Government Spending

Predict The Future: I See…Lots More Military Spending…


More than half of the panel members appointed to review the Pentagon's latest four-year strategy blueprint have financial ties to defense contractors with a stake in the planning process, a USA TODAY analysis shows.

Congress created the 20-member panel in 2006 to analyze the Defense Department's four-year plan, known as the Quadrennial Defense Review. Lawmakers called for the committee to provide an independent "alternate view" of the Pentagon's plan, which shapes future military policy and spending on weapons and other needs….

A dozen of the unpaid panelists were appointed by Defense Secretary Robert Gates and eight by the top Republican and Democrat members of the House and Senate Armed Services committees. Eleven work for defense contractors as employees, consultants or board directors, records show."The Pentagon often talks about its cooperation with industry, but this makes you wonder who's wearing the pants in this relationship," said Mandy Smithberger, national security investigator for the Project on Government Oversight. 

Gates "takes very seriously" the ethical issues confronting panelists with ties to defense firms, said Paul Hughes of the U.S. Institute of Peace, the QDR committee's executive director. Last fall, the secretary ordered that his appointees be covered by federal ethics rules and had to disclose their assets and sources of income, Hughes said.

So seriously, in fact, that participants originally were not going to be covered by any disclosure rules about conflicts of interest. Now

Committee members will have to file financial disclosure statements to the Pentagon, but those disclosures won't be publicly available, said Cynthia Smith, a Defense Department spokeswoman.

There's no question that folks in the military-industrial complex (meant unironically) need to be at the table, as they bring an absolutely valid and important perspective to anything having to do with the future of military spending. At the same time, given the historic amounts of waste, fraud, and deception that goes into the development, procurement, and delivery of new weapons and other systems, every American who is alive and those not yet born are right to be reaching for their wallets. And as Give 'Em Hell Harry Truman could tell you, the waste goes on even (especially?) during existential wars such as The Big One.

"Could you find anybody who knows anything about defense who doesn't have some potential conflict of interest?" [John Lehman, a Reagan-era Navy secretary with mega-ties to all sorts of conflicts appointed to the committee by Sen. John McCain] asked.

Some experts say the answer is yes. "There are retired military officers or Defense officials who don't have defense industry ties. If you wanted to find these people, you could," said Jordan Tama, an American University professor and expert on government commissions….

[The disclosure rules in place are] not sufficient, said Janine Wedel, a George Mason University professor and author of a book on government contracting. "It's the ultimate irony when an entity ostensibly set up to provide impartial oversight is in fact rigged to be much less impartial than what it is supposed to be overseeing," she said.

Whole thing here.

Take it away, Ike, on the "acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex," which should be required viewing of all panelists. And of spending watchdogs at joints like the Heritage Foundation what insist that 4 percent of GDP (not 3.5 or 4.12) always be spent on defense no matter what). Because baby, and John Lehman, needs a new pair of shoes.

NEXT: Safe Toyotas, and Other Surprises

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  1. mATT DAmoN

  2. I’m getting tired of Heritage. I’m especially getting tired of Hannity shilling for them.

    1. My sources say Hannity is a hack. I’ll admit I never watched is show so I can’t be sure.

  3. I always thought it was funny when people express surprise at Democrats feeding the military industrial complex. It should be obvious that military spending is all about pork-barrel handouts.


    1. John Fucking Murtha…it’s a good thing he’s dead.

  4. LOL, hey its only money right? No big deal!


  5. Everyone who spends their life in the military has a compromised view even if it doesn’t involve money. If I spend my life in the armor or special forces, chances are I am going to spend my post career justifying those programs. That is just human nature. No one wants to admit that the job they did isn’t necessary anymore. So, when a artillery guy is Chief of Staff of the Army, we get this kick ass perhaps unnecessary artillery piece. When it was an armor guy, we got the striker. When it was a special ops guy, we get new groups of special forces. None of those guys can impartially judge the need for their own branch. It is a real problem.

    1. Yeah, but my guess is that’s less of a problem than a defense contractor paying them to lobby.

      1. One sort of builds on the other. A general spends his entire life flying fighter planes and then goes to work for Boeing getting people to build fighter planes. And of course, sometimes contractors actually are lobbying for stuff we need.

  6. I, for one, have had enough of contractors doing the day-to-day stuff that a fully-manned military is more than capable of doing. I bet that there are more contractors in war zones than there are Armed Forces. I don’t mean to go on a childish rant, but contractors clog up facilities designed for Service Members (exchanges, dining facilities, recreational facilities, living quarters), make triple what Service Members make without dealing with 90% of the typical BS a Soldier puts up with, and still provide subpar service because, surprise! no-bid contracts do not facilitate competition.

    Contractors should die in a fire.

    1. I can only speak from my experience on one base, but there’s no way contractors outnumber servicemembers. OK, maybe they did, but if so then they stuck to their side of post and seldom went to the PX.

      1. Are you in a big LSA? That’s where they congregate. And Iraq is better than Afghanistan in this regard; even movementin Afghanistan is contracted.

        1. I was at a big LSA. There probably were a buttload of ’em, but they had what was essentially a whole side of post to themselves, so it was hard to say how many of them there were.

    2. Meh-I would have thought that contracting out jobs like cashier in the PX or server in the DFAC would appeal to libertarians. Paying TCNs $300 a month (still big money for them) to do what it would cost $5000 a month using Joes to do seems like the right thing to do.

  7. I read somewhere (Mark Perry’s blog I think) that because of the growth in our economy, we’re spending more now on “defense” than any time since 1945. WTF?

  8. If you haven’t seen it, “War, Inc.” is a decent movie. Actually, the premise is better than the movie, but there’s some pretty funny bits in it.

    “America’s First Fully Outsourced War”, or something like that.

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