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Posts Tagged ‘winslow wheeler’

CDI: The F-22: expensive, irrelevant and counterproductive

Posted by picard578 on November 1, 2014


Special to the Star-Telegram

On Dec. 12, the Air Force announced with considerable fanfare at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia that its F-22 fighter had reached “full operational capability.” Air Combat Command commander Gen. John Corley called it a “key milestone.”

Brimming with pride, a spokesman for the manufacturer, Lockheed, stated: “The F-22 is ready for world-wide operations” — and then added, “… should it be called upon.”

His afterthought makes the point: There are, of course, two wars going on, and the F-22 has yet to fly a single sortie over the skies of Iraq or Afghanistan. Nor has the Air Force announced any intention of sending the F-22 to either theater.

The Air Force is quite right to keep the F-22 as far as possible from either conflict. The airplane is irrelevant to both, and were it to appear in those skies, it almost certainly would set U.S. and allied forces back. Read the rest of this entry »

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Defense Budget Tutorial #3B: Pork: What is it?

Posted by picard578 on August 3, 2013

Defense Budget Tutorial #3B: Pork: What is it?

By Winslow Wheeler

January 31, 2006

It’s not what you think

Going through the lists of pork in defense appropriations bills, it is quite easy to pick examples that appear foolish on their own face or that obviously have no proper place in the defense budget: museums, bicentennial Lewis and Clark celebrations, and breast and prostate cancer research are typical examples. However, such items that appear to be both defense-related and even useful also occur. Surely, soldiers in the mountains of Afghanistan have a need for the “fleece insulated liners” identified in an earlier tutorial (#3A: “Pork: Where is it?”). Just as clearly, the $1.7 million addition for a “Program Increase” for the “Joint Stand-Off Weapon” (page 282) may be justifiable, as perhaps is an additional $5.5 million for the “Walter Reed Amputee Center.”

Is the latter pork?

Of course, it is. The real problem is that nobody knows the real merit of these and other earmarks, even when they have relevant and useful sounding names. For example, Read the rest of this entry »

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Defense Budget Tutorial #2 Smoke and mirrors in Congress’ Defense Appropriations bills

Posted by picard578 on June 22, 2013

January 23, 2006

Defense Budget Tutorial #2: Smoke and mirrors in Congress’ Defense Appropriations bills

The Smoke and Mirrors in Congress’ Defense Appropriations Bills: You’ll need a Rosetta Stone


Understanding how Congress allocates spending in the defense budget requires a comprehension of obscure terms, opaque practices, and sometimes complex ruses. The explanation below of the gimmicks in Congress’ 2006 Department of Defense Appropriations Act is based on over 30 years of experience in congressional appropriations. Some of that experience was in crafting the very same dodges explained below; there did, however, come a point during the author’s Hill career when the focus shifted to opposing the same.

“Defense Budget Tutorial #1” established that Congress appropriated $454.5 billion for the Department of Defense in H.R. 2863, the DOD Appropriations Act, which is now Public Law 109-148. The amount constitutes most, but not all, of what the Defense Department will get in fiscal year 2006. The question here is, how did Congress distribute that money, and what does that say about the nature of Congress’ exercise of its “power of the purse?”

Appropriations Bill Basics

To understand the defense appropriations bill, it is necessary to briefly review its basic contents. These bills are typically divided into eight categories, or “Titles,” as follows: Read the rest of this entry »

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Briefing on DODs QDR and 2007 Budget

Posted by picard578 on June 22, 2013

By Winslow Wheeler,
Straus Military Reform Project

February 14, 2006

My recent briefing to the press on DOD’s new Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) and the new 2007 defense budget made the following points:

  • The new 2007 defense budget achieves a post-World War II high for defense spending, and yet it supports new lows in the quantity of Army divisions, Navy combat ships, and Air Force wings.
  • In their depictions of the defense budget, both liberals and conservatives bias their typical presentations to conform to their preconceptions. These days, few consider a depiction of the threat.
  • Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s new QDR fails to address the key rationale established by Congress in the statute calling for QDRs: that the defense budget be sized to execute the new defense plan and that the new defense plan be devised to implement the national defense strategy. The 2005 QDR does not address budget requirements even superficially, and while the strategy focuses on unconventional 4th generation war (“the Long War”), the defense plan remains focused on conventional war.
  • Many of the new budget’s ideas for strengthening our forces for 4th generation war are too little, too late, and other ideas start to fall apart on close inspection.
  • Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld has requested a budget he knows Congress will augment and expand. Proposals to reduce the Army Reserve and National Guard, to truncate C-17 production, and to retire prematurely the F-117 “stealth” bomber (and other proposals), are what some call “Washington Monument Drills” (“WMDs,” they are proposed budget reductions the Pentagon knows Congress will immediately add back into the budget). The thought that any such money will be saved is surely illusory.

