Pentagon waste

I’ll go ahead and admit it. I was disappointed to see the various slabs of pork that were fired up and stapled onto the pair of 12-digit spending packages recently signed into law by President Obama. It would have been refreshing, to say the least, to see spending bills that were leaner, meaner and invulnerable to any charges of typical legislative porcine mischief. Not a surprise, I suppose, that it was not to be. At this point, all one can conclude is that Congress, no matter who’s in charge, just can’t seem to help itself. It’s like parking an alcoholic in a sports bar, stuffing five Benjamins in his pocket, and saying, “I’ll be back in six hours. Behave.”

But something did happen recently that reminded me why I’m still greatly encouraged to have BHO in the White House. On March 4, Obama ordered a wide-ranging review of government spending practices. He said, in particular reference to the relationship between the defense department and the industries with which it does its business, “The days of giving defense contractors a blank check are over.” In that same statement, he mentioned “indefensible no-bid contracts that have cost American taxpayers billions.”

Well, yippee, yahoo and yay. It’s about goddamn time.

This has been happening for decades now, and it could well be the single most blatant, wasteful, and utterly flatulent part of America’s annual budget. I mean, how old are those stories about the army buying $75 hammers? Only one entity on this planet would ever pay 75 bucks for a bleeping hammer, and it’s the U.S. government. Why? Because in the bizarre universe ruled by the military-industrial complex, which has been calling the shots for some time now, the government (the military) happily and willingly allows its gluttonous corporate partner to scarf at the public trough as if it were some ravenously hungry 900-pound razorback.

This slobbering rape of the federal treasury is now completely well-entrenched SOP, to the point where major defense contractors can now depend on this annual horror to keep them wallowing in black ink.

Obama went on to cite a report issued last year by the G.A.O. (U.S. Government Accountability Office), which uncovered Defense Department overruns to the tune of $295 billion. In case you’re keeping score, 295 bill still rates as serious money, even in this new era of trillion-dollar boondoggles. So, good for our new president for bringing this madness to our attention. Will he be able to do anything to fix this utterly sinful egregiousness? Who knows? Something this large and this institutionalized has some serious inertia behind it, and just to slow it down a bit will undoubtedly require some major muscle. But it’s mighty encouraging to see that Mr. Obama is at least willing to put a shoulder to it.