Don’t hold your breath, but there’s a possibility that the F-35 boondoggle will be stopped before it soaks taxpayers for additional hundreds of billions of dollars. From Dan Frazier at pogo.org:
For 20 years, the Pentagon’s program to develop the F-35 aircraft appeared invincible, even as the project hit repeated delays and went well over budget. And then, just within the span of a few weeks, official support for the F-35 has seemingly evaporated. It could not come soon enough.
At the end of the Trump administration, the acting secretary of defense called it a “piece of…” The Air Force chief admitted the F-35 would never be able to live up to its original purpose. And now, the chair of the House Armed Services Committee said we should stop throwing money down the F-35 “rathole.”
This all comes as the program is rightfully on a list of programs facing a Pentagon review that could result in recommended cuts to the total number of aircraft to be purchased. It signals a tectonic shift in support for a program that previously received near universal official support from the Pentagon and on Capitol Hill.
This shift is due to the sudden realization in Washington, despite years of warnings, that the F-35 is too challenging and costly to maintain.
And if there are to be major changes to the F-35 program, now is the time to do it. Otherwise, if the program does manage to squeak through operational testing, Congress could then authorize a bulk purchase of F-35s, something the program office and the manufacturer have wanted for years. But even if the plane is technically deemed operational, such a move would saddle the services with hundreds of flawed, high-maintenance aircraft, which will depress readiness rates, further strain the already harrowed maintenance crews, and require years of costly retrofits.
It appears that the U.S. military has dodged a bullet. Defense officials reported last week that rather than cut the Pentagon budget, the Biden White House will “flatline” military expenditures, postponing a reset of defense spending priorities.
A senior Pentagon official confirms the report, first headlined in Breaking Defense, telling me that the Biden defense budget (due for release on May 3), will come in at just over $696 billion (total national security outlays, including those to the Department of Energy, could total more than $735 billion), a figure comparable to the base funding provided to the Pentagon in 2021. Put simply, the new Biden administration will keep in place the lavish spending on defense that was a hallmark of the Trump years — a decision likely to spur howls of protest from Biden’s progressive supporters.
The report that Biden’s new defense budget will look a lot like the old defense budget brought sighs of relief to defense hawks who’d spent the last two years prepping for deep cuts in military outlays, reflecting the economic cratering that has accompanied the global pandemic as well as growing unease over the “Trump bump,” which saw defense expenditures rise by $100 billion over three years. “With slim Democratic majorities in the House and Senate and resistance among moderate Democrats to cutting defense significantly, a major reduction in the budget is unlikely,” a Center for Strategic and International Studies paper recently noted.
The senior Pentagon official who spoke with Responsible Statecraft agrees. “If you had asked me just six months ago I would have said that we’re going to have cuts, and maybe even big cuts, in defense spending,” the official said. “But no more. This is all politics. Biden doesn’t want to endanger his domestic agenda, which means he’s not going to pick a fight over defense dollars.”
Trump’s heart may have been in the right place but his policies often weren’t. From David Stockman at davidstockmanscontracorner.com via lewrockwell.com:
The everlasting irony of Donald J. Trump’s presidency is this: He had all the right enemies, but virtually without exception made all the wrong decisions during his hapless four-year sojourn in the Oval Office.
The list of his enemies is enough to make any right-thinking supporter of peace, prosperity and liberty proud. That starts with the TV networks and print organs of the mainstream stenographers club, who peddle the state’s propaganda and call it news. This most especially includes the masters of mendacity at CNN, the New York Times, and the Washington Post.
It also includes the bipartisan national security mafia, the climate change howlers, the race card hondlers, the Russophobes, the Neocon War Brigades, the NATO/IMF/UN acolytes, the Washington nomenclatura, the careerist racketeers of Capitol Hill, the beltway shills of the Lincoln Project, the Silicon Valley thought police and the celebrity scolds of entertainment and media, among others.
With so many worthy enemies it is amazing that the he managed to do so little good and so very much wrong. But there is really no mystery to it when you cut to the essence of Donald J. Trump, the POTUS Poseur.
Libertarian educator Tom Woods famously quipped that “no matter who you vote for you end up with John McCain.” Unfortunately Woods was proven right for about the thousandth time this past week, as Washington again showed us that it is all about war.
