The Military-Industrial Complex — Where Is The Money?

Bayard & Holmes

~ Jay Holmes

On January 17, 1961, US President Dwight D Eisenhower delivered his farewell speech. The retired five star general had served two presidential terms and was being replaced by his fellow military veteran, the newly elected John F. Kennedy.

 

President Dwight D. Eisenhower receives hydrogen bomb tests report from Lewis Strauss Image public domain.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower receives hydrogen bomb tests report from Lewis Strauss
Image public domain.

 

In that farewell address, Eisenhower warned, “We must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military–industrial complex.”

Left-wing radicals are always quick to oppose military spending, but Eisenhower could hardly be accused of being anything like a left-wing radical. At the peak of his long military career, he skillfully commanded the allied forces in Operation Torch, which was the 1943 Allied invasion of Northwest Africa, as well as the 1944 D-Day invasion of Normandy and the Western Offensive against Nazi Germany and the European Axis powers.

After WW2, Eisenhower served as US Army Chief of Staff and then as Supreme Commander of European Forces. Few Americans could claim to have anything close to Eisenhower’s military experience or expertise.

Eisenhower was no “dove.”

He took the threat of Soviet expansion seriously. As US President, he oversaw the conclusion of the war in Korea in 1953 and approved funding for fledgling US space and satellite programs. Eisenhower also approved expensive Navy projects, such as the nuclear submarine program and the construction of the nuclear carrier, the USS Enterprise. He presided over the growth of expensive jet aircraft in the young US Air Force, and he approved funding for expensive new air defense systems for the US Army.

In spite of the large military budgets that President Eisenhower approved, some military and defense industry leaders saw him as being too frugal. Conversely, Eisenhower and his supporters felt that increasing military budgets threatened the economic health of the US.

Fifty-five years later, the arguments over defense spending continue.

Unlike during Eisenhower’s time, the arguments are now conducted against a backdrop of a frightening budget deficit and an eighteen trillion dollar national debt. The consequences of all government spending have a serious impact on the quality of life for the average American and on national security.

In Eisenhower’s time, the real threat posed by the Soviet Union impacted defense spending. Today, the Soviet Union is gone, but US and European citizens are justifiably concerned by threats from various radical Islamic groups, the increasingly nuclear-equipped North Korean despot Kim, a rapidly growing communist Chinese military capability, and a resurgent and belligerent Russia.

At a glance, it might seem as though a stable status quo has been in effect in military budgets.

In some senses, similar dynamics have remained in force. In 1961, Eisenhower was unable to convince Western allies to commit to adequate defense spending. The allies seemed happy to let the US military and taxpayers carry more than their fair share of the responsibility for the defense of Western Civilization. In 2016, that dynamic continues. US President Obama listens to nations like France, Canada, and the UK proclaim their increased commitment to defeating Islamic radicals, but then he watches as they reduce their defense programs. Eisenhower would recognize his frustration in dealing with NATO partners.

We might be tempted to assume that US defense spending itself is proportionate to what it was in 1961. Let us make some comparisons.

In 1961, US military personnel were badly underpaid. In 2016 this remains true. In 1961, the US defense budget was close to 10% of GDP. Today it is below 5% of GDP. In terms of GDP, the defense budget seems reasonable enough. But let us compare some specific defense project costs.

In 1961, the new Enterprise class nuclear aircraft carrier cost $451 million to build. Due to the escalated cost of construction, the additional three carriers of that class were cancelled. Today the new Ford class nuclear aircraft carrier is, so far, costing the taxpayers $12.8 billion to build, with an additional $4.7 billion in research costs. If we compare the two ships in inflation adjusted costs, then in today’s dollars, the Enterprise would have cost $3.4 billion to build. Where did the other $9.4 billion go?

When the Enterprise was built, it included many state of the art features, but its air defense system had been scaled back to save money. The Gerald Ford class carrier includes state of the art equipment and features, but the overall economics of the two programs are completely out of scale.

 

USS Gerald Ford under construction in Newport News, VA. Image public domain.

