Letters

Letters 10-20-2014

Doctor Dan? After several email conversations with Rep. Benishek, he has confirmed that he doesn’t have a clue of what he does. Here’s why...

In Favor Of Our Parks [Traverse] City Proposal 1 is a creative way to improve our city parks without using our tax dollars. By using a small portion of our oil and gas royalties from the Brown Bridge Trust Fund, our parks can be improved for our children and grandchildren.

From January 1970 Popular Mechanics: “Drastic climate changes will occur within the next 50 years if the use of fossil fuels keeps rising at current rates.” That warning comes from Eugene K. Peterson of the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management.

Newcomers Might Leave: Recently we had guests from India who came over as students with the plan to stay in America. He has a master’s degree in engineering and she is doing her residency in Chicago and plans to specialize in oncology. They talked very candidly about American politics and said that after observing...

Someone Is You: On Sept 21, I joined the 400,000 who took to the streets of New York in the People’s Climate March, followed by a UN Climate Summit and many speeches. On October 13, the Pentagon issued a report calling climate change a significant threat to national security requiring immediate action. How do we move from marches, speeches and reports to meaningful work on this problem? In NYC I read a sign with a simple answer...

Necessary To Pay: Last fall, Grand Traverse voters authorized a new tax to fix roads. It is good, it is necessary.

The Real Reasons for Wolf Hunt: I have really been surprised that no one has been commenting on the true reason for the wolf hunt. All this effort has not been expended so 23 wolves can be killed each year. Instead this manufactured controversy about the wolf hunt has been very carefully crafted to get Proposal 14-2 passed.

Home · Articles · News · Other Opinions · Indefensible Spending
. . . .

Indefensible Spending

By Stephen Tuttle - October 11th, 2010
In fact, stories of Pentagon waste are legendary. We had the $600
hammer and the $12,000 toilet seat... or was it a $12,000 hammer and a
$600 toilet seat? They were the stars of a long list of outlandish
overspending and waste. We were all dutifully outraged and then went
about our business.
The real waste isn’t in hammers and toilet seats but big weapon
systems. This bottomless pit of spending comes in two forms. We’ll
call the first the We’re-A-Little-Bit-Over- Budget strategy.
The best example is the V-22 Osprey, a unique tiltrotor aircraft that
can take-off and land vertically, like a helicopter, but has wings and
can also fly horizontally, like an airplane. It was intended for use
by the Air Force, Marines and Navy as both a troop and equipment
carrier and for close-in air-to-ground combat support.
The Osprey was first proposed in 1983 and was approved in 1986 with a
total budget of $2.5 billion. There were a few glitches along the
way, not the least of which was the damned things kept falling out of
the sky. Plus, the project was just a bit behind schedule and a bit
over budget.
Dick Cheney tried to stop the Osprey when he was Secretary of
Defense. President Reagan wanted it stopped. The Navy wanted it
stopped. But stopping a government program that was at some point
approved is like trying to stop a glacier – theoretically possible but
rarely, if ever, actually accomplished.
The V-22 lived on, supported by President Clinton during his two-
terms. More crashes, more money, and still more crashes and more
money. Finally, the beleaguered Osprey became operational for the
Marines in 2007 and the Air Force in 2009.
That $2.5 billion budget? We’ve thus far spent about $29 billion and
we’re being told it will take another $27 billion to create the full
fleet. That’s $56 billion, about 22 times the original budget. One
other thing – about a third of the V-22s in operation are out of
service at any given time. Seems we’re short on spare parts.
But at least there is a functional V-22, expensive though it may be.
Which brings us to the second form of egregious defense department
spending. We’ll call it the We-Don’t-Care-If-Nobody-Wants-It-We’re-
Building-It-Anyway strategy.
We’re currently developing the next generation of fighter planes, the
F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Lockheed-Martin is making the aircraft.
Their winning bid presumed the use of an engine built by Pratt &
Whitney who, in a happy coincidence, also won the bidding process for
the engine. And with good reason. The engine they proposed is a
version of one that already exists and has flown 300,000
extraordinarily reliable miles. Their new engine for the F-35 has
already flown 17,000 test miles without incident.
You would think that would be the end of it. You would be wrong.
There is an “alternative” engine also being developed for the F-35,
slithering along thanks to the Congressional earmark process. It is
the Program That Will Not Die.
Our last two presidents have opposed the F-35 alternative engine
program. Their Secretaries of Defense opposed it. The Navy doesn’t
want it nor does the Air Force or Marines. The Senate actually voted
to block funding for this unwanted orphan program but none of that has
actually slowed it down. So far, we’ve spent about $1 billion on the
alternative engine and we’re told it will take another $2.8 billion.
That’s nearly $4 billion for an engine that nobody wants (except for
the good folks at GE Rolls Royce who are making it, and their
congressional allies) to serve as an “alternative” to an engine that
is extremely reliable and already in production and flying.
Remarkably, there are several other programs chugging along nobody
seems to want and the tab is approaching $10 billion a year in
costs. There are additional tens of billions being spent on the
“over budget” portion of existing programs.
How do these things happen? Defense contractors are savvy. They’ve
spread out their manufacturing and assembly operations to multiple
states. When a program on which they’re working is threatened, they
instantly have the support of the Congressmen from the district in
which their plants are located and the U.S. Senators from that state.
Cancelled contracts mean lost jobs, tax revenues and a collapse of the
micro-economy that has grown up around those operations. Whether or
not a program is wanted or needed becomes irrelevant.
Since the end of World War II we’ve been financing a permanent wartime
economy. This idea was first suggested during the war by a group of
Socialists who thought it would be a swell idea to keep unemployment
low. It was seconded by Charles Wilson, the then CEO of General
Electric and Vice Chair of the War Production Board, in 1944. We
haven’t looked back since. Not when President Eisenhower warned us
about the danger and power of the military industrial complex. Not
when our perpetual readiness has led us into one military misadventure
after another.
Of course we want our men and women in uniform to have the best
available equipment and training. It was obscene that we sent our
troops to war in the Middle East without armored vehicles and so we
witnessed the spectacle of our soldiers trying to attach their Kevlar
vests to their Humvees to give them some protection from the roadside
bombs that were devastating them.
So, yes, we’re in favor of providing our troops the best money can
buy. Unfortunately, what we’re actually providing them is the most
expensive that money can buy. That’s costing us tens of billions and
without making our troops better equipped or us one bit safer.
 
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