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Pentagon Has No Idea Where $800M Went (sigar.mil)
264 points by cinquemb on Nov 4, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 139 comments



I don't think the title is accurate. The report seems to know exactly where the the money went. They just don't know why stuff was so expensive.

"Nobody works here anymore" is a classic excuse used in information requests like this.

These letters the DoD sent back sound exactly like the letters I read every day as a civil litigator during discovery for cases. The DoD is basically telling this inspector to fuck off and stop bothering us.

That's not to say the Pentagon has no idea where the money went. They are just not cooperating with the investigation. The DoD is saying "we fired those guys, you go find them yourself."

And it sounds like the Special Inspector General has a pretty good idea why the natural gas station was so expensive. The organization in charge didn't do a feasibility study. Then spent millions of dollars building a station when it wasn't a good idea.

Nobody stole the money. They just squandered it on a gas station to nowhere.

Edit: Unsurprisingly both the inspector general and the DoD Deputy Under Secretary are both trained lawyers. The inspector general was even a civil litigator up until a few years ago.


>Nobody stole the money. They just squandered it on a gas station to nowhere.

The conspiracy theorist in me says the gas station was just a front to funnel the money somewhere else, somewhere with no governmental oversight.

But that person has no proof, of course.


The DoD already has off the books budget stuff. If it was black budget this letter would have never happened.

If you want to conspiracy theorize, this fits with the classic gov't construction grift model. Gov't employee gets a huge bribe. Gov't employee gives a huge lucrative to the person who bribed them. They waste of a bunch of money on contractors who don't show up or show up and don't work. Years later its way over budget and the delivered project sucks. That's classic government corruption.

One telltale sign is the amount of overhead - 30 million - on a 42 million dollar project.


Or more optimistically, an unauthorized, unintentional welfare program.

The military industrial complex is not that different in form from the massive public works jobs program many propose to replace it with, except that the latter would also have the side effect of good infrastructure.


> except that the latter would also have the side effect of good infrastructure.

And would happen at home in the open with competitors and political opponents keeping a watchful eye on things (in their own interest), not in some far off country hidden away from prying eyes.


but it wouldn't be "unpatriotic" or "weak on defence" for said political opponents to criticise it...


A lot of this military waste has the side effect of (some) good infrastructure too, it's just in other countries!

I always think it's weird that we're so willing to spend tons of money building stuff in other countries, but not our own.


Well, Devil's Advocate, we didn't literally bomb our own infrastructure. That does confer a moral responsibility to replace it.


That's a fair point, although I'd say it doesn't apply too much in a place like Afghanistan which was fairly thoroughly destroyed before we even got there.


One telltale sign of increased overhead: operating in warzone.


Sure and the inspector general is being purposely obtuse about factors like that.


Black projects are a way of life at the CIA, so it's really not that much of a stretch to suggest that the money went to to other projects. It's pretty much accepted that CIA budget reports sent to the GAO are basically farces.


The gas station is probably actually an elaborate listening station with... nah, they just pocketed the cash.

The sad thing is this is where about 90% of your taxes generally go - corruption, nepotism, bribery, private hands.


Sort of joking but what do you think happens in the private world with banks, hedge funds and other large financial institution/collectors. It seems wherever there is a lot of power/money there is a good ole boys club.


I guess the joke is that your logic is logic-free? or maybe where you live, banks, hedge funds, and other large financial institutions use their legal monopoly on violence to force you to pay for them.


The difference is that the money that banks, hedge funds waste isn't mine money. Tax payer money is.


I think this is a systemic problem in Afghanistan.

I've heard that once a contract is put up for bidding by the government, someone buys it out, and sub-contracts it out a step down the ladder. The sub-contractor sub-contracts it out again another step, and so on.

until eventually a local is taking a picture of some other well as proof and everyone gets paid and nothing gets done.

I couldn't comment on whether this has any truth to it, I've fortunately never been to Afghanistan and also I don't know anyone who's been.

after hearing it, it's hard to imagine things working any other way, looking at the fruit of the time and money.


And this is why, kids, you don't destabilize third-world government to fight the Communists. Or third world governments to fight for democracy. Or hell third world governments, don't destabilize them! It's a bad idea, sort of like humpty dumpty.


They put Humpty Dumpty back together but they got some of the parts a bit wrong, and he looks like the Halloween version, and it scares children and adults alike.


And they generated a hefty amount of "terror debt" along the way.


Or, in other words:

If you want to take over a company, always keep the middle management! They know how everything works and who to ask when special issues might occur.

If you want to take over a country, always keep the government officials! They know who to work with, what to do, etc.

Firing all tax collectors just to hire them again is a stupid idea.

Even worse when you destabilize several countries, make sure all educated people have left the country, and then are left with a bunch of radicals.