USS Gerald Ford under construction in Newport News, VA.
Image public domain.

 

My question is simple. What national defense value are we receiving for the disproportionately high cost of the USS Gerald Ford?

We could make similar comparisons with nuclear submarine programs, but let us instead apply the scrutiny to a broader defense project, the F-35 fighter program. The F-35 was developed as a low cost alternative to the F-22 Raptor. So what does “low cost alternative” mean in the defense industry?

The F-22 cost a frightening $150 million per plane. No wonder we wanted a “low cost alternative.” The F-35, so far, cost between $100 million for the basic model and $104 million for the VSTOL version. I’m grateful that we decided to pursue a “low cost” fighter plane.

Let’s compare the F-35 to the infamously expensive Republic F-105D fighter. In 1960, the year before Eisenhower’s farewell speech, the outlandishly expensive F-105D cost $2.1 million each. In 1960, it was the state of the art fighter, and it incorporated many new technologies. It was plagued by cost overruns, and its development was every bit as contentious as the F-35 development has become. In 2016 dollars the F-105D cost $17 million apiece. As with the Gerald Ford Carrier, the cost of the F-35 has wildly outpaced inflation.

 

F-35 Joint Strike Fighter at Edwards Air Force Base Image public domain.

F-35 Joint Strike Fighter at Edwards Air Force Base
Image public domain.

 

What defense benefit are we getting for the additional $80 million per each F-35? Is the F-35 going to bring us more security today than the F-105D brought us in 1960? I don’t see it.

The defense industry would counter my concerns with comforting catch phrases. They tell us that it is “stealth,” and that it employs more “net centric ability” than previously imagined. For less than $100 my house is “net centric.” So how does the marvelous net centric ability account for the cost of the F-35? From my point of view, it doesn’t.

Defense contractor PR players would likely question my patriotism. Am I not aware of all the real threats in the world? Do I not want the best possible defense for my family’s safety? In fact, I am very much aware of the many threats to our national security, and I do want the best possible defense capabilities for our nation. That’s precisely why I question our $100+ million fighters and our $13 billion aircraft carriers.

Every dollar wasted or overpaid is a dollar that does not help our national defense. At the same time, high costs work to erode our national defense by damaging our economy.

The F-35 and the Ford Carrier are only two of many defense projects that beg closer scrutiny. These high cost programs are being funded at the same time the US Marine Corps is undergoing a 30,000-man reduction in force. The Pentagon and the White House tell us that we are more committed than ever to fighting the increasing terrorist threats, so how is it that we justify large cuts in our premier expeditionary force? The numbers just don’t add up. In some cases, they don’t come close to adding up.

President Eisenhower’s words are even more appropriate today than they were in 1961. Think twice before you quietly accept every extravagant defense expenditure. Let your congressmen know you are watching.

Buyer Beware!

 

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From the Spanish Soccer Mom Calendar

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Piper Bayard

Save the Whales. . . . Eat More Imperial Dwarf Deer

By Piper Bayard & Jay Holmes

With Congress gearing up to shut down the US government altogether, Holmes and I have once again stepped up to Save the Planet and Strengthen the Economy while they are busy doing their Power Dance. . . . Hey. Somebody’s got to do the real work, right?

Today we introduce to you the Imperial Dwarf Deer.

Imperial Dwarf Deer, image from Alan D. Wilson, wikimedia commons

With the proper regulation of this soon-to-be-endangered species, we will not only save whales and other protected animals, we will strengthen the American economy by providing gangsters and lackadaisical teens with respectable, profitable employment that improves the environment and reduces the spread of disease. Allow us to explain. . . .

Currently, the International Whaling Commission has a moratorium on commercial whaling. This applies to all nations, except for the nations who choose to ignore it. Japan chooses to ignore it by issuing its whalers Scientific Research Permits which allow them to kill 1,035 whales each year. Of course, as soon as they are finished scientifically inspecting the animal they have landed and confirming that it is, indeed, a whale, they are free to sell it on the market as food. (“They” in this instance are the big fish in the Japanese fishing industry.) As a result, the Japanese slaughtered over 12,000 whales—minke, fin, humpback, and even sperm whales—between 1988 and 2009 alone.

