriCULTURE, Not AgriBUSINESS
    This Thanksgiving, Let's Celebrate AgriCULTURE, Not AgriBUSINESS

    In December 1972, I was part of a nationwide campaign that came tantalizingly close to getting the U.S. Senate to reject Earl Butz, Richard Nixon's choice for secretary of agriculture. A coalition of grass-roots farmers, consumers and scrappy public interest organizations (like the Agribusiness Accountability Project that Susan DeMarco and I then headed) teamed up with some gutsy, unabashedly progressive senators to undertake the almost impossible challenge of defeating the cabinet nominee of a president who'd just been elected in a landslide.

    Written on Friday, 29 November 2013 00:06 Read more...
  • Arizona Democratic Party Shows Its Progressive Side at State Committee Meeting
    Arizona Democratic Party Shows Its Progressive Side at State Committee Meeting

    Progressive voices were heard loud and clear at Saturday’s Arizona Democratic Party (ADP) State Committee Meeting in Maricopa, Arizona.

    Unlike some past ADP meetings where progressives were ignored or where progressive resolutions were tabled and not heard by the full ADP membership, the Maricopa meeting was dominated by progressives.

    Written on Monday, 18 November 2013 20:09 Read more...
  • Can Public Banking Spur Economic Growth in Southern Arizona?
    Can Public Banking Spur Economic Growth in Southern Arizona?

    Tucson is one of the most impoverished cities in the country—for many reasons. The Arizona Legislature—driven by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and short-sighted, “small government” ideology—has routinely swept funds earmarked for counties and cities to “balance” the state’s budget or fund pet projects like lower corporate taxes. Beyond the Legislature’s negative impact on Baja Arizona, the Tucson economy is not diversified enough. Manufacturing is nearly non-existent in Southern Arizona. There is an over-reliance on defense spending, University of Arizona spin-offs, tourism, low-wage service jobs, and growth/development. 

    Written on Friday, 15 November 2013 15:56 Read more...

Sign the TPP Fast Track Petitions

MoveOn.org Petition - Congress Don't Renew Fast Track

Public Citizen Petition - Congress Must Reject Fast Track Authority

MoveOn.org Petition - Stop the Trans Pacific Partnership

CREDO Petition - Stop the Massive Corporate Power Grab

 

Find Your Elected Officials for Issues

Enter your zip+4 and find your elected officials. This link provides name, address and phone number

ButtonFindElectedOfficials

 

Progressive Central Panel on Ending Corporate Rule

Ask Bill Moyers How to Overturn Citizens United