Military Spending

Follow The Money: Why Romney Wants A Bigger Navy

It’s all about the dastardly Military Industrial Complex  President Eisenhower warned Americans about fifty-one years ago…

Think Progress

The airwaves of three key battleground states — FloridaVirginia, and New Hampshire — were hit this morning with advertisements from the Romney campaign about the size of the American navy. “Our navy is smaller now than any time since 1917,” Romney warns in the radio spots. A narrator adds, “As commander in chief, Mitt Romney… will invest in our military.”

Expanding the Navy has become a theme of the campaign; during Monday’s debate Romney used the same line, and Obama responded with a now-famous zinger about “horses and bayonets.” But new information discovered by Wired casts a new light on Romney’s push to beef up ship building: One of his top military advisers is in the ship building business.

John Lehman was Secretary of the Navy under Ronald Reagan, but is now an investment banker with stakes in several ship building companies:

Lehman is the founder and chairman of J.F. Lehman & Company, a private equity firm. He also sits on several corporate boards.

Lehman invested in a government-backed “Superferry” in Hawaii — a business that ultimately failed, but not before boosting the standing of Austal USA, an Alabama shipbuilder that constructed the ferry service’s ships. Austal USA’s rising fortunes in turn benefited international defense giant BAE Systems, which then bought up shipyards owned by Lehman in order to work more closely with Austal USA.

When all was said and done, the roundtrip deal helped net Lehman’s firm a reported $180 million. And besides that, Lehman continues to own shipyards that do lucrative maintenance work for the Navy. Even leaving aside the intricate ferry-and-shipyard series of deals, Lehman still stands a decent chance of profiting from the naval buildup he is helping to plan.

Lehman is one of Romney’s “special advisers” on his Foreign Policy and National Security Advisory Team, and his particular emphasis as an adviser is on the Defense work group. Lehman has spoken publicly on Romney’s behalf about the expansion of the Navy, pushing the Romney campaign’s line that the Navy needs to produce 15 new ships a year, to the tune of tens of billions of dollars. Romney believes the military must use at least 4 percent of the nation’s entire GDP, and plans to increase the military budget by an unpaid-for $2.1 trillion.

Navy ships are simply not a their smallest since 1917. But moreover, the argument that the United States should build out its ship resources is based on an outdated form of warfare. While ship production may well be declining, both the Air Force and Navy have a larger variety of specialized war vessels, such as submarines, that serve more effective and particular functions.

 

BEYOND LEFT AND RIGHT – Both Parties Call For Military Spending Cuts

Representative Barney Frank (D-MA) and Representative Ron Paul (R-TX) have written an op-ed in Huffington Post to call attention to our ever-expanding deficit.  Their solution is to cut projected military spending as part of an overall effort to help reduce the deficit.

Huffington Post – By Rep. Barney Frank  and  Rep. Ron Paul

As members of opposing political parties, we disagree on a number of important issues. But we must not allow honest disagreement over some issues to interfere with our ability to work together when we do agree.

By far the single most important of these is our current initiative to include substantial reductions in the projected level of American military spending as part of future deficit reduction efforts. For decades, the subject of military expenditures has been glaringly absent from public debate. Yet the Pentagon budget for 2010 is $693 billion — more than all other discretionary spending programs combined. Even subtracting the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, military spending still amounts to over 42% of total spending.

It is irrefutably clear to us that if we do not make substantial cuts in the projected levels of Pentagon spending, we will do substantial damage to our economy and dramatically reduce our quality of life.

We are not talking about cutting the money needed to supply American troops in the field. Once we send our men and women into battle, even in cases where we may have opposed going to war, we have an obligation to make sure that our servicemembers have everything they need. And we are not talking about cutting essential funds for combating terrorism; we must do everything possible to prevent any recurrence of the mass murder of Americans that took place on September 11, 2001.

