DOD

Militarized police supporters in Congress such as Nancy Pelosi get big bucks from defense contractors

The recent stories coming from Ferguson, Missouri have stirred the police militarization debate by putting the spotlight on the police’s use of “surplus” war gear to contain a mass of protestors in the suburbs of St. Louis.

The protests followed the killing of Michael Brown, and while most are peaceful, local police — and now the National Guard — have proceeded to use rubber bullets, tear gas and other aggressive methods such as curfews to fight locals and even journalists covering the events.

Without proper coverage, it’s nearly impossible to know what is truly going on in Ferguson, especially because the Federal Aviation Administration banned helicopters to fly below 3,000 feet over the region as soon as the unrest began. News crews often use helicopters to cover live events, but with the ban, law enforcement agents on the ground have a free pass to act according to their understanding of the situation.

No accountability.

One essential piece of this equation, however, is missing from the public debate; lawmakers who support the government’s program allowing the distribution of leftover war gear and weapons to local police departments are also the same lawmakers who receive a considerable amount of financial support from defense contractors.

The Pentagon has a $43 billion slush fund that the Obama administration is using to bypass Congress to intervene overseas

One of the funniest parts of the very funny movie Office Space has to do with the ridiculous requirement, and the related dialogue, regarding cover sheets on TPS reports. You remember:

Why is this relevant in a piece about the Pentagon and allegations that their Overseas Contingency Operations, or OCO, account has become little more than a slush fund “threatening to become a permanent repository for unneeded projects and bad ideas”, as William D. Hartung, director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy, recently opined in the Los Angeles Times? Because they are both examples of the perniciousness of bureaucracy and, specifically, the “business speak” that accompanies it.

As the Times piece notes, there are several (almost hilariously) broadly defined budget items in the fiscal year 2015 OCO war budget, despite the fact that the US is winding down its presence in Afghanistan to fulfill one of President Obama’s stated goals.

Nearly half of that $43 billion is earmarked “to carry out the entire array of support activities by units and forces operating in the Central Command area outside of Afghanistan, including … the Arabian Gulf region.”

Report on DOD Response to Benghazi Released by House subcommittee

After reviewing thousands of pages of a series of Benghazi-related documents, including classified emails and situation reports, the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations released a summary of its members’ particular reviews regarding what is known of the circumstances surrounding the Benghazi attack and the Department of Defense’s response.

According to Think Progress, the Subcommittee concluded that “there was no way for the U.S. military to have responded in time to the 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya to save the four Americans killed that night,” but according to the report, “given the uncertainty about the prospective length and scope of the attack, military commanders did not take all possible steps to prepare for a more extended operation.”

In other words, what the Subcommittee concluded appears to sound nothing close to what Think Progress reported.

The White House, the Subcommittee found, failed to address a growing concern related to the deteriorating security situation in Libya, which created a particularly vulnerable situation for U.S. personnel stationed in Benghazi. The Subcommittee also found that the response of our military was “severely degraded because of the location and readiness posture of U.S. forces, and because of lack of clarity about how the terrorist action was unfolding.”

Senate Confirmations: An Opportunity Squandered

President Obama’s foreign policy team is undergoing a makeover, with the nominations of Senator John Kerry as Secretary of State, former Nebraska Republican Senator Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense, and the Deputy National Security Advisor John Brennan as CIA Director.  All three gentlemen are expected to be confirmed; Kerry already has, Hagel will likely be confirmed (following an abysmal hearing) later this week, and Brennan faces his confirmation hearing this Thursday, which will essentially be the GOP’s final chance to hold Obama accountable for broken national security policies.

The GOP squandered two opportunities to ask proper questions of Kerry and Hagel.  The Kerry confirmation hearing was a jovial affair for one of the first advocates on intervention in the Libyan civil war in 2011, which, by the way, received no congressional authorization.  When Kerry was questioned about congressional authorization, he essentially bragged about his history of support for unilateral Executive action in Grenada, Panama, Kosovo, Bosnia, and yes, Libya.

Chuck Hagel Would Be an Excellent Secretary of Defense

Written by Christopher Preble, Vice President for Defense and Foreign Policy Studies at the Cato Institute. Posted with permission from Cato @ Liberty.

The rumors that President Obama will nominate Chuck Hagel to be the next Secretary of Defenseshould be welcomed by anyone frustrated by years of war and foreign meddling, and out-of-control spending at the Pentagon. Which is to say, nearly everyone. I hope the reports are true.

The biggest boosters of the Iraq war, the Afghan war, the Libyan war, and possible war with Syria and Iran, are apoplectic. And they should be. Hagel, a decorated Vietnam war veteran, understands war, and doesn’t take it lightly.

Although the president will obviously make the decisions, I expect that Hagel will generally advise against sending U.S. troops on quixotic nation-building missions. We might even see a resurrection of another Republican SecDef’s criteria for restraining Washington’s interventionist tendencies. At a minimum, Hagel will reflect Colin Powell’s view that “American GIs [are] not toy soldiers to be moved around on some sort of global game board.”

Audit the Pentagon: The Defense Department is wasting your money, and it’s time for Congress to put a stop to it

In the film Independence Day, President Thomas Whitmore, played by Bill Pullman, is absolutely stunned to learn that the Defense Department had constructed a massive complex, known as Area 51, to hide the existence of aliens.

“I don’t understand, where does all this come from?” he asks. “How do you get funding for something like this?” Julius Levinson (Judd Hirsch) sarcastically replies, ”You don’t actually think they spend $20,000 on a hammer, $30,000 on a toilet seat, do you?”

