bauman defense budget

Michael Bauman

“The department of defense is a sinecure, a massive, unfathomable, black hole for taxpayer dollars that has never been, and perhaps never can be, plumbed to its hellish depths.”

If Chuck Hagel really were qualified to be Secretary of Defense, and if he had the insight and courage necessary for the job, he’d have begun his testimony before the Senate with those words, or words very much like them.

He did not.

He did not either because he does not know the truth about the DOD or, if he does know it, he does not have the moral fortitude and common sense to speak that truth. Both failures are disqualifying.

The DOD put the “sin” in sinecure, and is the greatest, most expansive, and expensive example of it in human history. The DOD is irrefutable evidence that the fog of war breeds the fog of war accounting, which no auditor, or army of auditors (much less the Army’s auditors) can bring to light. Knowing that, Hagel ought to say that he will do the next best thing possible: He himself will go through DOD expenses and requests line-by-line and eliminate everything not directly related to maintaining, deploying, and protecting our fighting forces on the ground, on the seas, or in the air. Whatever does not do that gets axed, period.

Pentagon-run grocery stores do not do it. Axing them saves 9 billion a year. Eliminating non-military research saves 6 billion. Educating military children on bases in the US: costs almost 11 billion. Research in global warming does not do it. Cutting back on that saves us another billion dollars a year. I’m an ex-Marine. I know the importance of the Marine Corps blues and greens, which are uniforms of great distinction. Marine Corps greens are a world away from greens in the Marines. We need the former, not the latter. You get the picture.

Hagel doesn’t.

But my point is not about Chuck Hagel. My point is about the DOD, which does to expenses what the CERN lab in Geneva does to particles–it accelerates them almost beyond human imagination. Or, to maintain the scientific analogy, the DOD is a massive black hole from which not even light itself can emerge, much less taxpayer money.

It’s time to change the game.

You don’t change the game by leaving it in the hands of politicians who think their re-election hinges upon more pork for their constituents. You don’t change it by trusting it to career bureaucrats in the DOD, whose very livelihood depends upon continued or increased annual funding. You don’t even change it by appeal to the leftist greenies, who normally deplore the military-industrial complex, except now when its funding is their funding too.

Maybe the game is so far gone it can’t be changed. If it can’t, then Hagel should know it. But he didn’t say.

I think it’s basically an impossible mess. If it is as bad as it looks to me, I do not trust the folks who run government to fix it. They have the opposite of a Midas touch. It’s not that everything they touch turns to gold; it’s that everything they touch turns to garbage and costs a lot of gold.

Fix the DOD? We’ve been trying to fix baseball for years, ever since the designated hitter rule snaked its filthy way into just half of MLB. If you can’t fix something as elegantly simple as baseball, you can’t fix the most complicated and advanced system of national defense the world has known.

I don’t normally descend into a counsel of despair, but this time I’m dangerously close. It reminds me of the movie title, “No Way Out,” which, you’ll recall, was about the DOD.

Books mentioned in this essay may be found in The Imaginative Conservative Bookstore

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