Waste, Fraud, and Abuse in the Military-Industrial Complex Weakens America by Peter Mathews
Los Angeles, Jun 20, 2015
In his January 17, 1961 farewell address, President Dwight Eisenhower warned that “in the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence…by the military-industrial complex (MIC)…” and the disastrous rise of misplaced power. Most American leaders have ignored his warning and have allowed the military-industrial juggernaut to influence crucial policies in defense spending and foreign policy. As a result, the United States spends $1 trillion annually on its military defense related programs. This is equal to the rest of the world’s countries combined. It is five times as much as the world’s second largest military spender, China. Military Defense spending makes up 55% of the discretionary federal budget for 2015, while Education spending is 6%, and spending on Science is 3%. It costs the American taxpayers $250 billion annually to maintain 1000 American military bases in 150 countries, 75% 0f the world’s nations. Additionally, the U.S. is the world’s number one exporter of weapons.
The “military-industrial-congressional” complex as it was called in a draft of Eisenhower's speech, consists of the Pentagon, large defense contractors such as Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon, General Dynamics, and Northrop Grumman, and powerful members of Congress who are lobbied and funded by them. Between 2007 and 2012 these top-five defense contractors spent $409.2 million in lobbying and campaign contributions for federal politicians and received $629.8 billion in contracts and $480 million in other federal support, which means they received $1540 from the government for every dollar they spent influencing the government ." (Project On Government Oversight, POGO.org). In addition, there is a revolving door, through which many former high-ranking government officials and retired military leaders become highly paid lobbyists for the weapons industry.
This legalized corruption has produced a bloated, inefficient, and overly expensive military defense system in which taxpayers' hard-earned dollars are squandered on many unneeded, overly expensive, inefficient weapons; for example, the boondoggle $337 million F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (Navy version), which researchers for the RAND think tank say, "can't turn, can't climb, can't run", the $7,600 coffee maker for the Air Force, and the $604 toilet seat for the Navy.
In addition to this waste, fraud and abuse in the MIC are hurting many of our women and men in uniform, and sapping their morale. Because it has not been subject to full audit, the Pentagon has allowed its main accounting agency, the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DEFAS) to "(fudge) the accounts with false entries...." (Reuters, Nov. 18, 2013). The Pentagon relies on 2,200 disparate, obsolete, and largely incompatible accounting and business management systems, many of which were built in the 1970s and use ancient computer languages such as COBOL on old mainframes, which is why the Pentagon can't keep track of its money-- how much it has, how much it pays out, and how much is stolen or wasted. This has produced disastrous results in two critical areas: first, in paycheck errors for the women and men in uniform, burdening them with financial hardship, sapping their morale, and detracting from their focus on mission; second, the Pentagon has difficulty managing its finances, human resources, logistics, property, and weapons acquisitions, which makes it harder to deploy men and women in times of war, and causes it to waste millions of taxpayer dollars on extra sets of spare parts that it already has.
Because of the inaccurate Pentagon accounting and computer systems, many of our women and men in uniform suffer mental anguish when their paychecks are less than agreed to, or when they're forced to pay back money through reduced paychecks; money that was accurately or inaccurately deemed to be overpayment. For example, after two tours of combat duty left him with traumatic brain injury, severe PTSD, chronic pain, and a hip injury, U.S. Army medic Shawn Aiken went through hell and back in order to recover the money the military had taken from him, which was the result of accounting and other errors by the Pentagon, and should have been his to keep in the first place.(Reuters, July 10, 2013)
To stop the Military-Industrial-Congressional Complex from bankrupting America and hurting Americans like Shawn Aiken, we must not only end the “unwarranted influence…of the military-industrial complex” that President Eisenhower warned us of, we must end the buying of Congress and our politicians by Big Corporations, their lobbyists, and their super-wealthy owners! Then, as we beat some of our unnecessary “swords into plowshares”, the United States of America will have a streamlined, efficient, and adequate defense. This will include only necessary military hardware and personnel, civilian economic vitality, as well as “soft power”, the power and influence of our ideas and culture in the world. As we b
In his farewell address, President Dwight Eisenhower warned us against the unwarranted influence of the military-industrial complex and the disastrous rise of misplaced power. Most American leaders have ignored his warning, and allowed the military-industrial juggernaut to unduly influence defense and foreign policy. That's why U.S. defense/security related spending is $1 trillion annually, equal to the rest of the world's countries combined, and five times that of China, the second largest spender. It's also why the 2015 federal discretionary budget allocates 55% for Military Defense and only 6% for Education. It's also why the U.S. maintains 1000 military bases in 150 of the world's countries
Peter Mathews is Full Professor of Political Science at Cypress College and Adjunct Professor of Sociology at Long Beach City College in California, and author of Dollar Democracy: with Liberty and Justice for Some; How to Reclaim the American Dream for All (Amazon, Create Space, Barnes and Noble)