(Compare: Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan)


> someone buys it out, and sub-contracts it out a step down the ladder.

Yap pretty much. This happens with big and small stuff right here on US soil. There are bid requests that fit only one product, so there is just simply no way anything else would be picked. Product is not named by name, but if you look at list of features it describes it in a unique way. Or there are special handouts to small companies headed by vetereans or women, so people would put their Vietnam era uncle as CEO on paper so the company can get a special contract and so on.


You would also have to give your Vietnam era uncle at least 51% ownership of the company you can't just appoint him to a position of management in name only. I'm not saying this provision of law has never been abused but it isn't the outright farce you are portraying it as. I also wouldn't call the contract awarded under this provision special handouts. federal regulations does give these companies preferred treatment though that can streamline a lot of read tape.


In Spanish this kind of thing is so common it has its own word: "testaferro" (would loosely translate as frontman or figurehead, but it has a lot more connotations)

https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Testaferro

They can own 100% of the company, they're usually controlled or trusted in some other way.


The private contractor(s) who built the station at exorbitantly high cost know exactly where the money went. It's in their various bank accounts and/or their new vacation homes.


Maybe in a past age, deep and wasteful US military budgets actually did benefit most Americans. But, personally, I haven't see any real return on investment.

On the other hand, having lived in Northern Virginia over the last decade, I have noticed a lot more Ferraris and Lamborghinis on the roads. So, at least someone is benefiting.


There are two Lockheed Martin campuses in my city. My city is the "Simulation Capital of the World" because of big money defense contracts. I can't begin to imagine the number of good, solid, upper middle class engineering and related jobs are in my city due to the bloated military budget.


You know what I wish? I wish we could put all those good, solid, upper middle class engineering jobs to work on our nation's infrastructure, medical device engineering, next-gen power generation, whatever, something useful to pass onto future generations--and directly useful, not just the "useful as a side-effect" that military work sometimes ends up being.


Says the man typing on the internet. The amount of tech produced because it initially had military applications is staggering. Medical advances and next gen power are both things of massive utility to the military and they plough large amounts of money into research for it.

They aren't "useful as a side effect" they are useful because no-one else is willing to spend the amount of money the military is. No-one else spends hundreds of thousands of dollars on equipping high school drop out employees.


I think the "useful as a side effect" comment stems from the fact that the money is being spent to develop things that are primarily for military applications. It just so happens that oftentimes, those applications/technologies can be applied wholly or partially for public uses as well. However, if your end goal is to improve civilian life and infrastructure then development via the military almost certainly isn't the most efficient mechanism to accomplish that goal.

That's not to say that military doesn't have its uses, but if public benefit is your main goal then it almost assuredly would be better to create some type of agency or organization that was explicitly tasked and organized in such a way to meet those goals.


That doesn't happen in the American system simply because there is nothing your average American respects more than the military. It is politically safer to give money to the military than to $civilian_project, and it's politically easier to defend that budget from cuts than any other item. (Which doesn't mean that cuts to the military budget don't happen, but they happen less frequently -- and you know when they happen because the media will quickly raise a stink about it)


I think that if you dig into it, that comment is not really contradictory with being typed on the internet.

Yes, the internet was technically a military project in that it came out of (D)ARPA, but they seem to work a lot on interesting civilian projects that might have military spinoffs rather than the other way around.


" .. no one else is willing to spend the amount of money .. "

That's rich. I think any agency could do amazing things if they had the budget the size of the military budget. Their amazing things wouldn't be "blow shit up first, let people share cat pictures a distant second" though.

Priorities, man.


Says the man who doesn't work in defense.

95%+ of the work done is thrown away. I'm not talking about cutting edge R&D projects that happened to not work out, but literally work will be done and then never evaluated and throw into the trash. Agencies have so much money that they need to spend that they will have no idea what they want and will just throw half a million at you to go do whatever you want for a year. Then they will look at a powerpoint of what you did for maybe 20 mins, nod their head and scratch their chin and then pretend the whole thing never happened.

The Phase I to Phase III ratio has go to me like 100:1


I'd say goals with our nation's infrastructure align pretty well too. Interstate system, bridges, etc.


All that stuff you list is good.

But, unfortunately, what too many of today's software engineers are working on are apps that hardly anyone needs. "It's tinder for cats". Stuff like that.


If nobody really uses the apps eventually the money runs out. Let us know when the US government isn't spending hundreds of billions each year on mil-ind boondoggles.


Exactly - the work they're doing might be technically complex, but from the point of view of most of the rest of the economy, they may as well be chasing tumbleweeds.


But if we use our engineering talent to build the New Jerusalem where all human kind can live free of want and coercion how will we maintain the current social order?


Well, 13 years ago the Pentagon mentioned it had lost track of $2.3 trillion, so $800 million seems like an improvement.