First, we learned that if Joe Biden ends up in the White House next month he intends to put a deep state member of the military-industrial complex in charge of the Pentagon. General Lloyd Austin will be only the second Defense Secretary in decades to require a special Senate waiver to serve in that position. Gen. James Mattis under President Trump also needed a waiver, as he had been out of the military less than the required seven years before becoming Defense Secretary.
But the revolving door between active military service and civilian leadership of the Pentagon is perhaps less troubling than the revolving door between the military-industrial complex and leadership of the Defense Department.
The US government’s enemies won’t have to lift a finger against it. They can just wait for it to go bankrupt. From Lawrence Wittner at antiwar.com:
In late May of this year, President Donald Trump’s special envoy for arms control bragged before a Washington think tank that the U.S. government was prepared to outspend Russia and China to win a new nuclear arms race. “The president has made clear that we have a tried and true practice here,” he remarked. “We know how to win these races and we know how to spend the adversary into oblivion.”
This comment was not out of line for a Trump administration official. Indeed, back in December 2016, shortly after his election, Trump himself proclaimedthat the United States would “greatly strengthen and expand” the US government’s nuclear weapons program, adding provocatively: “Let it be an arms race. We will outmatch them at every pass and outlast them all.” In a fresh challenge to Russia and China, delivered in October 2018, Trump again extolled his decision to win the nuclear arms race, explaining: “We have more money than anybody else, by far.”
And, in fact, the Trump administration has followed through on its promise to pour American tax dollars into the arms race through a vast expansion of the US military budget. In 2019 alone (the last year for which worldwide spending figures are available), federal spending on the US military soared to $732 billion. (Other military analysts, who included military-related spending, put the figure at $1.25 trillion.) As a result, the United States, with about 4 percent of the world’s population, accounted for 38 percent of world military spending. Although it’s certainly true that other nations engaged in military buildups as well, China accounted for only 14 percent of global military spending that year, while Russia accounted for only 3 percent. Indeed, the United States spent more on its military than the next 10 countries combined.
The military-industrial complex will take care of itself, rain or shine. From Mandy Smithberger at tomdispatch.com:
Hasn’t the Military-Industrial Complex Taken Enough of Our Money?
At this moment of unprecedented crisis, you might think that those not overcome by the economic and mortal consequences of the coronavirus would be asking, “What can we do to help?” A few companies have indeed pivoted to making masks and ventilators for an overwhelmed medical establishment. Unfortunately, when it comes to the top officials of the Pentagon and the CEOs running a large part of the arms industry, examples abound of them asking what they can do to help themselves.
It’s important to grasp just how staggeringly well the defense industry has done in these last nearly 19 years since 9/11. Its companies (filled with ex-military and defense officials) have received trillions of dollars in government contracts, which they’ve largely used to feather their own nests. Data compiled by the New York Times showed that the chief executive officers of the top five military-industrial contractors received nearly $90 million in compensation in 2017. An investigation that same year by the Providence Journal discovered that, from 2005 to the first half of 2017, the top five defense contractors spent more than $114 billion repurchasing their own company stocks and so boosting their value at the expense of new investment.
If the government is looking for some loose change to help fund its fight against the coronavirus, it might start with by axing the military budget. From Kevin Martin at consortiumnews.com:
Once we get past the Covid-19 crisis, the world’s most gargantuan military machine cannot go back to normal, writes Kevin Martin.
U.S. sailors with aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt move supplies for other sailors in quarantine, Naval Base Guam. (U.S. Navy, Julio Rivera)
U.S. Navy warships recent surged to the Caribbean to menace Venezuela, when the government could not surge desperately needed ventilators to New York City, New Orleans and Detroit. This should surprise no one, as the U.S. has long prioritized war and preparations for war over public health, but it is particularly outrageous at this time as we face the Covid-19 global pandemic.
Contrast the Trump administration’s trumped-up drug running charges against the government of Venezuela, and military threats against Iran, with the recent call by United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres for a global ceasefire in order to concentrate resources on the health crisis. That is what leadership looks like. Reports are encouraging from a number of strife-torn countries; warring forces in over a dozen countries have accepted the ceasefire call. These actions need to be encouraged and expanded, so diplomacy and humanitarian aid can surge.
