Friday, December 22, 2006

Wandering Through a Morass of Money—The Quagmire Called Procurement

The Pentagon’s forgetfulness has sneaked its way silently across four years and never so much as made a ripple beyond the CBS mention. Sixteen times the amount pissed away by the Savings and Loan industry has gone over the Niagra Falls of military spending and nary a soul has been shipped off to the pokey.

Bushrumsfeld_5 From the January 29, 2002 CBS News, just about four years (and $trillions) ago;
On Sept. 10, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld declared war. Not on foreign terrorists, "the adversary's closer to home. It's the Pentagon bureaucracy," he said. Money wasted by the military poses a serious threat. "In fact, it could be said it's a matter of life and death." 
I don’t know, that may be a bit theatrical, that life and death stuff, unless you’re talking about the death of
  • Schools (and education in general)
  • Rebuilding and patching together the nation’s infrastructure (those falling-apart bridges, highways, sewage systems, electric grids and the like)
  • Some kind of rational public transport
  • At least a stab at improving the environment
  • Upgrading a few things like prisons, national parks, public housing, mental institutions and waste disposal
All of which are dying, as we write and (sometimes) even talk about them, between trips to the mall and that comfy chair in front of the TV. Most of these shortcomings (or substitute your own particular choice) could be put right for those stolen trillions.
Rumsfeld promised change but the next day – Sept. 11-- the world changed and in the rush to fund the war on terrorism, the war on waste seems to have been forgotten. Just (4 yrs ago) last week President Bush announced, "my 2003 budget calls for more than $48 billion in new defense spending."
More money for the Pentagon, CBS News Correspondent Vince Gonzales reports, while its own auditors admit the military cannot account for 25 percent of what it spends.
"According to some estimates we cannot track $2.3 trillion in transactions," Rumsfeld admitted.
$2.3 trillion — that's $8,000 for every man, woman and child in America. To understand how the Pentagon can lose track of trillions, consider the case of one military accountant who tried to find out what happened to a mere $300 million.
And that’s another story, an interesting one about a guy by the name of Jim Minnery—but we needn’t go into that here. Here, we can take the ten seconds or so that it requires to call it what it is; The Pentagon doesn’t ‘lose track’ of twenty-three hundred-thousand million dollars, which is what 2.3 trillion amounts to.
Dillinger It gets stolen. That's right, stolen, the kind of thing John Dillinger was famous for. He said he robbed banks because 'that's where the money is.' Today, the bank that gets robbed is the Pentagon and the alarm doesn't even go off.
When the Savings and Loan industry went down the tube to the tune of $150 billion some years back, America shuddered and stumbled a bit, caught its breath and went on. Even John McCain was able to put it behind him and become rehabilitated. But folks went to jail for that—not enough folks for my taste and perhaps not all the right folks, but there was prison time involved and a scandal of national proportion. Almost, though not quite, a scandal the equal of O.J. getting off for slashing his wife’s throat.
The Pentagon’s forgetfulness, on the other hand, has sneaked its way silently across four years and never so much as made a ripple beyond the CBS mention. Sixteen times the amount pissed away by the Savings and Loan industry has gone over the Niagra Falls of military spending and nary a soul has been shipped off to the pokey.
Money_2 Does that surprise you? Does it make you angry that, while you personally struggle to come up with the seven-times increase in property-taxes that fund your local schools, the schools just continue to get worse and Rumsfeld’s Rangers have lost $8,000.00 for every single member of your family?
Eight thousand bucks?
"We know it's gone. But we don't know what they spent it on," said Jim Minnery, Defense Finance and Accounting Service. "The director looked at me and said 'Why do you care about this stuff?' It took me aback, you know? My supervisor asking me why I care about doing a good job," said Minnery. He was reassigned and says officials then covered up the problem by just writing it off.
"They have to cover it up," he said. "That's where the corruption comes in. They have to cover up the fact that they can't do the job."
The Pentagon's Inspector General "partially substantiated" several of Minnery's allegations but could not prove officials tried "to manipulate the financial statements."
Another critic of Pentagon waste, Retired Vice Admiral Jack Shanahan, commanded the Navy's 2nd Fleet the first time Donald Rumsfeld served as Defense Secretary, in 1976. In his opinion, "With good financial oversight we could find $48 billion in loose change in that building, without having to hit the taxpayers. How do we know we need $48 billion since we don't know what we're spending and what we're buying?"
Josephschmitz By the way, that Inspector General who ‘partially substantiated’ allegations of corruption is no longer with us. He left his post fifteen months ago to take a top job at the parent company for Blackwater USA, one of the largest private security firms in Iraq. Joseph E. Schmitz was IG since March 2002, and headed an office of 1,250 military and civilian officers and employees, with a mandate to prevent waste, fraud and abuse in the Pentagon. Until he left to profit from waste, fraud and abuse in the Pentagon.
Daniellebrian Danielle Brian, executive director of the Project on Government Oversight, said, "The inspector general is a standard-bearer for ethics and integrity for the Pentagon. To see a person who has been holding that position cash in on his public service and go work for one of their contractors is tremendously disappointing."
Danielle, choke back your disappointment. That’s the way life has become in Washington, while we were all busy out at the mall.
Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid have a chance to do something about it, come January. “Earth to Harry and Nancy, hello?”
“Hello?”
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Media coverage;
DICK CHENEY'S FINGERPRINTS, the book, by Jim Freeman