Exactly. My first thought was "that's all?".


While it's still a lot of money I felt the same way. As a percentage of their overall budget, that's not a lot of moeny for an institution to lose track of, considering the entire DoD is not audit-ready and hasn't done an audit in many many years.


I had the same memory as you, but after looking it up an hour ago, I'm willing to write that one off as a bit conspiracy-theorist. It seemed like it was in the context of upgrading their systems to track this sort of stuff.

Of course, as I type that out it sounds like a load of baloney.


Yeah, in fairness he was saying "our accounting system is so antiquated that we've had to do $2.3 trillion worth of acquisitions in an alternate way that isn't tracked in it."


After reading the linked document, I can only conclude that the Pentagon did not, in fact, spend $800M. Instead, it had most of $800M stolen from it by shady contractors, and buried the details to avoid embarrassment.

This has been happening to the US federal government an awful lot lately. This is rather disturbing, and appears to be specific to recent times and specific to the United States.


The military is responsible for shocking amounts of fraud. And because most civilians have zero experience with the military, the most we can do is say "thank you for your service." I bet the perpetrators of this embarrassment still hears that every time they go through an airport.

This article is a good overview of how this disconnect has to come to pass:

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2015/01/the-trag...


Back in the '80s I heard a rumor that one of the many large defence contractors who also had a fair amount of civilian work had many of their workers filling out two time cards (both for ~40 hr/wk) – one on civilian contracts, one on military contracts.


> This is rather disturbing, and appears to be specific to recent times and specific to the United States.

Rest assured that as a French, I can confirm this is not specific at all to the US.


Well actually, it kinda is.

The US military budget is around 11x that of France.


So? It just means the US has 11x the amount of money stolen, not that it's specific to the US.

And the GDP of the US about 6x that of France, so on that scale the amounts are roughly equivalent.


for real amusement :

http://ww2.cfo.com/auditing/2015/05/pentagon-watchdog-approv...

"The Pentagon is the only federal agency that has not complied with a 1992 law that requires annual audits of all government departments. In 2009, Congress gave the department until 2017 to be audit-ready."

I mean we're talking about $600B/year un-auditable even in principle. Of course one can't say that DOD is negligent or non-responsive or not taking necessary actions - after all the DOD did create the "Office of Audit Readiness" which now manages the plans for achieving that readiness ... sometime after 2017 according to their recent updates.

for further amusement:

http://www.gao.gov/highrisk/dod_financial_management/why_did...

I like this one - "lack of ability to maintain documentation to support transactions." and their plans&promises to buy ERP. That really puts them on track for audit readiness ... in the next century. And after all of that you're asking about meager $800M :)

And of course it is hard not to laugh seeing the Congress trying to threaten the DOD with not letting the DOD buy new toys :

https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/senate-bill/327

"For failing to obtain an audit for fiscal years after FY2017, the bill [...] prohibits DOD from using funds for certain weapons, weapons systems, or platforms being acquired as a major defense acquisition program."

It is so real and so scary! That should show them real good! :)


I think they probably do know, it's likely just excess spending on internal programs that probably failed and were later merged with bigger projects in a sense 'laundering' the money from public scrutiny. I mean just look at the CIA's mind control program from the 50's to 70's, they probably blew billions on a program that just got a few people on the government's payroll zonked on acid, scarred a few for life, and ultimately just led to the giant crowd of hippies on the white house lawn. Which hey, I say makes it money well spent! But tough to follow as far as a paper trail is concerned.


At least it appears that there is actually a filling station to show for the money. I worked with people that worked in Afghanistan as contractors for the US and UK governments and they told me that often millions would spent on building a new school in a remote area, through a chain of sub-contractors, each creaming off slices of the money both through margins and bribes, and yet when later someone went to the site to inspect the school, they found no building at all.


9/10/01 - rumsfeld announces that the pentagon cannot account for 2.3 TRILLION.


A quick Google search reveals this was not the case.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ObhIu5k3mww

A quick video of Rumsfeld saying it reveals this was the case.


And the "debunk" sites clearly explain, what he meant by that was that the Pentagon literally could not account for that amount of money. Not that trillions of dollars were missing, but that their accounting capabilities were not sufficient enough to track that large of a sum of money.

As mentioned, the entire US budget was less than 2 trillion dollars in 2001. That would be an awful lot of money to go missing and no one notice, 9/11 or not.


That's exactly what i said in my OP. 9/10/01 - rumsfeld announces that the pentagon cannot account for 2.3 TRILLION.

and how was the budget 2 trillion if they can't account for 2.3 trillion....?


Where did the rest of the $42.5 million go if it only costs $500,000 to construct a CNG plant in Afghanistan?

And why is this being touted as the loss of $800 million?