Trump’s wag the dog move against Venezuela is likely an expensive ruse, or a risky escalation aimed at a longshot regime change attempt to remove President Nicolas Maduro. That is bad enough, but even worse given the devastating impact U.S. economic sanctions have had in exacerbating the economic and health care crisis in the country. The situation in Iran is even worse. In both cases (and others including North Korea), whatever the disputes between governments, it is ordinary Venezuelans and Iranians who suffer the effects of sanctions’ decimation of economic and health security.
Trillions for defense, a million here and a million there for pandemic preparedness. From Gareth Porter at antiwar.com:
Responsibility for pandemic preparation was privatized under the Obama and Trump administrations. It·s time to face down the national security state that wasted trillions on imperial wars and abandoned Americans to fight coronavirus alone.
Donald Trump’s failure to act decisively to control the coronavirus pandemic has likely made the Covid-19 pandemic far more lethal than it should have been. But the reasons behind failure to get protective and life-saving equipment like masks and ventilators into the hands of health workers and hospitals run deeper than Trump’s self-centered recklessness.
Both the Obama and Trump administrations quietly delegated state and local authorities with the essential national security responsibility for obtaining and distributing these vital items. The failure of leadership was compounded the lack of any federal power center that embraced the idea that guarding for a pandemic was at least as important to national security as preparing for war.
For decades, the military-industrial-congressional complex has force-fed the American public a warped conception of US national security focused entirely around perpetuating warfare. The cynical conflation of national security with waging war on designated enemies around the globe effectively stifled public awareness of the clear and present danger posed to its survival by global pandemic. As a result, Congress was simply not called upon to fund the vitally important equipment that doctors and nurses needed for the Covid-19 crisis.
To say the US military spends money like a drunken sailor is an insult to drunken sailors everywhere. From Mandy Smithberger at tomdispatch.com:
Hold on to your helmets! It’s true the White House is reporting that its proposed new Pentagon budget is only $740.5 billion, a relatively small increase from the previous year’s staggering number. In reality, however, when you also include war and security costs buried in the budgets of other agencies, the actual national security figure comes in at more than $1.2 trillion, as the Trump administration continues to give the Pentagon free reign over taxpayer dollars.
You would think that the country’s congressional representatives might want to take control of this process and roll back that budget — especially given the way the White House has repeatedly violated its constitutional authority by essentially stealing billions of dollars from the Defense Department for the president’s “Great Wall” (that Congress refused to fund). Recently, even some of the usual congressional Pentagon budget boosters have begun to lament how difficult it is to take the Department’s requests for more money seriously, given the way the military continues to demand yet more (ever more expensive) weaponry and advanced technologies on the (largely bogus) grounds that Uncle Sam is losing an innovation war with Russia and China.
And if this wasn’t bad enough, keep in mind that the Defense Department remains the only major federal agency that has proven itself incapable of even passing an audit. An investigation by my colleague Jason Paladino at the Project On Government Oversight found that increased secrecy around the operations of the Pentagon is making it ever more difficult to assess whether any of its money is well spent, which is why it’s important to track where all the money in this country’s national security budget actually goes.
Several obvious, pointed, and unanswered questions about the US’s many wars. From Tom Englehardt at tomdispatch.com:
My first question is simple enough: After 18-plus years of our forever wars, where are all the questions?
Almost two decades of failing American wars across a startlingly large part of the planet and I’d like to know, for instance, who’s been fired for them? Who’s been impeached? Who’s even paying attention?
I mean, if another great power had been so fruitlessly fighting a largely undeclared set of conflicts under the label of “the war on terror” for so long, if it had wasted trillions of taxpayer dollars with no end in sight and next to no one in that land was spending much time debating or discussing the matter, what would you think? If nothing else, you’d have a few questions about that, right?
Well, so many years later, I do have a few that continue to haunt me, even if I see them asked practically nowhere and, to my frustration, can’t really answer them myself, not to my satisfaction anyway. In fact, since 2001 — with the exception of the months leading up to the invasion of Iraq when America’s streets suddenly filled with hundreds of thousands of demonstrators asking a range of questions (“How did USA’s oil get under Iraq’s sand?” was a typical protest sign of that moment) — our never-ending wars have seldom been questioned in this country. So think of what follows not as my thoughts on the war in question but on the war in questions.
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