Pentagon facing up to cash crunch

This article in today’s WaPo shows us Secdef Bob Gates as trying to raise the alarm regarding the ballooning of the costs for today’s overseas wars. Specifically, Gates is starting to raise questions about the pay/compensation packages being given to the 1.4 million members of the U.S. military.
A recent report– here in PDF— from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) noted that, if the value of health benefits, retirement benefits, and tax advantages are added in along with base pay, in 2006 enlisted personnel received on average $13,360 more in year than similarly qualified civilians, while officers received on average $24,870 more than civilian counterparts.
The WaPo article, which is by Craig Whitlock, says that,

    Congress has been so determined to take care of troops and their families that for several years running it has overruled the Pentagon and mandated more-generous pay raises than requested by the George W. Bush and Obama administrations. It has also rejected attempts by the Pentagon to slow soaring health-care costs — which Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has said are “eating us alive” — by raising co-pays or premiums.
    Now, Pentagon officials see fiscal calamity.
    In the midst of two long-running wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, defense officials are increasingly worried that the government’s generosity is unsustainable and that it will leave them with less money to buy weapons and take care of equipment.

This is a great illustration of the fact that maintaining such a huge military is a huge burden on U.S. taxpayers– especially at a time of such deep financial emergency at home. It also gives a window into the fact that Congress and the U.S. political elite in general have been wanting to fight the U.S.’s two big and numerous smaller wars overseas in a way that essentially feather-beds the members of the U.S. military and makes them into a very pampered group of fighting men (and women) by any historical standard.
It is really time to bring an end to this whole process of worshiping the military that has held the US public in its grip for so long now.
Let’s face it, the military posture the U.S. has been trying to sustain around the whole world since the end of the Cold War is not only counter-productive– from the point of view of it’s not having built or sustained a more stable and equitable world order– but it also itself quite unsustainable into the medium term.
Time to figure out how to cut back our military considerably and to cooperate with all the other nations of the world in designing and establishing a system that ensures “public security” for the whole global commons in a way other than having it all be dominated and decided on by one, decidedly minority member of the world community.

12 thoughts on “Pentagon facing up to cash crunch

  1. bevin

    Never mind “the end of the Cold War”, this system has evolved out of the boondoggle which was the Cold War.
    The military is of far more importance than the ‘economy’ because the military defends the interests of the corporate ruling class. The economy is a largely mythological construct at whose core are the, easily understood, realities of forced labour and theft.
    Think of it as a Plantation with six billion or so labourers; treating the drivers and the overseers generously makes sense. Of course it means that the rest of us have to pick a little more cotton and make a few ounces of sugar more, but the extra amounts involved are small.

  2. Lysander

    Funny how the pentagon thinks. “Financial calamity” is before us. What should we do? Fight fewer wars? Make do without a big ticket weapon system? Maybe cool tensions with potential adversaries?
    No. Let us take money from soldiers.
    Mind you, I’m not complaining. Less pay hopefully translates into fewer volunteers. But I had to comment on t he mindset.

  3. Crimson Ghost

    Elite propoganda on the need to cut deficits focus almost entirely on slashing medicare and social security — virtual silence on the bloated war budget.

  4. pabelmont

    I’d like to see the calculations done so as to take account of the “mercenaries” (contract warriors) (BlackWater-Xe folks), who must account for a considerable expense within the Pentagon budget. (And don’t forget the quite similar contract workers who work for CIA and other “intelligence” agencies, sometimes as decision-makers, perhaps even guiding our guided munitions (drones, for instance), another enormous expense within the National Budget and, perhaps, accounted within the Pentagon budget.)
    These contract workers are often highly paid, and always come with profit and management overhead expenses. I have long assumed that they were MUCH more expensive than “soldiers”. But it would be good to know. it would also be good to know whether the contracts which, in effect, “hire” these workers are cancellable or are for terms-certain, or what. And whether these workers can be fired or re-assigned for incompetence, law-breaking, excessive violence, etc.
    And, assuming that those of these workers who bear arms and work in war-zones are not wearing US military uniforms and/or are not subject to command in the military command hierarchy, are these people (legally-speaking) “illegal combatants” who, if they worked for those who oppose the USA in such war-zones would be regarded by USA authorities as candidates for arrest and transportation to Guantanamo?

  5. Don Bacon

    I agree with the two posters above. This seems to be an extension of the presidential commission that is looking to cut the budget deficit — an excuse to take it out on the people doing the heavy lifting, and not on the profit-driven Pentagon welfare system for corporations and the US propensity to start a war anytime and anyplace.
    Gates should look at the Pentagon itself. With the US military getting regularly whupped by guys in tennis shoes, does the US military really need a huge general staff, and over 600 generals and admirals? Do the Afghanistan freedom fighters AKA terrorists/insurgents have a war college and a couple dozen four-stars? Or is their success a result of not being so burdened?
    Ballooning costs? Gates is the guy that, under the radar, recently decided unilaterally to convert the army tour in Korea from unaccompanied to accompanied, resulting in the spending of millions of dollars building high-rise apartment buildings, schools, recreational facilities, etc. – everything for a modern military “city” — at Camp Humphries in South Korea, home of Hyundai and Kia, and one of the most prosperous and well-defended countries in Asia.

