American politicians love to throw money at the Pentagon. The present Congress set the U.S. military budget for 2015 at upwards of $610 billion, which is more than the military budgets of Russia, China, Saudi Arabia and the UK combined. On September 10, 2001, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld declared war on military waste and admitted there were trillions of dollars the Department of Defense could not account for. The next day 9/11 happened. This year, after NORAD’s fancy surveillance blimp went rogue speedily traversing the skies over Maryland and Pennsylvania, the Department of Defense found itself blushing amid media lampooning. In fact, there were quite a few Pentagon blunders and boondoggles in this Year of the Goat. Here are 8 of them that were especially wasteful.
8 MILITARY BOONDOGGLES OF 2015
- 1. On October 28th, a NORAD surveillance blimp became untethered from its mooring station at the Aberdeen Proving ground in Maryland. After flying north into eastern Pennsylvania, attracting gawkers and live TV coverage along its path, it crash-landed in a “rugged, wooded area.” The next day, state police used a shotgun to deflate the blimp’s nose after determining it still carried a potentially dangerous helium haul.
- 2. During a test flight of the AC-130J Ghostrider in April, a pilot managed to flip the gunship onto its back, rendering it unfit for future use due to the stress on the plane’s frame. The $115 million plane will never be flown again.
- 3. In August, someone forgot to turn a bolt, subsequently 27 people on board a military reconnaissance plane were almost immolated in mid-air. The fire resulted in more than $62 million in damage but no one was injured.
- 4. According to U.S. Central Command, the Obama administration’s $500 million project to organize and train moderate Syrian rebels yielded only “about 4 or 5” dedicated fighters.
- 5. A Defense Department lab in Utah this year accidentally sent live anthrax spores to sites in the U.K., Australia, Canada, South Korea, and five other countries, along with all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.
- 6. In Afghanistan, $43 million was spent building a compressed natural gas station. A nearly identical one was constructed in Pakistan for only $500,000.
- 7. A hacker from Kosovo with ties to a chief Daesh propagandist, Ardit Ferizi, is alleged to have hacked into a U.S. government software system designed for the safe storage of personal information belonging to American service members and federal workers.
- 8. The USS Milwaukee was only on a month long trip from the Great Lakes to San Diego when it broke down in Florida and would never sail again. The price tag on the US Navy vessel was $360 million.
In the months before 9/11, CBS News Correspondent Vince Gonzales reported the shocking discovery by auditors that the military couldn’t account for 25 percent of what it spends. To quote Donald Rumsfeld, “According to some estimates we cannot track $2.3 trillion in transactions.” $2.3 trillion – that’s $8,000 for every man, woman and child in America. In the 14 years following 9/11, the military budget has spiraled even further out of control.
On Monday night in Storm Lake, Iowa, Bernie Sanders said, “when we talk about making government more cost effective, it doesn’t simply mean cutting Medicaid and food stamps.” Sanders reminded the crowd that military families are on food stamps while we have massive cost overruns with defense contractors. A political culture where lawmakers are afraid of cutting defense budgets out of fear of appearing weak on national defense has also helped to create the problem. The late comedian Bill Hicks once said, “Take all that money we spend on weapons and defense each year and instead spend it feeding, clothing, and educating the poor of the world, which it would many times over, not one human being excluded, and we can explore space together, both inner and outer, in peace.”