While there isn’t an alien threat (or is there?), the Defense Department has become rife with waste. Businessweek takes note of a recent Government Accountability Office that documents the spending problems at the Pentagon:

Across the military, the average major Pentagon acquisition comes in at 40 percent over budget, according to a recent report from the Government Accountability Office. In spite of the Pentagon’s well-documented history of profligacy, the Congress continues to enlarge its responsibilities. The DOD’s mandate now includes wide-ranging scientific and medical research and international infrastructure projects, diffusing the focus on its core mission—like buying planes that don’t set themselves afire on the runway. That’s a disservice to America’s military and a burden to the country’s taxpayers.

Defense Department spent your tax dollars to make plans for the zombie apocalypse

The Walking Dead

The brass at the Pentagon must have read Max Brooks’ The Zombie Survival Guide. Military leaders have, apparently, come up with a contingency plan for how to take down the undead in the event of the zombie apocalypse.

Unlike the Centers for Disease control, which used a fictional zombie threat to educate Americans on disaster preparedness, the Defense Department is totally serious (emphasis added):

Incredibly, the Defense Department has a response if zombies attacked and the armed forces had to eradicate flesh-eating walkers in order to “preserve the sanctity of human life” among all the “non-zombie humans.”

Buried on the military’s secret computer network is an unclassified document, obtained by Foreign Policy, called “CONOP 8888.” It’s a zombie survival plan, a how-to guide for military planners trying to isolate the threat from a menu of the undead — from chicken zombies to vegetarian zombies and even “evil magic zombies” — and destroy them.

“This plan fulfills fictional contingency planning guidance tasking for U.S. Strategic Command to develop a comprehensive [plan] to undertake military operations to preserve ‘non-zombie’ humans from the threats posed by a zombie horde,” CONOP 8888’s plan summary reads. “Because zombies pose a threat to all non-zombie human life, [Strategic Command] will be prepared to preserve the sanctity of human life and conduct operations in support of any human population — including traditional adversaries.”

Today in Liberty: NSA watchdog left in dark about spying, Dem pundits see writing on the wall

“Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys.” — P.J. O’Rourke

— House GOP Obamacare alternative still missing: Republicans have made Obamacare repeal a central part of their campaign platform, but they’ve yet to coalesce around a single set of specific proposals to pitch to voters, even though there’s been a lot of talk about rolling out a plan this year. “Republicans aren’t even convinced they will find consensus on any specific set of new health care bills. The ideas they’re discussing — the ability to buy insurance across state lines, wider use of health savings accounts and cutting federal regulations — are the same principles they have kicked around since 2009,” wrote John Bresnahan and Jake Sherman. “But the party is not much closer to finding a proposal — or set of proposals — that would garner enough Republican support to pass the House.”

— Who’s watching the watchers?: The Defense Department’s internal watchdog was left in the dark about the NSA’s most controversial domestic surveillance program. “The bulk of that is in reviews that we have done, and in the collaborative work that we have done with the NSA IG,” Anthony Thomas, who is charged with oversight over the NSA, told The Guardian. “From my own personal knowledge, those programs, in and of themselves, I was not personally aware.” Oh, and he’s not investigating the NSA over the programs either, despite the ongoing controversy. That’s comforting.

Defense Cuts in the Time of Crimea

The situation in Ukraine has come at a very inconvenient time for the Obama administration given their desire, announced at the end of February, to “shrink [the] Army to pre-WWII level.” The optics, as they say, are bad.

According to the paper of record at the time of the announcement:

The cuts proposed by Mr. Hagel fit the Bipartisan Budget Act reached by Mr. Obama and Congress in December to impose a military spending cap of about $496 billion for fiscal year 2015. If steeper spending reductions kick in again in 2016 under the sequestration law, however, then even more significant cuts would be required in later years.

The budget is the first sweeping initiative that bears Mr. Hagel’s full imprint. Although Mr. Hagel has been in office one year, most of his efforts in that time have focused on initiatives and problems that he inherited. In many ways his budget provides an opportunity for him to begin anew.

So, okay, that’s good. This administration isn’t known for paying attention to things like budgets. Nice to see them decide to meet one of the parameters of a bipartisan effort to get things under control. And, truthfully, as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) pointed out last year in pushing back against the National Defense Authorization Act, defense spending could use some oversight and tightening up:

Defense Department training docs: Individual liberty is an “extremist” view

Do you believe in individual liberty or federalism? If so, the Department of Defense (DOD) says you’re an “extremist,” according to documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request by Judicial Watch.

The documents were part of training guides used by the Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute in 2011 and 2013 to educate Air Force employees and/or recruits on extremism in the United States. It uses the far-left group the Southern Poverty Law Center, which frequently smears conservatives and libertarians, as a source for determining extremist groups.

There are valid as aspects to the report, such as raising awareness toward groups that are supremacist in nature or advocate violence as a means to a desired political end. But Judicial Watch notes that there is no mention Islamic extremism in the report, though it does passively discuss radical religious ideologies and cults. It also briefly mentions eco-terrorism, which comes from the far-left.

But other parts are incredibly concerning, such as how it broadly paints limited government advocates as racists and supremacists.

“The standard hate message has not changed, but it has been packaged differently. Modern extremist groups run the gamut from the politically astute and subtle to the openly violent,” says the report on page 45. “Nowadays, instead of dressing in sheets or publicly espousing hate messages, many extremists will talk of individual liberties, states’ rights, and how to make the world a better place.”


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