  6. Don Bacon

    I agree with the two posters above. This seems to be an extension of the presidential commission that is looking to cut the budget deficit — an excuse to take it out on the people doing the heavy lifting, and not on the profit-driven Pentagon welfare system for corporations and the US propensity to start a war anytime and anyplace.
    Gates should look at the Pentagon itself. With the US military getting regularly whupped by guys in tennis shoes, does the US military really need a huge general staff, and over 600 generals and admirals? Do the Afghanistan freedom fighters AKA terrorists/insurgents have a war college and a couple dozen four-stars? Or is their success a result of not being so burdened?
    Ballooning costs? Gates is the guy that, under the radar, recently decided unilaterally to convert the army tour in Korea from unaccompanied to accompanied, resulting in the spending of millions of dollars building high-rise apartment buildings, schools, recreational facilities, etc. – everything for a modern military “city” — at Camp Humphries in South Korea, home of Hyundai and Kia, and one of the most prosperous and well-defended countries in Asia.

  7. epppie

    Well said, as usual, Helena. Yes, we should definitely take the ballooning cost of the military out on the little guys. That’s the American Way, it seems.

  8. Jack

    Just thought I’d look up a few stats. If my math is correct, a Colonel, stationed in Washington DC, makes about $110,000 in salary and about another $35,000 in housing allowance. A career E-7 about $50,000 and a young E-3 about $25,000 plus housing allowances which might range from $10,000 in some states to $25,000 in some high cost areas , depending also on rank. Then there is also combat pay and a few other perks. All in all, the compensation looks pretty reasonable to me for what we ask them to do(certainly much better than those of us who served more than 45 years ago remember, but back then it was grossly inadequate). From what I have read, “contractors” in war zones are paid 2 to 3 times as much for similar work, plus, of course, outrageous profits to the owners, but I haven’t seen any actual figures.
    Gates real problem seems to be, like most higher ups in the military industrial complex, that paying our servicemen a decent wage means that there is less of the federal budget to funnel to Haliburton, Blackwater-XE, Ratheon, McDonnel-Douglas, and all the other fat cat contractors for wasteful or useless weapon systems and services.
    I remember clearly the panic in friends of mine working in or for these industries when there was a danger of peace breaking out in the 1990’s, and the collective sigh of relief after 9-11 when we could have a totally open ended “war” to start the unregulated money flowing again. Obama is proving to be a captive of the complex like most of his predecessors (the Clinton limited exception being one of his few bright spots). His conduct of the asinine Asian wars, particularly his escalation in Afghanistan and Pakistan, are an abomination and sufficient reason in itself to justify a challenge from the left in 2012. There are an awful lot of smart people pointing out that these misadventures are making us less safe, not more safe. Why aren’t they being listened to?

  9. kassandra

    Well said, Don Bacon. My background was years with the Def.Dept. as a manpower analyst/auditor. I’ve never met a bunch of people who had to have everything done for their comfort because, as they keep telling us, they are “sacrificing”. A simple cost/benefit analysis would tell us that we should contract our wars out to the Taliban.

  10. Salah

    Firstly any war will be costly not in matter of economic sense but in human loses which more terrifying aspect of wars.
    As for US leads war specially in Iraq I keep reminding you that this war was a big black hole of many, taking in account what the return for sacrificing 4000 US solders life’s and 13,000 disabled men and women with the gain from Iraq.
    Today with big saga of shell oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico some write why we have to spend billions of dollars to dig under the water and get oil with disastrous outcome to US shore and US environment while oil from Iraq cost $1/barrel!
    Also were the money went for this war, GM their Hammer Military Vehicle flourished due Iraq war now they closing their line production, most US companies they paid million if not billions for military aids and service and so one and so forth.
    So the money of this war in fact come out from right-hand pocket and entered to left-hand pockets.
    Toady same US source “Pentagon” says troop pay overgenerous between them off course our commentator “kassandra”.

  11. Michael Murry

    Warfare Welfare and Makework Militarism, mercilessly marketed to a somnolent citizenry: credulous consumers of Manufactured Mendacity and Managed Mystification. In other words:
    The Silence of the Lamb Chops
    Let us bow our heads in silence
    Let us close our shuttered eyes
    Let us ask no pointed questions
    Let us rather swallow lies
    Let our government mislead us
    Let them wallow in the waste
    Let us eat the crap they feed us
    Let us grow to like its taste
    Let them praise their stalwart courage
    Let us meekly toe the line
    Let the rich cut all their taxes
    Let the poor ones pay the fine
    Let us do no thing unbidden
    Let us ask permission first
    Let them keep the water hidden
    Let us rather die of thirst
    Let them keep our business secret
    Let us not know what they do
    Let them keep us safe from knowing
    Let us smile while us they screw
    Let the dead come home to quiet
    Let them spare us from the sight
    Let us never start a riot
    Let them send some more to fight
    Let us never raise our voices
    Let them whisper in our ear
    Let them order us to slaughter
    Let us live in abject fear
    Let authority compel us
    Let them prod the panicked herd
    Let them with cheap jargon quell us
    Let us scatter at their word
    Let them mumble mealy mouthfuls
    Let them bumble, lean, and tilt
    Let them tumble, trip, and falter
    Let them crumple all we’ve built
    Let them loan us Chinese money
    Let them keep us all in pawn
    Let them dine on milk and honey
    Let us let them lead us on
    Michael Murry, “The Misfortune Teller,” Copyright 2006

Comments are closed.