In sum, in a time of war and when certain critical elements of the defense budget require steadfast support and straightforward justification, today’s Pentagon leadership gives the nation mismatches between rhetoric and realities and a focus on budget gimmicks. A copy of the briefing slides is attached (1 MB PPT).

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CDI: Defense Budget Tutorial #1: What is the actual size of the 2006 defense budget?

Posted by picard578 on April 6, 2013

Straus Military Reform Project

January 19, 2006


On Dec. 21, 2005, Congress passed a defense appropriations bill, which according to the press releases of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees, and many news articles subsequently written, funded “defense spending” for the United States for the current fiscal year, 2006. The impression made by the press releases and the news articles was that the $453 billion advertised in the bill, H.R. 2863, constitutes America’s defense budget for 2006.[1] That would be quite incorrect. In fact, the total amount to be spent for the Department of Defense in 2006 is $13 billion to $63 billion more, the latter figure assuming full funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. If you also count, non-DOD “national defense” costs, add another $21 billion, and, if you count defense related security costs, such as homeland security, the congressional press release numbers are more than $200 billion wrong.

Having observed, and in past years participated in, the obscuration of just how much the United States actually spends for defense, this author believes it would assist the debate over the defense budget in this country by identifying its actual size.


The “defense spending” bill enacted in December had the title, “Making appropriations to the Department of Defense for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2006 and for other purposes.” It was a little heavy on those “other purposes” [2] and it did not comprise all the money the Defense Department received and will receive for 2006.

To peer through the opaqueness of congressional defense appropriations, it is necessary to run through the numbers; all the numbers.

The first step is to understand the “defense spending” bill, H.R. 2863, as enacted:

• Division A of the bill appropriated $453.3 billion, but not all of it for DOD. $522 million went to the CIA for unclassified “intelligence community management” and to the Coast Guard. This makes the DOD total in Division A $452.8 billion.[3]

• Division B, Title I, Chapter 1 of the bill adds to DOD $4.4 billion for its expenses to rescue and relieve civilians and to undo damage to DOD contractors from Hurricane Katrina.

• Chapter 7 of Division B adds another $1.4 billion to rebuild DOD facilities damaged by Hurricane Katrina.

• Division B, Title II, Chapter 2 adds $130 million for DOD work for protection from the threat of the Avian Flu pandemic.

• Division B, Title III, Chapter 2 cuts the DOD budget by $80 million in rescissions (cancelled spending). More importantly, Chapter 8 in this title cuts DOD, and all other federal spending, except the Department of Veterans Affairs and “emergency” spending, by one percent “across the board.” The cut is mandated to occur in every single program of the affected accounts, nothing is exempted. The reduction to DOD is $4.0 billion.


The actual total for DOD in the bill is $454.8 billion, over a billion more than what the appropriations committees implied.

But that’s not all for the Defense Department’s budget. Add $12.2 billion for military construction.

For reasons of politics and jurisdiction, Congress appropriates money for the Defense Department in two separate bills: the Department of Defense Appropriations bill and the Military Construction Appropriations bill — which these days is also wrapped in with other spending, such as the Department of Veterans Affairs. The “MilCon” bill funds military bases in the states and districts of almost every member of Congress. A major Capitol Hill activity is writing press releases for local newspapers about the goodies the senators and representatives add for their military facilities back home. They also write press releases about the goodies they add in the DOD appropriations bill. (Having two bills to write press releases about is better than one.)

So, that gets DOD spending for 2006 to $466.7 billion. That’s all, right?


Nope. Add about another $50 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

There is already $50 billion for Iraq and Afghanistan in the $466.7 billion appropriated in H.R. 2863. However, war spending in 2005 was over $100 billion, and most expect 2006 to cost at least as much. Nonetheless, Congress decided to provide just $50 billion for ongoing military operations, about enough money for the first six months of the fiscal year. It will run out in about March 2006. Before then, Congress and the president will need to add more, up to another $50 billion. It is that amount that Pentagon and congressional officials privately say they anticipate will be added in a “supplemental” appropriations request in early 2006.[4]

OK, that gets the total to $516.7 billion. Done now, right?


Nope. There are other defense activities in the Department of Energy to keep America’s nuclear arsenal reliable and effective and to develop new nuclear weapons. Add another $16.4 billion.

