Tuesday, May 7, 2002
LIKE HARRY TRUMAN, WE SHOULD INVESTIGATE THE PENTAGON
by Gary Ferdman and Myriam Miedzian
Fact: Pentagon and General Accounting Office analysts agree that year after year the Department of Defense loses track of a quarter of its budget-an amount in excess of the entire annual federal budget for education.
Fact: No congressional investigation of the Pentagon budget is planned.
Fact: President Bush's 2002 Pentagon budget calls for a $48 billion increase which would bring the total 2003 budget to $396.8 billion.
Fact: Our 2002 defense budget is much larger than the defense budgets of Russia and China plus all potential adversaries combined.
Fact: Since the 1960's we have spent $130 billion on missile defense. The proposed 2003 budget includes another $7.7 billion. Pentagon plans call for hundreds of billions to be spent in future years.
Fact: According to our intelligence community the least likely means of delivery of a weapon of mass destruction is long range missile. A substantial number of scientists many of whom have worked for the Pentagon believe that a missile defense system would be ineffective and would lead to a new escalation of nuclear weapons. Our allies are opposed to it and to the breaking of the ABM treaty that it requires.
Fact: For decades the Pentagon has spent $30 to $35 billion annually to maintain a nuclear arsenal of at least 10,000 warheads.
Fact: Experts such as Paul Warnke, Chief negotiator of the 1979 Salt II treaty, and Robert McNamara, former Secretary of Defense have taken the same position as Richard Garwin, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and a key contributor to the first U.S. hydrogen bomb that "no conceivable threat requires the U.S. to keep more than a few hundred survivable warheads."
Fact: The Pentagon still spends tens of billions on Cold War weapons systems such as F-22 fighter jets and new nuclear weapons.
Fact: The cold war with the USSR has been over for more than twelve years.
Fact: Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Boeing and other weapons manufacturers are amongst the largest contributors to political candidates; for years they have spent even more than Enron to buy political influence.
Fact: The above facts are well known to members of Congress, but a vast majority of Americans are unaware of them.
Question: Why has not one Democratic Senator taken real leadership in opposing any increase in Pentagon spending and exposing the waste and political pork that perpetuates a bloated budget bearing little relationship to our nation's true military needs?
Conventional Wisdom: President Bush's popularity has soared since 9/11. Polls show that the American people support the War on Terrorism and increases in the military budget. Democrats' silence is due to fear of not getting reelected.
Fact: Senator John McCain's enormous popularity even among many Democrats demonstrates that the American people place the highest value on honesty, integrity, and courage in a politician.
Historical Fact: During WWII, then Senator Harry Truman dedicated himself to rooting out waste, mismanagement, and fraud in the military buildup. His Special Committee to Investigate the National Defense Program (known as the Truman Committee) continued its work throughout the war. It saved the nation hundreds of billions of dollars and catapulted Truman to the Vice Presidency in 1944 and the White House a year later.
Conclusion: Any Democrat who chooses to follow in Truman's footsteps would save our nation billions in Pentagon waste; increase our national security by forcing the Pentagon to focus on true needs. These include ensuring it has weapons to meet today's threats; preventing the sale of former Soviet nuclear , biological, and chemical weapons to rogue states; and developing top notch intelligence sources. This courageous stand would free up funds desperately needed for health care, education, and environmental protection. The Democrat willing to emulate Truman would win the overwhelming admiration of voters and pave his or her way to the White House.
Gary Ferdman is executive director of Business Leaders for Sensible Priorities.
Myriam Miedzian, a New York-based researcher, is the author of "Boys will be Boys: Breaking the Link Between Masculinity and Violence." (Anchor Books).