So you must be wondering by now, what does all this have to do with the Imperial Dwarf Deer? We’re so glad you asked.

The Imperial Dwarf Deer, commonly referred to as the “muskrat,” is about the size of a cottontail rabbit and carries the Bubonic Plague. It has also infested vast sections of America and Europe, destroying irrigation channels and waterways with their burrowing, as well as the dikes and levees of coastal Europe. But let’s not be too hard on this rodent, because it is the answer for saving endangered species and strengthening the economy.

Holmes and I have already sent a proposition to the UN that it should rename the muskrat the Imperial Dwarf Deer and see it placed on Endangered Species lists across the globe. In addition, this proposition includes the establishment of the International Imperial Dwarf Deer Commission, which would immediately whip up a moratorium treaty outlawing hunting of the little varmint.

As soon is the Imperial Dwarf Deer is officially listed as an Endangered Species, making it chic and extremely expensive, certain benefits are sure to follow that stretch far beyond the saving of whales. . . .

  • Imperial Dwarf Deer will replace the whale as the most coveted illegal food source in Asia, and every posh restaurant in Japan will want to serve it as its Imperial Special. Whale sushi would be as yesterday as Y2K.
  • Everyone in Las Vegas will want one for a pet.
  • Rebellious teenagers, delighted at the opportunity to engage in a fun, safe, illegal activity, will clean up the waterways and learn a little work ethic while earning black market profit.
  • Gangsters will find Imperial Dwarf Deer hocking more profitable than illegal drugs, transforming them from Drug Lords to Imperial Dwarf Deer Lords.
  • America and Europe will wrestle the “faux fur” market from China, pushing Imperial Dwarf Deer hides as superior to the raccoon dog skins currently being used in the clothing industry. (Dogs technically do not have fur, they have hair. Their hair is designated as “faux fur” and used in clothing. Yes. This could well mean your coat. Click here.)

As an added benefit, listing the Imperial Dwarf Deer as an endangered species will save Siberian tigers and rhinoceros, too. Holmes and I have already sent representatives to the likely heads of the International Imperial Dwarf Deer Commission, appealing to them to issue 20 million Scientific Research Permits to the nations of Japan and China specifically for the development of holistic herbal remedies.

The Asian herbal medication moguls would work closely with the University of East Anglia in the UK, famous for its cutting-edge global warming research, to produce ridiculous but convenient proof that the genitalia of the Imperial Dwarf Deer not only acts as an aphrodisiac, but is more effective than both tiger penis and rhino horn at stimulating penis growth in human males. It also has the added benefit of not stimulating penis growth in human females.

In conclusion, renaming the muskrat the Imperial Dwarf Deer and listing it as an Endangered Species would save the whales, protect tigers and rhinos, eliminate a plague rat from our waterways, clean up our irrigation canals, and end the destruction of the critically important dikes and levees in coastal Europe while providing responsible, yet illegal, employment for American teenagers and Imperial Dwarf Deer Lords. So remember tonight. . . .

Imperial Dwarf Deer. . . . It’s what’s for dinner!

Unemployment, a.k.a. The Road

By Piper Bayard

I’m reading The Road. Not only is it making me seriously consider becoming a vegetarian, it’s striking me as an extreme form of the personal apocalypse a lot of folks are facing right now. Unemployment.

Viggo Mortensen and Kodi Smit-McPhee in The Road. They’re busy avoiding cannibals. Click here for the movie trailer.

Unemployment is a lot like The Road. When you’re cut loose from your source of survival, it’s an apocalyptic event. Sometimes we can see it coming, and sometimes it leaves us like the man and the boy in the book wondering, “Wth?” But even when you do see it coming, there’s this flash, and suddenly the whole world goes to crap, and you’re left not knowing where you’ll live, or where your next meal is coming from.

