The business of war has always been an excellent business to be in. Unfortunately, this fiscal year seems to be another banner year for the military industrial complex, with a record breaking National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) loaded with tons of wasteful spending on programs that have little to do with national defense.
This year, the Pentagon will receive the largest budget yet because you get rewarded with more money when you fail your fifth consecutive audit. (Only $2.1 trillion unaccounted for, no big deal.)
There is so much in the NDAA to analyze and criticize I’m not sure I could do it in one article, let alone two, so for now, I’ll focus on what is the worst part of the NDAA and the most dangerous. Again, the Pentagon will receive oodles of taxpayer money to fund wasteful weapons systems.
I’m a bit of a war hawk, if I’m going to be honest. I’m all about the military being lethal and robust, and I know the importance of being able to take the fight to the bad guys.
However, if you think the system is built to do any of that, you are mistaken. Instead, the system is built to feed the defense contractor beast and trick constituents into voting for the same politicians that do nothing for them in the long run.
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In this NDAA, there is $10 billion allocated for the F-35, the most expensive weapons program in Pentagon history, clocking in at an overall estimated total of $1.5 trillion. Here’s the kicker, though, the F-35 may never be able to see combat.
Not because we do such a bang-up job of staying out of wars but because the system itself is plagued with more problems than I can count. The NDAA also has money set aside to build more aircraft carriers to the tune of $13 billion a pop.
Sounds great, except the Navy recently said that aircraft carriers are increasingly more vulnerable to modern high-speed missiles. But why invest in modern sea warfare when we can keep building the same legacy ships from days gone by?
The most alarming section of the NDAA is titled the ‘Temporary Authorizations Related to Ukraine and Other Matters’. Besides the fact that ‘other matters’ is dangerously and typically vague, the items being funded make me raise an eyebrow.
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Within this section, there is funding for the following systems for Ukraine:
Now let’s take a look at what we’ve actually sent of these items to Ukraine to date:
That’s an awful lot of funding for an awful lot of weapons systems. It’s not as if these systems can be built quickly, either.
It’s not hard to take the leap that the government and the military-industrial complex expect, and I would imagine hope, that this war in Ukraine lasts well into the future, lining their pockets and feeding the war machine.
This year, the NDAA clocked in at $858 billion, an increase of $80 billion from last year. The increase alone is more than the entire military budget of the following countries:
The increase is also more significant than Russia’s military budget in 2021. An important detail is that the budget includes an extra $45 billion that the Pentagon and the White House didn’t ask for.
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What is that extra cash for? More combat ships, planes, and helicopters that the Department of Defense didn’t request.
How does that happen? Politicians add items to a Herculean budget in an attempt to go back to their constituents and claim that they helped “create jobs” in their districts through the ruse of increased defense spending meant to protect the homeland.
It’s estimated that over half of the NDAAs over the years go to defense contractors such as Lockheed Martin, Boeing, and Raytheon. While I rarely have a kind word for the behemoth defense contractors, I have to give them a bit of credit; even they are raising some flags regarding the massive funding bill.
Raytheon CEO Greg Hayes put it this way:
“The real question is, can we actually build it? They can appropriate all the money, but…if we take months and months and months to get on contract, that’s months and months of delay.”
Let’s break down what Mr. Hayes is referencing. The pandemic wrecked a lot of industries, and while the military-industrial complex has kept its pulse, it has had to feel the pain of the pandemic like all other industries.
Worker shortages, inflationary hits, and supply chain disruptions have made it increasingly difficult for defense contractors to stay on target and budget. But even if the pandemic hadn’t put a wrench in the system, it is built to fail, and we’ve all gotten used to it.
For 20 years I served in the military, and it was the same every year around the August timeframe. A mad dash to spend all the money we had received from Congress because if we didn’t, we wouldn’t get as much the following year.
It didn’t matter if we needed any of the things we were purchasing; it only mattered that we spent the funds before October 1st. But, unfortunately, because we’ve gotten used to the government not passing a defense budget on October 1st but instead forcing the DOD to live in what’s known as a Continuing Resolution Authority (CRA), it’s made it tens of times worse.
A CRA is meant to be a band-aid to allow the government to continue essential mandatory functions but puts a pause on any new projects or new funding. As senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute Mackenzie Eaglen explains:
“What you see are program officers holding cash and awards for contracts…then there’s the bulging spending at the end of the fiscal year in the last six months – and sometimes it’s not spent well, because it’s in a hurry.”
Sometimes? That’s an understatement, but you get the point.
The defense budget and the system it enables have become a monster with an unquenchable hunger for more. Someday it will catch up to us, and we will have to face the embarrassment that while we funded our military to the max, we are still woefully unprepared to defend this country, let alone others.
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"I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country.
As a result of the war, corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands, and the Republic is destroyed.
I feel at this moment more anxiety for the safety of my country than ever before, even in the midst of war."
Abraham Lincoln - In a letter written to William Elkin less than five months before he was