> Where did the rest of the $42.5 million go if it only costs $500,000 to construct a CNG plant in Afghanistan?

When this question was being investigated, it turned out that the construction was managed by an agency that no longer exists (as of a year ago iirc), and that there were absolutely no records kept and no way to answer how the money was spent for this project, or for $750 million worth of other projects that they managed.


They spent $42.5mm on the station. Other comparable stations in the region cost ~$500k. The title is a little misleading. The Pentagon asserts they cannot provide information on the gas station project because it was part of a discontinued program with a total budget of $800mm. Thus, the extrapolation that they have no idea where any of the total budget went.


Nitpick: Can we stick to ",000,000", "M", "e6", or even "kk" if really needed? "mm" are millimeters, or two "m"s - it really doesn't make sense for "million".


It's a common and widely accepted abbreviation: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Million


I know. It still doesn't make sense when people use k/M for 1,000, M/m/kk/MM/mm for 1,000,000 and B/MM/mm for 1,000,000,000. (sorted by ~popularity)

It's even more annoying when someone uses "k" and "mm" in the same post, since the whole idea of "mm" comes from repeating roman "M" (1,000). So why not stick to k/kk (WoW-style) or M/MM (almost-roman style)?

At least "k" and "M" are based on some kind of standard.


From the link: "It is commonly abbreviated as m or M; further MM [...], mm, or mn in financial contexts." Note the semicolon.

Also note that the only cited source additionally claims that "M" is often used to indicate one thousand, as in $60,000 = $60M, which for all I know may be true in the financial world but is definitely not true for anyone outside that world who wants to be understood.


Is it really? Your link says:

  It is commonly abbreviated as [...] mm, or mn in financial contexts.[5][better source needed]


It can't be an abbreviation as that refers to subtractions of letters existing in the word and I only count one 'm' in millions.

Yes it's pedantry and yes I understand that 'mm' is in someways a convention but it's a terrible one.


As long as we're being pedantic, abbreviation does not refer strictly to "subtractions of letters existing in the word," it is any shortened form of a word or phrase.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abbreviation (see especially the section on plural forms)

http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/us/definition/american_eng...

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/abbreviation


How is adding non-existent letters any form of abbreviation?

That's all I was stating.


Because it is a shorter form of the word it abbreviates. 'mm' is shorter than 'millions'.


> Thus, the extrapolation that they have no idea where any of the total budget went.

This is patently false. We know where the money went. Toilet seats. Lots and lots of (very comfortable) toilet seats[1].

[1] http://articles.latimes.com/1986-07-30/news/vw-18804_1_nut


The infamous "toilet seats" were actually what people would usually think of as a whole toilet without the plumbing parts. And they were specialized pieces that had to fit in a very specific place on a combat aircraft and meet lots of exacting specifications.

Saying the military paid $640 for the same kind of toilet seat you might put on your toilet at home is more than a little misleading.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toilet_seat#US_Navy.27s_.22.24...


Not the kind of toilet seat you are talking about, but you can easily spend that kind of money for a home toilet seat: https://www.liftcaregiving.com/shop/products/urinary-tract-i... (Not an endorsement -- I just grabbed it at random from a Google search).

I actually do have a similar type of toilet seat (as do most other people in Japan). Some optional extras you can get on toilet seats include a heated seat (highly recommended if you don't have heat in your house) and a fan that vents odours.

There are only 2 furnishings in my house that I wouldn't give up. One is the toilet seat and the other is a bath that pours itself and maintains a constant temperature with a recirculating pump. Worth every penny and more.


Thanks for the clarification. I'm assuming you probably can't help me find a sarcasm detector for $640?



> Lots and lots of (very comfortable) toilet seats

If they were made for the military, I can just about guarantee that they weren't at all comfortable no matter how much they cost.


Because the CNG station was only one project under the $800M TFBSO program. Quoting slide 2:

"Frankly, I find it both shocking and incredible that DOD asserts that it no longer has any knowledge about TFBSO, an $800 million program that reported directly to the Office of the Secretary of Defense and only shut down a little over six months ago."


Remaining must have gone in bribery which they cannot show on the books or to be show as agent charges :)


Secret Space Program + Black Budget. Deal with it.


Exactly. These projects are "in name only" and designed to funnel money to hidden budgets (e.g. to fund CIA operations).


If certain individuals can launder money in such a way, what's stopping them lining their own pockets? Almost by definition they have no oversight...


Absolutely nothing, and it's been happening since the CIA was founded. An example of profiting off secret doings: http://www.slate.com/articles/business/the_dismal_science/20...

That's not a direct "money laundering" caper, but it's still an example that "high minded public servants" and other deep state folks can see their way clear to making a profit from a coup.


Yes.