Yep. It’s happened to me. I’m not sure it was such a mystery, though. That job was kind of ill-fated from the beginning.

During the recession of the late 80s, I had a temp job as a secretary in hospital administration. Here’s a little hospital secret that I learned there. Those $50 aspirins they bring you in your bed? Secretaries have dozens of them in their desks for free. They’re samples from the drug companies that come in single-serving packets. Little white pills wrapped in foil-backed plastic.

So anyway, that temp job led to a permanent job in the hospital as a sort of Julie the Love Boat Cruise Director, setting up educational programs in radiology for visiting doctors. My first day, I had a headache so I opened my drawer at my new desk and saw the friendly white pill I thought I knew from admin. Ok, so maybe it was a little smaller, but what else would be in the desk drawer, right? I took it. . . . I know. Incredibly stupid. Hey, at least I know better now, right? So moving right along. . . . An hour and a half later, I was passed out snoozing in a hard-backed chair in front of my new boss and a visiting doctor. Yes, really. Bad day to discover I was a Benedryl lightweight. It was my turn on The Road.

I learned a lot of invaluable lessons about the people on The Road. This calls for a list or two.

  1. Some people do all the “right” things and end up on The Road anyway. (I wasn’t one of them.)
  2. Some really bright people make The Road their way of life because they can’t tolerate the shallow, meaningless existence of thing-based, mindlessly bureaucratic mainstream. They need the struggle to feel alive.
  3. Some people are there because they are cruel, shifty bottomfeeders by nature.
  4. Some really good people are too broken to be anywhere else.
  5. Some live on The Road because they’re too busy taking care of others to get ahead themselves.
  6. Some are there to learn and move on.
  7. Some are tourists, slumming it because they have no confidence in their ability to survive without Daddy’s credit card. They want to know they could hang with the have-nots and make it on their own if they had to.

I also learned a lot about myself and human nature.

  1. Poverty is the father of rationalization. Hey, just because a guy pulls into to a gas station with an untied stack of premium Christmas trees in the back of his ’69 Ford pickup, and he’s selling them for $5 each, but you have to get them right now, and fast, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re hot, right?
  2. You really don’t know who you are until you’re faced with that lost wallet full of money in your hungry hand.
  3. Some laws create outlaws, such as mandatory insurance laws. Food is more important than car insurance, and that really is a choice for many of the unemployed.
  4. There’s a certain level of grubby that makes people lock their car doors when they see you coming, no matter what your race or theirs.
  5. If you overlap your electric bill and your phone bill just right, you can alternate paying them and never get services shut off.
  6. You can use “new sale” forms in your back car window when you can’t afford to register it. Warning: Don’t get stopped. Police will have no mercy for this.
  7. Barter is alive and well, and food is a medium of exchange.
  8. Poor people have the absolute best parties because they know how to entertain themselves with laughter, song, and dance.
  9. Government cheese is the best cheese on the planet.
  10. A Christmas when you have nothing to give is far worse than a Chrismas when you don’t get any presents.

Partly by luck, and partly by perseverence, the ash eventually cleared, the scenery greened, and I found my way back to mainstream civilization. I mean, as much as a writing, belly dancing, recovering attorney, Hospice volunteer who hangs out with spooks can be mainstream.

For those of you on The Road now, I will not insult you with pablum or cliches. But I will keep you in my prayers.

Looking back, The Road was a blessing for me. It broke down my delusions about myself and made me real, because the hard fact is that you don’t know who you are until your ethics are diametrically opposed to your survival. I now know what I am and am not willing to do to survive, and I’m at peace with what I found.

Don’t get me wrong. I really, really don’t want to go there again, but The Road doesn’t scare me any more. . . . Except in the book, The Road. That’s just creepy as hell, though it’s masterfully written. I highly recommend it for anyone who loves literary fiction or who just has too much happiness in their life. You know, maybe I won’t have beef for dinner tonight. . . . Or ever.

All the best to all of you for finding peace on your Road.