Politics, Technology, and Language

If thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought — George Orwell

Obama vs the Military-Industrial Complex

Posted by metaphorical on 31 October 2008

At a lunchtime discussion of the impending election, I mentioned that while of course I was excited by the prospect of a Democratic administration, and thrilled by the idea of a black president, I didn’t have much enthusiasm for the candidate himself. I’ll try to write more about that this weekend.

I’m also concerned by the prospect of the Democrats controlling both the White House and Congress. (Wow, as he dizzily floats through a sea of red herrings, McCain stumbled into a real issue.) What are they going to do about the military budget, for example?

A special report in the new issue of my magazine, “What’s Wrong With Weapons Acquisitions?”, by Bob Charette, couldn’t present the scary question of military procurement more starkly.

The report’s thesis is that while the acquisitions process has been troubled for decades, it is now reaching a crisis point. The amount of money being wasted is staggering: the Pentagon spends $21 million every hour to develop and procure new weapons. The U.S. defense budget for fiscal 2009 is $488 billion, the largest in real terms since World War II and 6% higher than this year’s. And that doesn’t cover combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, which are presented separately in the federal budge.

According to the Government Accountability Office, the vast majority of major acquisition programs in the pipeline are either enormously over-budget or well behind schedule — or both. Even if we weren’t in the middle of a global economic meltdown, throwing away many billions of taxpayers’ dollars would be unacceptable, stupid, and now, completely unsustainable.

As the report notes, with a new administration coming to office in January, we may finally have the chance to make much-needed changes. “Reform will have to come,” Charette writes. “Each day that the acquisition process continues to operate ineffectively and inefficiently is another day that the troops are not getting what they need, the country is less secure, and much-needed programs, both civilian and military, don’t get funded.”

Bob Charette spent two years putting this report together. He interviewed dozens of current and former acquisitions experts at the Pentagon as well as defense analysts, historians, and academics. He read scores of books, hundreds of reports, and countless newspaper, magazine, and journal articles. His extensive research and depth of understanding really show in his writing. Bob’s report is comprehensive, compelling, and a good read.

The question is, will the new Obama administration read it? And will they act on it? We’ve seen the Democrats in Congress feast off the fat underbelly of the budgetary hog with the same gusto as the Republicans. They all have military contractors in their districts, other companies whose projects can be funded through the trading of porkbarrel chits, and hungry reelection mouths to feed.

We’ve already been given a taste of Obama the Realist, whose not-nearly-universal medical care proposal doesn’t redesign the healthcare system but rather shores up a few of its most obvious weaknesses. One is reminded of the Army Corps of Engineers doing touch-up work on the New Orleans levee system in the early 2000s. If Obama can’t really take on Aetna and Cigna, how will he he fare against the combined forces of Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, General Dynamics, Raytheon, Halliburton, BAE, SAIC, the CIA, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the entire VFW?

We’ve seen, for better and for worse, presidents pulled across the political divide, their very weaknesses turning into strengths, their strengths needing to be shored up as if they were weaknesses. A Texan integrated the South, red-baiter Nixon went to China, Carter sent out helicopters on fool’s errands in Iran, Clinton yielded to the DMCA. And it was a five-star general who warned us about the military-industrial complex. Can Obama, already afraid to appear weak on defense, be strong on the question of procurement? The need, as Charette eloquently shows, is dire.

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2 Responses to “Obama vs the Military-Industrial Complex”

  1. ClaireDePlume said

    As with Canada, you do not have worthy candidates.

    For all of their spin, all of the hoopla, none can summon the mettle to complete the task of rescuing your country.

    Obama Barack appears as an ardent man, but does he have the integrity to retain his authenticity? As my mother always said, “Americans are too boastful. They come here (to England), their coke-swilling and gum chewing notwithstanding, and pretend they’ve won the war, and this before they’ve even fired a single bullet.”

    Here are snippets of a somewhat allegorical tale I’ve found on the Internet, concerning Integrity and I do believe it applies right now, right here.

    “Many years ago I worked for a man who is perhaps the most charismatic individual I’ve ever known.

    He was successful in business, gracious, funny, generous, and smart. He was thoughtful too, always inquiring about my family or how things were going.

    He was wealthy, well educated and well traveled. Whenever you bumped into him, it seemed, he was returning from some exotic trip where he had rubbed elbows with Oprah Winfrey or Tom Cruise.

    He impressed men. He charmed women. Everyone wanted to be like him. There was only one drawback.

    You couldn’t always trust him.

    I’m not suggesting he was a thief or a crook. He wasn’t. But he had personal credibility issues.

    He would tell you he was going to do something and not follow through. His stories were often so exaggerated that they bore little relationship to reality.

    And if the measure of the man is in small matters, he often came up short. For instance, he would sometimes invite a group of us to his private club for a round of golf. He would pick up the tab for everyone’s greens fees, cart fees, lunch and drinks. And then cheat like the dickens to win the five-dollar Nassau we were playing.

    It was ridiculous.

    Over time these ethical lapses affected his business. He never broke contracts or the law. But he operated in grey areas, sometimes treating long-time employees shabbily or using hardball tactics to get his way with business partners.

    Eventually, I had a falling out with him and left the company… nothing compensates for a lack of personal integrity.

    In the world of personal and business relationships, reputation is everything. In some ways, it is the most valuable thing you own.

    “Who you are speaks so loudly I can’t hear what you’re saying,” wrote Ralph Waldo Emerson two centuries ago.

    Reputations, of course, aren’t always entirely accurate. But they are a necessary shortcut. It takes time – sometimes years – to truly know someone’s character…

    In a sense,.. reputation is your ambassador. Every day it is out there circulating, knocking on doors, joining in conversations, arriving well before you do and paving the way – for good or ill.

    As Emerson said, “The louder he talked of his honor, the faster we counted our spoons.”

    Our deeds define us, not our words.

    The Greek philosopher Heraclitus simply said that character is destiny.”

    — Alexander Green
    Investment Director of The Oxford Club and Chairman of Investment U, a free, internet-based research service with over 350,000 readers. (The Oxford Club’s Communiqué, whose portfolio he directs, is ranked third in the nation for risk-adjusted returns over the past five years by the independent Hulbert Financial Digest.) Alex is also the author of The New York Times bestselling book “The Gone Fishin’ Portfolio: Get Wise, Get Wealthy… and Get on With Your Life.” He’s been featured on “The O’Reilly Factor,” and has been profiled by Forbes, Kiplinger’s Personal Finance, CNBC, and Marketwatch.com

  2. Ronald said

    Ronald…

    [...]Obama vs the Military-Industrial Complex « Politics, Technology, and Language[...]…

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