There are also defense related costs in the Selective Service, the National Defense Stockpile, parts of the General Services Administration, and other miscellany. Add still another $4.7 billion.

That gets the total to $537.8 billion. This figure constitutes the “National Defense” budget function (known to budget geeks as budget function “050”) in presidential budget requests and congressional budget resolutions.


You may also want to count even more spending, such as the costs of the Department of Homeland Security, which is certainly national defense in a generic sense. Add about $41 billion. [5] You might also want to consider some of the human consequences of current and previous wars; add about $68 billion for Veterans Affairs. Also, consider adding the costs of reconstruction in Iraq and Afghanistan which counts in the State Department’s budget, plus all the other costs for international security, diplomacy, and foreign aid, as administered by Condoleezza Rice; add about $23 billion.

If you count all these costs, the total is $669.8 billion.

This amount easily outdoes the rest of the world. In fact, if you count just the costs of the National Defense budget function, the approximate $538 billion we spend is $29 billion more than the $509 billion the entire rest of the world spends. [6]


Pick the number you believe to be most appropriate for “defense spending” in 2006. Presumably, you will not be using the $453 billion widely advertised by Congress and the press. Now, there can be an accurate debate on whether this budget is too large or too small. Please proceed.

Confused by this welter of numbers? Not surprising; below are the important parts in table form.


U.S. Defense and Security Spending

Fiscal Year 2006

Funding Source $Billions Purpose

H.R. 2863 454.5 Grand total for the Department of Defense Appropriations Act, but not all Congress has appropriated to DOD

H.R. 2528 12.2 Military Construction Appropriations

DOD and MilCon Appropriations bills 466.7 Total appropriated to date to DOD

Likely 2006 Supplemental 50.0 Possible amount to complete Iraq/Afghanistan war costs for 2006

Likely Total for DOD for 2006 516.7 Includes probable $50 billion in 2006 Supplemental for Iraq/Afghanistan

Department of Energy/Defense Activities

Appropriations 16.4 Funds nuclear weapons activities

Other non-DOD defense activities 4.7 Funds Selective Service, National Defense Stockpile, etc.

Total for “National Defense” 537.8 Constitutes the National Defense Budget Function (Budget Function 050) in presidential budgets

Homeland Security 1- Approximate amount for non-DOD Homeland Security costs

Veterans Affairs 68- Approximate amount for VA costs

International Security 23- Approximate amount for reconstruction aid, foreign arms sales, development assistance, etc.

Total for non-defense but security related costs 132-


Grand Total 669.8 Total for all international security and defense costs

# # #

[1] See Dec. 17, 2005, U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations, “Conferees Approve FY 2006 Defense Spending Bill.” See first sentence in addition to the press release’s title.

[2] The bill was passed by Congress on Dec. 21, 2005, and it was signed into law by the president on Dec. 30, 2005. It is now Public Law 109-148.

[3] To be entirely correct, significant amounts of the funds ostensibly appropriated to DOD are actually for the various U.S. intelligence agencies, some of them outside DOD. Last year, a defense official accidentally told the press the classified intelligence budget amounted to about $40 billion. The appropriations for intelligence agencies are buried in various parts of the DOD bill. For example, the account, “Other Research and Development,” for the Air Force might have a few billion for CIA or NSA programs. The details of these intelligence appropriations are available only to members of Congress and a very small number of staffers. The paperwork resides in a secure vault in the Capitol building for those cleared members and staff to read; very few do.

[4] As this is written, the press is reporting DOD and OMB to be considering a supplemental of not $50 billion to finish out war funding in 2005 but $80 billion to $100 billion. Insiders report that the press has this wrong; it is more likely that DOD and OMB will ask for about $50 billion more for 2006 and a “down payment” for 2007 war costs of $40 billion to $50 billion.

[5] This number and those below for the VA and international security are not from congressional budget data but from “The Military Balance 2005-2006,” International Institute for Strategic Studies, Routledge, 2005, p. 42 . The final actuals for these agencies in 2006, including not just appropriations but also “mandatory” or “entitlement” spending, is not available and likely will not be for a few weeks, as of this date.

[6] “SIPRI Yearbook 2005; Armaments, Disarmament and International Security,” Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, Oxford University Press, 2005, p. 310.


Author(s): Winslow Wheeler

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CDI: Chitchat with Leon and Hillary on the Defense Budget

Posted by picard578 on April 6, 2013

Winslow T Wheeler

The invitation came to me from Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta’s Public Affairs Office to attend a “conversation” with Panetta and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the prestigious National War College in Washington. Although I knew it wasn’t me they wanted to talk to, I sat in the audience to hear Panetta and Clinton in action, especially on the subject of my prime interest: the defense budget.

