Pentagon shows disregard for budget, treaties
Two recent reports remind us again exactly who holds sway in government when it comes to getting the lions share of public money.
The first, called More Pentagon Follies, was released by Taxpayers for Common Sense, a nonpartisan group that supports fiscal responsibility, and The Council for a Livable World Education Fund, a nonprofit corporation that wants dramatic cuts in defense spending. The report is based largely on news stories and investigations by the U.S. General Accounting Office and the Defense Departments inspector general.
Among other things it considers payments for corporate restructuring, known in some quarters of Washington as the money for nothing policy. The Department of Defense has been providing large, profitable defense contractors with substantial subsidies since 1993 to cover restructuring costs associated with corporate mergers, says the Follies report. So far this year, DOD acknowledges spending at least $817 million for this purpose.
The official explanation: The government wants to encourage companies to become more efficient so that they can build weapons at lower costs. But if the efficiencies to be gained by restructuring are so obvious, it would be reasonable to expect business to do it without government rewards.
A few other Pentagon follies, as detailed in this years report:
Meanwhile, according to another report, this one from the Natural Resources Defense Council, a recently declassified Department of Energy document contains plans for designing nuclear weapons and simulating nuclear explosions in apparent contradiction of the goals of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. If implemented over the next decade as planned, said the report, the program could erode important U.S nonproliferation objectives as well as undermine political assurances the U.S government has given to other nations.
The Natural Resources Defense Council report analyzes the Department of Energys Stockpile Stewardship and Management Program and represents the first public airing of declassified portions of the Green Book, DOEs comprehensive road map of U.S. plans and ongoing programs involving the nuclear weapons stockpile.
While the U.S. government is not now designing or producing advanced new types of nuclear weapons, it is enlarging its capabilities to do so while continuing to design nuclear explosive packages to replace warheads on existing systems such as the Navys Trident II missile.
The United States sought and achieved both the indefinite extension of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1995 and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty in 1996, partly on the strength of assurances that it would not design new nuclear weapons. Yet some of the ongoing and planned activities of the Department of Energys stockpile program come into conflict with those assurances. (The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty has been endorsed by the United Nations and signed by over 140 nations, including China, Russia and the major nuclear powers. Although President Clinton signed the treaty in 1996, it has not yet been ratified by the Senate.)
According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, in spite of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, the United States is planning to:
What missed opportunities when the talk about spending cuts continually bypass the Defense Department. Washington would do well to talk more about the need to slash military welfare.
But the Pentagon need not worry about being harassed. It goes on, apparently without regard for budgetary restraints at home or treaty limitations negotiated with partners abroad.
National Catholic Reporter, September 12, 1997