Catherine Austin Fitts lays it out right here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w0mimIp8mr8


She also insinuates that the floods in New Orleans were constructed to wipe out evidence of mortgage fraud around 1:16:55. There were several insinuations of this nature (regarding 9/11 and such) made in passing without (for presumably obvious reasons) any evidence to back it up.

She seems like a very competent auditor / investment banker / what have you, but frankly a link like that should be accompanied by a disclaimer. Fill a vat with all the salt you can find in your immediate and surrounding area and bathe in it while watching. That being said I don't doubt her numbers or her experience in government. I just wish she could present it without making me cringe at her delusions every 5 minutes.


Imagine what would happen if the Pentagon were held to Sarbanes-Oxley the way private businesses are.


Congress has been much more lenient on the Defense Department than on publicly traded corporations. The Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, a response to the Enron Corp and other turn-of-the-century accounting scandals, imposes criminal penalties on corporate managers who certify false financial reports. "The concept of Sarbanes-Oxley is completely foreign" to the Pentagon, says Mike Young, a former Air Force logistics officer who for years has been a consultant on, and written about, Defense Department logistics.

http://mobile.reuters.com/article/idUSBRE9AH0LQ20131118


I understand folks getting upset because of either ~$800m worth of DoD incompetence or ~$800m of intelligence 'black budget' funds diversion.

But folks should not forget that the entire DoD spend in the 2015 federal budget was a mere $620.5b.

Compare that to Social Security + Medicare + Welfare. Those totaled $1,918.5b. That's 3x the entire Defense budget. That's where taxes are going.[1]

At least DoD has to field tanks and submarines and carriers. The other guys? They move money around for a living. Be more worried about the size and propensity for graft there.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2015_United_States_federal_bud...


That's 1,918 billion spent on supporting families on every street, literally saving tens of thousands of lives of every day folk every year, ensuring safe retirement for millions, putting money back into the economy, and putting people back on their feet versus a "mere" 620 billion spent on a needlessly large program which kills civilians around the world and becomes a tool to be used in geopolitical engagments that arguably make our citizens more unsafe. That mere 620 billion is more than the next 7 largest millitaries spend combined.

I'm not saying these programs are perfect (single payer and basic income would probably save lives and money), or that there is no need for millitary spending, but it's scary how out of touch you are to be incapable of realizing why people would be upset with 620 billion going towards killing people and not with 1,918 billion going towards saving and empowering them. Cutting defense spending in half, as unthinkable as that is in the current dominant neoconservative political climate, could free up money for rebuilding infrastructure, doubling the budgets of NSF, NIH, DOE, and NASA, and so on.


These debates about the military budget involve people talking past each other because they disagree on what would happen if we stopped spending that money.

Nobody educated on the subject things we spend $620 billion just in case we need to beat the next 7 armies on the list. We do it because spending more than the next 7 armies on the list ensures that it is pointless for any other state to even try to challenge U.S. hegemony. Nobody knows what the world would look like if the U.S. abdicated its role as world police but a lot of people are willing to spend that money to not have to find out what happens.

And its not unreasonable to be afraid of that hypothetical. The western world spent hundreds of years at war with each other. That period culminated in Europeans killing tens of millions of each others' people. Today, instead of shooting each other in the face as their grandparents did, French and Germans hold hands in the EU. What the hell happened? A very plausible explanation is that when the U.S. became unchallengable after World War II, it became pointless for any European country to cultivate aspirations of global power. That dramatically reduced the geopolitical instability that comes with countries vying for regional or global dominance.


I question the explanation that it primarily was USA's military dominance that kept Europeans from further local military conflicts after WW2. Other factors that can explain why Europeans haven't started wars against each other are: democratization of the region, increased standard of living and the growth of the middle class, war fatigue and strong anti-war sentiment after having lived through WW2, increased trade, the forming of the United Nations, and regionally perhaps more impactfull the European union, and involuntarily being at the centre of the cold war.

Unfortunately I have no references to prove the relative impact of these alternative explanations compared to rayiner's. Still I'd suggest that using the strength of USA's military force as a sole or even primary explanation of post-WW2 peace in Europe is an oversimplification.


> spending more than the next 7 armies on the list ensures that it is pointless for any other state to even try to challenge U.S. hegemony.

Hmm, I think that's exactly what Vladimir Putin is doing right now. I mean he's pretty explicit about it. Xi's being a bit subtler about it, but he's kind of doing the same thing. Also, it seems like the US kind of lost the last couple of wars it got into, the ones in Iraq, Libya, and Afghanistan, even though Daesh and Libya Dawn don't have US$610B/year budgets.

More to the point, though, when the US military spends US$43 million on a gas station that would cost anyone else US$½ million, it becomes plausible that someone could have a stronger military even head-to-head than your US$610B/year military, even if their budget is, say, US$8B/year. Like, say, Singapore or Algeria. All they'd have to do is be spending their money on things that actually work instead of corruption-driven boondoggles. Wasting money doesn't win wars.