The “conversation,” it turns out, was with Frank Sesno, the former CNN personality and currently the Director of the School of Media and Public Affairs at George Washington University. Sesno took the “conversation” assignment seriously; although he boldly said that it was important to “ask the tough questions” — just like a journalist — he did no such thing. Lofting over shallow dinner-talk queries, Sesno chummed it up with Panetta and Clinton and permitted them to say anything they wanted without fear of challenge.

Clinton tended toward impromptu speeches on whatever she was asked about — well articulated and forceful, much like she did as a senator at hearings where, rather than conduct oversight asking informed questions and following up, she would express her political points and neither seek nor reveal any new or deeper information.

Panetta was more subtle and single-minded. Although he comes from the same political background — White House insider and Congress — his answers were shorter and more softly stated, but they were directed at one and only one objective: defending the Pentagon’s budget.

Sesno started the “discussion” asking about budget cuts beyond the $350 billion the Pentagon has already committed to over the next ten years — saying “What’s really at stake?” Panetta whacked the softball question hard: “Very simply, it would result in hollowing out the force,” and “it would break faith with the troops and with their families,” and finally “it would literally undercut our ability to provide for the national defense.”

The bureaucrat moguls at the Pentagon, who currently preside over the largest defense or non-defense agency budget since the end of World War II, must have been delighted. After four years of sometimes tough guy Robert Gates, who fired senior officials for not toeing his line, DOD’s high spenders must be elated to have at the top someone who has leaped so quickly and with such eagerness to defending their agenda.

The $850 billion cut that Sesno was referring to does sound like a lot — if you are ignorant about the background and budget history. He offered no pushback and did nothing to probe Panetta’s budget preserving agenda, to question Panetta’s assumptions, and or even seek the data behind them.

Things didn’t get any better when Sesno allowed the audience a grand total of one question on DOD budget issues. The individual Sesno selected asked about funding for foreign language training. Panetta dutifully said it was important and that he wanted to look for “creative ways” to protect it. Clinton gave a speech about it, and the remaining 99.9 percent of the national security budget went unaddressed.

Instead of this feather-stroking chitchat, consider the following:

If the Pentagon’s “base” (non-war) budget were to be cut $850 billion, or so, over ten years, it would go down to about $472 billion annually, the approximate level of the base DOD budget in 2007. (This, not coincidently, is about the same level of a new round of defense budget cutting hysteria circulating in Washington in response to a just released memo from OMB Director Jack Lew.)

Using the Pentagon’s “constant” dollars that adjust for the effects of inflation, that $472 billion level would be more than $70 billion higher than DOD spending was in 2000, just before the wars. Over ten years, base Defense Department spending would be almost three quarters of a trillion dollars above the levels extant in 2000. And, none of the additional monies to be spent on the wars would be eliminated.

At $472 billion per year, the Pentagon budget would be almost $40 billion more than we averaged, in inflation adjusted “constant” dollars, during the Cold War when we faced an intimidating super-power, the Soviet Union, its Warsaw Pact allies and a hostile, dogmatically communist China.

At the 2007 $472 billion level our defense budget would remain more than twice the defense spending of China, Russia, Iran, Syria, Somalia, Cuba and any other potential adversary — combined.

The problem is not money. Under this so-called worse case scenario, the Pentagon would be left quite flush with money, plenty of it in historical terms.

The problem is that the Pentagon, as it exists under its current leadership, is incapable of surviving with less money. They quite literally do not understand how to face a future where the DOD budget exceeds any and all potential enemies by a multiple of only two.

Many — including Obama’s bipartisan 2010 National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, a separate task force put together by congressmen Barney Frank (D-MA) and Ron Paul (R-TX), yet another commission headed by former budget leaders Senator Pete Domenici (R-NM) and OMB Director Alice Rivlin, and two alternative budget proposals from Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) — have itemized how to save about $900 billion from the National Defense budget. The political landscape is littered with competent recommendations to remove many of the thick layers of hydrogenated fat from the Pentagon.

These proposals hit on many of the same soft spots in the DOD budget, such as the unaffordable, underperforming, years behind schedule F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The implied consensus on such ideas and on the approximate amount (roughly $900 billion) suggest that the slightly lesser $850 billion in Pentagon savings is not “doomsday” (Panetta’s word) but quite endurable — and would actually leave DOD quite flush with money.

But, it is unthinkable to Secretary Panetta, as it is to those who perform the enabling chitchat.

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