Tag Archives: defense budget

Cash Jamboree Continues at the Pentagon

What with President Obama feting Iraqi war veterans at the White House last night, you’d think the war was over.  But over at the war profiteer banquet, it’s still a cash-engorged jamboree, the spigot still delivering Enron-sized billions.

Two weapons developed under emergency circumstances to support the troops for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have done their part in breaking the bank: unmanned drones and counter-improvised explosive devices.  Despite budget pressures and cutbacks though, they just can’t make their own transition to peacetime.  They hide behind the troops, whom everyone is afraid to short-change or put on a spending diet.

One’s gotta ask whether the future threat justifies the activity and the level-of-effort is still required.  Ironically if the answer is yes, perhaps we should be taking much more seriously the long war advocates so lovingly eying the future and licking their chops for more.

The problem in assessing these two weapons is that they are not big identifiable pieces of hardware in a conventional sense, not ships or fighter planes or tanks.  They are more systems (or even processes), demanding pockets of hardware spending, enormous information technology and software spending, communications demands, and various analysis efforts.

Take the effort to counter-IEDs.  In the latest General Accountability Office report Opportunities to Reduce Duplication, Overlap and Fragmentation, Achieve Savings, and Enhance Revenue, the grotesque billion dollar levels of duplication and waste are handled in that sort of gentile way that the GAO is famous for: not enough life rafts on the Titanic (the audit of the sinking ship approach) or too many entities working on the same efforts, no matter how asinine (the do we need three ray guns to shoot down UFOs approach).

The GAO reminds us, that “The threat of improvised explosive devices (IED) continues to be a major concern in Afghanistan, as well as to other areas throughout the world with over 500 reported IED events per month worldwide outside of Southwest Asia according to Department of Defense (DOD) officials.”  I won’t even go into the definitional shenanigans that go into making up that 500 number, but suffice it to say everything and anything that goes bang in the world is now labeled an IED, inflating the ‘threat’ to the U.S. military.

Congress has appropriated over $18 billion to the Joint IED Defeat Organization (JIEDDO), created in 2006.  Not only are there several “examples of duplication,” the GAO says, but outside of the JIEDDO, the DOD agencies and military services are all spending our money on their own on the problem and no one has full visibility over all of the program or knows how much.  The report says that six different directed energy systems – laser, high-powered microwave – are being developed to neutralize IEDs.  The GAO never says WTF with regard to whether any are really needed, but does say that none have actually been deployed to the war zone, the war profiteers in their third decade of research, attaching their programs to whatever problem of the day justifies more money.  Multiple efforts of duplication are also noted in the development of a ground-based jammer to counter-IEDs.  Despite the fact that the Navy was assigned responsibility to develop the main jammer, the Army went ahead and developed its own, called DUKE, which the GAO says, will cost $1.062 billion when completed and installed.   The situation with some 70 electronic data collection and analysis tools that are being developed for counter-IED intelligence work is just as bad.  Even when the JIEDDO canceled development of one system, the Defense Intelligence Agency decided to continue to fund the same system.

The situation with unmanned aircraft systems is even more chaotic and expensive.  The GAO estimates that the cost of current unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) acquisition programs and related systems will exceed $37.5 billion in fiscal years 2012 through 2016.  While most attention is focused on Predator and its up-powered cousin Reaper, these systems represent only about two percent of the 6,000 plus unmanned systems the services have purchased since 9/11. And like counter-IED work, the money doesn’t just go into the airframes.  The GAO found 29 different sensor types being developed to put on various systems.  In just one case, the GAO found that if the Army and Air Force had joined development for one system that was identical, $1.2 billion could have been saved.

There’s always some reason why common approaches weren’t pursued, why consolidation efforts faltered, why management devices floundered.  Maybe it would be useful for the vets themselves to speak out on this cash-laden travesty, but then, that’s not going to happen when so many go to work for the very companies who make the cash.



The Threat Machine

Been on vacation and am going through the bits of curiosities that have made it into my inbox, my files, or my head in the week I was away.  I’ll write about some in the coming days.

On the most important immediate questions, the Afghanistan war continues to be defended despite public support and any plausible end-point worth the expenditure of any additional American treasure or lives.  There is not even stability inside the government’s Ministry buildings and “military advisors” is becoming too frequent code for perpetual presence.

There hasn’t been a war with Iran, and despite abundant cheerleading from the news media, the threats of war seem to have had no impact on Tehran.  Again, it is the end-point that is the issue here, whether a nuclear Iran is even a plausible possibility and actual threat, and second, what Iran’s striving for nuclear weapons represents.

Which brings us to the third issue of nuclear weapons and the Obama administration’s supposed commitment to deep reductions and nuclear disarmament.  On so many levels, this is the proper focus and thrust for American foreign policy and international security, but it lacks any public traction or support, especially in a world where the WMD-obsessed counter-terror elite and the Washington war-mongers clamor for any kind of conflict – actual or imagined – for their sustainment.