Would the US really lose if it got into a war with Algeria or, more realistically, Iran (who's currently supporting Russia's attacks against Daesh, over US protest)? Hard to say. Depends in part on how much of that US$610B is getting squandered, in part on whether Iran has a plan for shooting down GPS†, stuff like that. Aircraft carriers versus supercavitating torpedoes is going to be an interesting experiment when it happens. I'm glad I won't be on the carrier.

(Might also depend on what happens if the US nukes Singapore, which is after all a mostly-not-subterranean city-state. Would it trigger a global thermonuclear war, obliterating the US?)

> A very plausible explanation is that when the U.S. became unchalleng[e]able after World War II, it became pointless for any European country to cultivate aspirations of global power.

I can't tell whether you haven't heard of the Cold War or you don't realize that Moscow is in Europe. Either way, maybe you shouldn't be starting sentences with "nobody educated on the subject thin[k]s".

† Does this sound implausible? It shouldn't. Iran has had Scuds for 30 years, and it's been making its own for more than 20 years. Iran has been able to launch things into orbit since 2008, and if my calculations are right, you only have to go half as fast as orbital velocity to reach a GPS satellite, and then Kessler Syndrome might take care of the rest. And don't forget, launching into orbit means they can get a radioactive dust cloud or ten thousand individually-guided tungsten lawn darts to a point of their choosing within the US within a few minutes of launch.


That depends on what you mean by "lost". Look at the map of US military influence before 2000 and after 2014. Is the US today (a) better positioned to project force, (b) about the same, (c) worse? Not many people would argue (c), and the map strongly suggests (a).

We're not not engaging ISIS because we can't. We certainly could beat them back into hiding. We just don't want to. (I'm glad of that.)


The important metric isn't the ratio of what we spend on the military to what others spend. It's something more like a ratio of the effectivenesses of the militaries, however you'd like to formulate that.

I'd prefer a lower cost, more effective military.


I agree, but why is U.S. subsidizing the whole world without getting as much benefit? Its not just this, U.S. is subsidizing the whole world's healthcare costs too.


The US benefits enormously from military hegemony. It's the de facto arbiter of global capitalism and it controls all of the world's shipping lanes.


Oh the US gets a lot of benefit. Europe buys American stuff and generally does what the US tells it to.


Actually, the main objective of the DoD is preserving a general liberal-democratic post-war order, one which persists only because of a balletic balancing of forces. You may have policy or ideological disagreements with particular episodes or theaters, but to condemn the DoD as "620 billion going towards killing people" is. . . dumb. Or unconsidered, to be more charitable.

And there's evidence that these welfare programs you seem to like are far more inhumane than they are helpful. Remember: it isn't manna from heaven. It's money from income earners. (Not "the rich," remember: it's work that is taxed, not wealth.) And economies have overcome many revolutions, from iron to industrial, without these programs. Do you have a principled reason why the information age is any different?


It's rare to see a more right wing opinion being dictated in a way that is thoughtful or halfway intelligent. Yours is beyond halfway and I'm being serious.. good post.

To answer your question, we need these programs because just 100 years ago some people couldn't read and write. With public education K-12 and public universities, I'm much better off than my own family 100 years ago, before the gov't started these social programs. I'm a product of public education all the way through, and I'm very thankful as it was subsidized by others. I know the program works, and I'm happy to support domestic spending.

I'm in agreement with the parent though that offensive military spending (which standing armies always leads to) is flat out a bad idea and wrong[0]. My great grandfather served in WW1 in the trenches of France, fighting our homeland (Germany). His son-in-law, my grandfather, was shot multiple times over Germany in WW2 by flak as a gunner in a B24 in the Army Air Corp. He flew enough missions that his chance of surviving the war was 10%. The other was a Marine in the Pacific. But we as a family 'serve' no longer. I changed my mind about going to Iraq when one of my grandfathers told me we had 'no business being over there'. And the other said flat out, if the military comes for me, that I'm to go to Canada. I would never disobey those men which I respected so much.

So for me, the principled reason would be just looking at education alone, it makes a better world for all of us. Better quality of life, more opportunities, and an advanced economy.

[0]http://www.ratical.org/ratville/CAH/warisaracket.html


> the main objective of the DoD is preserving a general liberal-democratic post-war order, one which persists only because of a balletic balancing of forces.

Objectives are one thing - how much effect they have is a quite different question. Historically there's a long-standing decline in violence; the fall of the Soviet Union, the decline of British dominance, or even the end of the Roman empire are barely a blip on the graph. Is the DoD actually helping, or are they just a rock that keeps tigers away?