Immediately after World War II, with much of the world devastated and the Soviet Union becoming increasingly aggressive, America took on the responsibility of protecting virtually every country that asked for it. Sixty-five years later, we continue to play that role long after there is any justification for it, and currently American military spending makes up approximately 44% of all such expenditures worldwide. The nations of Western Europe now collectively have greater resources at their command than we do, yet they continue to depend overwhelmingly on American taxpayers to provide for their defense. According to a recent article in the New York Times, “Europeans have boasted about their social model, with its generous vacations and early retirements, its national health care systems and extensive welfare benefits, contrasting it with the comparative harshness of American capitalism. Europeans have benefited from low military spending, protected by NATO and the American nuclear umbrella.”

When our democratic allies are menaced by larger, hostile powers, there is a strong argument to be made for supporting them. But the notion that American taxpayers get some benefit from extending our military might worldwide is deeply flawed. And the idea that as a superpower it is our duty to maintain stability by intervening in civil disorders virtually anywhere in the world often generates anger directed at us and may in the end do more harm than good.

We believe that the time has come for a much quicker withdrawal from Iraq than the President has proposed. We both voted against that war, but even for those who voted for it, there can be no justification for spending over $700 billion dollars of American taxpayers’ money on direct military spending in Iraq since the war began, not including the massive, estimated long-term costs of the war. We have essentially taken on a referee role in a civil war, even mediating electoral disputes.

In order to create a systematic approach to reducing military spending, we have convened a Sustainable Defense Task Force consisting of experts on military expenditures that span the ideological spectrum. The task force has produced a detailed report with specific recommendations for cutting Pentagon spending by approximately $1 trillion over a ten year period. It calls for eliminating certain Cold War weapons and scaling back our commitments overseas. Even with these changes, the United States would still be immeasurably stronger than any nation with which we might be engaged, and the plan will in fact enhance our security rather than diminish it.

We are currently working to enlist the support of other members of Congress for our initiative. Along with our colleagues Senator Ron Wyden and Congressman Walter Jones, we have addressed a letter to the President’s National Committee on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, which he has convened to develop concrete recommendations for reducing the budget deficit. We will make it clear to leaders of both parties that substantial reductions in military spending must be included in any future deficit reduction package. We pledge to oppose any proposal that fails to do so.

In the short term, rebuilding our economy and creating jobs will remain our nation’s top priority. But it is essential that we begin to address the issue of excessive military spending in order to ensure prosperity in the future. We may not agree on what to do with the estimated $1 trillion in savings, but we do agree that nothing either of us cares deeply about will be possible if we do not begin to face this issue now.

Gates Tells Defense Contractors To Increase Efficiency, Cut Costs

It’s about damn time! 

Now, I’d feel like they meant it if they rescinded that $100 million contract to Xe (formerly Blackwater.)

 

Crooks & Liars

Translation: “Santa Claus doesn’t live here anymore, boys!” I remember doing a defense story years ago and being surprised to learn that defense contractors typically use a research and development approach of several teams working on the same program at once, something they said enabled them to pick best practices from each team.

Oh yeah, and it’s an extraordinarily expensive approach virtually unheard of in the private sector:

The Pentagon on Monday told the US defense industry to bring down costs and find more savings in a “new era” of more modest military spending.

Ashton Carter, chief arms buyer for the Pentagon, delivered the belt-tightening message to a gathering of hundreds of defense chief executives and senior managers at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank.

The appeal for cost savings was part of an initiative announced by Defense Secretary Robert Gates last month to free up funds for weapons and other vital military needs, amid increasing pressure on the federal budget.

The industry CEOs understood the fiscal climate had changed, Carter said after the closed-door meeting.

“Everybody knows we’re entering a new era,” he told reporters. “They can do the math.”

The US defense budget would no longer grow at the same dramatic pace that marked the years after the September 11, 2001 attacks, and instead would expand at a more modest rate, said Carter, who also issued an open letter to industry.

As a result, weapons programs and services from private contractors would have to be carried out more efficiently starting next year, he said.

By slashing overhead, the Pentagon could increase funding for “war-fighting capabilities” by two to three percent, said Carter, or “in effect, doing more without more.”