Related is the endless cycle, the FBI now says that cyber-attacks are becoming the top terror threats.  In other words, nuclear war, nuclear smwar.  Secretary Panetta told CBS News that “The reality is that there is the cyber capability to basically bring down our power grid to create … to paralyze our financial system in this country to virtually paralyze our country.”

No wonder all of the nation’s state-level Guard leaders and 49 governors signed letters to the White House protesting planned military cuts, saying the Air National Guard in particular is taking an unfair hit.  First of all, who’s the retarded governor who didn’t sign?  Second, we decry pork-barrel politics and earmarking and Congressional interference but ignore that defense spending, and promotion of a perpetual threat, has become a way of life for us.  Governors?

Defense By the Numbers: An Analysis of the Budget

The FY 2013 defense budget request to Congress totals 125 volumes (so far), a half-a-gigabyte of data in hundreds of thousands of pages.  I’m looking for gold, even insight, but until then here is another word analysis of what the budget says (DHS yesterday).

How many times something is mentioned is a questionable methodology for insight into anything, and yet, there’s China while Syria and Iran are hardly to be found.  As if the same case with al Qaeda, and Islam.  Of course, terrorism does rule, including cyber-terrorism, the latest-latest, but for those who advocate (or fear) nuclear disarmament, one can’t help notice the enduring value of weapons of mass destruction language as the main threat.

“Soft” power also seems a tough sell, at least in the budget, because, well, what is it that you are buying to make it?  That’s not the case though with unmanned systems, which rule, even though the Pentagon hates to use the word “drone,” which just happens to be the media’s hot-button.

The Geography of the Budget (times word is mentioned in defense budget materials)

OEF (Operation Enduring Freedom) 2534
Diego Garcia 2155
Afghanistan 1320
China 799
Iraq 765
Japan 395
Russia 303
Korea 291
Guam 281
Mexico 259
Pakistan 113
India 89
Cuba 42
Peru 15
Egypt 13
Colombia 10
Iran 10
Israel 3
Syria 0

The Threats

nuclear 6490
chemical 2709
border 2336
terror, terrorism, terrorist, terrorists 2272
biological 2035
anti-terrorism 1725
WMD 1345
CBRNE (chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and high explosives) 816
counter-terrorism 329
virus 72
WMD-terrorism 68
Narco-terrorism 58
Bioterrorism 56
biological warfare 48
extremism 46
extremists 35
Al Qaeda 19
counter-unmanned 18
suicide-bomber 12
radical 11
Pandemic 9
Islamic, Islamists 9
agro-terrorism 8
homegrown 4
Muslim 4
radicalization 2

The Buzz

analysis, analyses 22086
Networks 15860
target, targeting 12573
threat, threats 11351
intelligence 10634
future 9909
architecture 9125
enterprise 8080
detection 7852
strategy 7770
surveillance 7267
studies 7261
global 6795
strategic 6103
homeland 5106
cyber, cyberspace, cybersecurity 4641
human 4606
awareness 4572
survivability 3984
reconnaissance 3926
identification 3724
secure 3451
realtime 3354
situational 3112
expeditionary 3047
enforcement 2633
collection 2516
net-centric 2026
autonomous 1762
exploitation 1724
persistent 1560
fusion 1512
denial 518
transparent 217
human-centric 86

The Bureaucratic Stuff

OCO (overseas contingency operations) 21536
Change 14540
Special 8285
modernization 8097
Readiness 7619
reduce 5257
metrics 4026
reductions 3955
increases 3709
decreases 3069
legacy 2869
oversight 2664
obsolescence 2492
complex 2379
transformation 2135
vision 2004
sharing 1729

Fighting for the Money

aircraft 27916
missile, missiles 13062
ship, ships 10262
sensor 8916
munitions, ammunition 7518
vehicles 6848
radar 6703
sensors 6286
unmanned 4664
engine 4521
submarine 4340
antisubmarine 4047
satellite 3805
laser 3675
carrier 3565
infrared 3360
GPS 3177
precision 3013
aerial 2994
P-3A 2848
DCGS 2828
mobility 2751
ASW 2719
acoustic 2600
ISR 2579
propulsion 2519
countermeasures 2454
nonlethal 2391
UAS, UAV (unmanned aerial systems/vehicles) 2383

English Words (Almost)

combat 15477
fire 6239
strike 3613
battle 3195
explosive 3140
duty 2922
kill, hard-kill, killings 1170
destroy, destroyed 329
death, deaths 246
hunter-killer 64
soft-kill 60

War of the Words

security 21235
warfare 11130
protection 10535
warfighter, warfighting 7522
war, wars 4004
combatant 2534
disaster 2417
peace, peaceful, peacekeeper 216
violence 52

Pay Attention

traumatic 231
suicide 224
TBI (traumatic brain injury) 79