> to condemn the DoD as "620 billion going towards killing people" is. . . dumb. Or unconsidered, to be more charitable.

Maybe. If the politicians screw up welfare, the worst that happens is some shysters get some money. The DoD is always going to involve killing people. Hopefully they're a tool that we can use to do more good than harm. But if you don't believe they're being effective - or being used effectively - then all that's left is the killing.

> Remember: it isn't manna from heaven. It's money from income earners.

True, but equally applicable to the DoD

> economies have overcome many revolutions, from iron to industrial, without these programs. Do you have a principled reason why the information age is any different?

Economies survived without these programs, and would do so today. But most people's lives were nasty, brutish, and short. It's worth spending money to improve on that.


The state has filled the power vacuum left by the church and thus taken on the role of social welfare provider.


> And economies have overcome many revolutions, from iron to industrial, without these programs. Do you have a principled reason why the information age is any different?

I truly hope you are a billionaire, because once your Randian utopia comes to fruition, you will need private armies to protect you against their Blackwaters and Pinkertons. Because they'll come for your assets. Count on it.

Don't believe me? Look at Russia. See what happens when oligarchs challenge the supreme oligarch? Their assets get "nationalized", and they are imprisoned. That's best case. The less significant ones catch odd diseases strangely similar to polonium poisoning...


I am sorry, but the leap from "Randian utopia" to Russia is quite hard to follow. Could you explain what do both have in common? Russia is, likely, the most regulated economy in the world (e.g. from the recent news http://www.topnews.ru/news_id_83651.html , the government banned a supermarket chain from selling loose candy, tea, nuts etc. where else something like this could possibly happen?) with giant welfare programs and a big chunk of the population employed in the government. I only read digests of Rand's books but they left an impression that a "Randian utopia" would not have any of these things.


Where are you getting $1.9T? The numbers you cited don't seem to back that up.

Social security was $857B, but is entirely self funded through the payroll tax, Medicare was $519B, and the rest of the social safety net programs were $370B[1].

Also, I would quibble about the defense number. Missing appear to be $151B for veterans affairs (part of the price tag for our wars), and the interest on debt from past wars makes up the bulk of our interest payments of $223B.

[1]http://www.cbpp.org/research/policy-basics-where-do-our-fede...


> Social Security + Medicare + Welfare. Those totaled $1,918.5b. That's 3x the entire Defense budget. That's where taxes are going.

Yeah, those other guys just pay old people's pensions and health insurance (that they're been saving up for), with the occasional helping of folks who would go hungry otherwise.


I'd divert some of that military spending if it means we finally get single payer healthcare.

Basic healthcare can not and must not be for profit. It's crazy that it's not considered important enough to be a basic human right in 2015. Better healthcare for all also means less emergency room visits etc.


I think if you also added everything that individuals, families, and employers are paying for health insurance to the single-payer pool of taxes, the funding picture wouldn't look nearly so difficult. Sure, "taxes" go up, but we should end up with more money in our pockets in the end because we stop paying for insurance and uncovered medical expenses.


I would have thought an increase in FICA by 2-3%, plus raising the FICA ceiling, would have gone a long way towards covering whatever the bill would be. As it is, for my family, we're paying an extra $5k/year for essentially the same high deductible plan we had 3 years ago. Paying that by being forced in to private insurance feels wrong - paying it via FICA (or some other more general tax) feels easier. There's still 10s of millions who have not bought in to private insurance, because the costs are still too high for them (or they opt out for other reasons), so we're still left with millions uninsured but many people paying more. "Health insurance" != "health care service" which has been the biggest problem in the debate for years.


And it's still $600+ bil. I question the need for that much military spending. And in before, the "because jobs" argument. There are plenty of other opportunities to create jobs other than military spending. Fixing our infrastructure for instance.

Also, you aren't accounting for three letter agency spending...


And while I'm on a roll, I wonder why there isn't a bigger fuss made over corporate taxes for large businesses vs. income tax.

I don't get to take advantage of the Double Dutch etc. like a corporation would to pay much lower effective taxes. Sure seems like corporate personhood is has all the upside and none of the downside.


I struggle to understand why you've been downvoted for this. Perhaps HN has finally become the bastion of neo-oligarchs it purports to train?

It's all high and mighty to speak of taxes, but as the esteemed commenter above states, they mostly come from the wage slaves, not the capitaled elite.


Thanks for pointing out the down vote.

The thoughts I expressed above seem logical and clear to me yet I've seen very little discussion around this subject. For some reason, it seems to me that people find it acceptable for corporations to use every means possible to pay less.

I sure would like the option of not paying taxes on overseas income. But yet the US government is intent on taxing all personal income regardless of locale. How is that fair or ok?


The earnings of corporations are eventually taxed.

I don't see why they should be doubly taxed. If I go and perform a job, I will pay income taxes on it. If I go and hire a bunch of people, form a corporation, and perform a job, we will pay both corporate taxes and income taxes.

That doesn't make sense to me and I can understand why companies go to great lengths to avoid it.


The portion that is subject to income taxes (employee salaries) is not subject to corporate taxes. Salaries are a cost for the company and only the profits are subject to corporate income tax.


I misspoke by attributing the double taxation on earnings to "income taxes." You're right that the portion subject to income taxes is a cost, not profit.

I meant the taxation of dividends, which are doubly taxed.


Corporate profits are left overseas and not taxed/taxed at a very low level. You see this with Apple, Google, Medtronic etc.

Taxation of dividends is double taxed if you could once to the corporation and once to the individual.

Avoidance of taxation of dividends (which only a subset of companies do) is not why these corporations go to such lengths to avoid paying taxes. They do it because they don't want their profits taxed. That's my beef.


I think when you put it in perspective like that it's STILL stunning. 800m is a sizable fraction of the DoD budget keeping in mind that the other stuff is maintaining a worldwide military presence on land sea and air and 800m went to a gas station.


Are you saying that 30% of the social welfare budget is trivial?

Or that paying people to build tools of destruction+pollution is better that paying people to do nothing?


Note that there's a lot of money spent beyond the DoD budget. As an example: http://www.pogo.org/our-work/straus-military-reform-project/...


You summed up three budgets and then say that it's 3x bigger than another budget. Really now.


You'd have the elderly eat cat food.


Are you denigrating the good middle-class Americans working honest jobs in our cat food manufacturing plants!?


Can we just fucking cut them off? Like - be done with it?


I wish it were that simple too. It's sad it isn't. For one, can you imagine the PR campaign about how you hate America, the troops, freedom, the flag and everything it stands for?

I don't have any proof, but my guess as to why Kennedy was assassinated was because of his refusal to go into Cuba[0] and Vietnam[1]. I always saw him as the last 'real' President, the rest don't dare to seriously challenge the military-industrial complex. The message was clear enough with just a cursory investigation into his Presidency. I'd love to hear what high level, insider circles say and have said about it.

I've always convinced myself that if Bush didn't go into Iraq, he would've mysteriously met the same fate. Of course, he wasn't quite as insightful as JFK (to say the least), so there wasn't much chance he would put up a fight.

[0]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Northwoods

[1]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_F._Kennedy#Southeast_Asia


I heard about the $43MM gas station (similar gas stations were built for a half million). At the scale of government $40 million is a significant miscalculation but not scandalous. To know the bloat goes beyond that to a staggering $800MM, nearly a trillion dollars, is very troubling.


$800MM (800 million dollars) is nearly a billion dollars, not "nearly a trillion".


My mistake, still an insane amount of missing money.


I don't know, on the scale of the Federal budget, losing $800 million is about on the same level as losing some change in the couch.



Brings to mind Smedley Butler's War is a Racket [1]

[1]: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_Is_a_Racket


A more accurate title should say "Someone in Pentagon knows exactly where they spend $800M but it is not for public knowledge"


Kinda wish I had joined the military so I could do 4 years, quit, get a contractor job and make money disappear.


This isn't the problem. Sick as it may be, burning $800MM is a rounding error. The problem is in that EVERYTHING in government is horrendously wasteful. The results we are getting for the taxes we pay and the money we borrow are equivalent to pennies on the dollar. THAT, is the problem.


Well obviously. I mean, if they knew then they would have to kill themselves


I'm praying the money ended up under one of my couch pillows.


Come to india.We have set standards for corruption.


SURPRISE!!!



Hyperbole. In actuality, the money isn't "missing", it's just not feasible to track down and total up every expenditure from the top all the way down to the money spent to fill a pothole in some remote military base. For example,

https://www.metabunk.org/debunked-the-pentagon-cannot-track-...


I don't see how that's significantly different than "missing".

If I can't feasibly track down the $100 bill you lent me last week, then it's "missing" even if I know I did something with it sometime and I have a pretty good idea that it's at my house. Or at work. Or maybe in my car. Or maybe I buried in the sand in Iraq. Or maybe I spent it on a pizza party. Who knows? All I know is that I did something with it and it's somewhere.

It's perfectly feasible for the military to track every expenditure from the top all the way down - the Army has the largest budget in the military, but even their budget is only about half that of Walmart, yet Walmart can very accurately track where their money goes. The military already has a very accurate supplier tracking system that tracks the manufacturing of every part used in every piece of military equipment, so it's not like they have no experience running databases or keeping track of paperwork.

If the military doesn't know where trillions of dollars went, how does it know that it even needs those trillions and that the money wasn't just wasted on frivolous items (like contractor kickbacks?)




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