War-on-Terror a $20 Trillion Failure

Hamza’s speech was released yesterday by al Qaeda’s propaganda arm, As Sahab. It is the latest speech by Osama’s heir, who was given a starring role in al Qaeda’s productions last August.

At the beginning of the 9/11 wars, Hamza says, the “mujahideen were besieged in Afghanistan.” But today the “mujahideen are in Afghanistan and they have reached Sham [Syria], Palestine, Yemen, Egypt, Iraq, Somalia, the Indian Subcontinent, Libya, Algeria, Tunisia, Mali, and Central Africa.” With the possible exception of Iraq, al Qaeda’s official branches and affiliated groups have a presence in each of the areas listed by Hamza.

Osama’s son taunts President Trump and his new administration, claiming that former President Obama “declared that he will end the wars, and that his era is an era of peace, and that he will close the open files that his predecessor left for him,” meaning the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, among other issues. But Obama “has now left the White House and has also left open files for his successor,” Hamza says, because he was “incapable” of solving them and “because the force of the mujahideen stands before him.”

The ‘War on Terror’ has cost US taxpayers at least $1.46 trillion since September 11, 2001, the Department of Defense’s cost of war report has revealed.

The 74-page DoD dossier was obtained by the Federation of American Scientists’ Secrecy News. It breaks down the cost of the US’s various conflicts and reveals the ongoing war in Afghanistan and the war in Iraq account for the greatest chunk of change.

Operation Enduring Freedom (the name given to the ‘War on Terror’ between 2001 and 2014), Operation Iraqi Freedom (Iraq War) and Operation New Dawn (past operations in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2010 and 2011) made up the biggest expense. They cost a combined $1.315 trillion.

Current military operations cost $147.6 billion. This includes $102.9 billion for Operation Freedom’s Sentinel, the name given to the ‘War on Terror’ by Barack Obama at the end of 2014, and Operation Inherent Resolve, the US’s operations against ISIS in Iraq and Syria which started in 2014, and has cost $17.1 billion.

Operation Noble Eagle, the US’s domestic air defense operation has cost $27.6 billion.

The report only includes direct war-related expenses, such as equipment, operating bases, training, paying troops as well as the costs related to feeding, housing and transporting them.

COST OF WAR NOT INCLUDED

The numbers don’t include veterans’ expenses, or the amount racked up by intelligence agencies in their war on terror. The numbers also don’t take into account the cost involved in rebuilding and post-conflict programs.

VETERANS

The Veterans Benefits Administration’s latest annual report found 1,060,408 veterans are receiving benefits, at an average of $15,907 each per year.

Veterans of the War on Terror’s benefits’ are costing $16.8 billion a year, and 1 million are receiving benefits at the moment.

According to a 2011 Harvard Kennedy School study, Afghanistan and Iraq veterans’ benefits were estimated to cost between $600 billion and $1.3 billion over 40 years.

The report found that $31.3 billion had been spent in the 10 years since 2001 on medical care and disability for almost 500,000 vets. It also found that Afghanistan and Iraq veterans were applying for benefits at far greater rates than previous wars.

The report found the “cost of caring for war veterans rises for several decades and peaks in 30-40 years or more after a conflict.”

(Un)INTELLIGENCE

The CIA’s classified operations, along with the NSA’s efforts to combat terrorism aren’t included in the total.

The report includes the total amount of funding given through war related-requests between 2001 and 2017, which is $1.7 billion and includes war spending, non-war spending on fuel and the cost of running the Noble Eagle base. It also includes an $83 billion in funds marked as “classified.”

US Intelligence agencies receive upwards of $66 billion budget to play with annually, a significant fraction of which goes to foreign operations.

The intelligence budget request for 2018 was $57.7 billion for the National Intelligence Program, which includes all programs, projects and activities of the intelligence community, and $20.7 billion for the Military Intelligence Program, which includes military intelligence operations. The NSA, the Defense Intelligence Agency and the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency fall under both programs.

Despite the staggering amount spent on defense, President Trump has promised to “rebuild” the military which he says is “depleted.” He proposed a $603 billion budget for defense spending in March.

Both the Senate and House of Representatives have voted to pass $696 billion and $696.6 billion defense budgets, respectively.

In Trump budget, Lockheed gets almost as much as the State Department

The Washington Post

Of Lockheed Martin’s $51 billion in sales last year, nearly 70 percent, or $35.2 billion came from sales to the U.S. government. It’s a colossal figure, hard to comprehend.

So think of it this way: Lockheed’s government sales are nearly what the Trump administration proposed for the State Department next year in its recently released spending plan. Or $15 billion more than all of NASA. Or about the gross domestic product of Bolivia.

With a White House proposal to spend a massive amount on defense next year in what one consultant called an “eye-watering” budget for the defense industry, Lockheed, the world’s largest defense contractor, could get even more.

Over the past decade, Bethesda, Md.-based Lockheed, which employs 100,000 people across the globe, has averaged about $38 billion a year in federal sales, a reign during which, year after year, Lockheed has received more federal money than any other corporation.

Boeing is in second place with annual sales of $26.5 billion in 2016, a year in which the top five defense contractors — including General Dynamics, Raytheon and Northrop Grumman — had total sales of nearly $110 billion to the United States government, according to federal procurement data. The five biggest defense contractors took in more money from the U.S. government than the next 30 companies combined.

But no one can touch Lockheed, the manufacturer of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The company is so big that some have likened it to a government agency and have quipped that Marillyn Hewson, Lockheed’s chief executive, is as powerful as a Cabinet secretary — or higher. When she gives her annual state of the company speeches, flanked by a pair of flags — one American, one with the company logo — she looks, well, presidential.

President Trump has opened the floodgates for defense spending, proposing $716 billion for the Pentagon, a 13 percent increase. And the defense industry is poised to profit, with Lockheed in the lead.

Contrary to the promised “peace dividend,” the U.S. has maintained its military arsenal and used it to enforce its agenda with successive and intensifying military interventions–from the use of conventional troops in Iraq, to “humanitarian intervention” in Haiti, to drone wars in Central Asia.

US MILITARY SPENDING (Follow the money)

Let’s look at how the federal government spends our money…

The pie chart below shows the distribution of the total federal budget spending for FY 2013.

The “Social Security & Unemployment” and “Medicare & Health” take on a major fraction of the federal spending, amounting to about 58% of the total outlays, whereas “Military” spending appears to amount to just 18%. The problem with this representation is that the Social Security & Medicare are parts of the mandatory spending directly financed by the dedicated revenue raised from payroll taxes, as imposed by the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA), not through the Federal income tax and thus represents a different Treasury account.

If we separate the mandatory spending and look only at the discretionary spending component appropriated by Congress on an annual basis and for which all the federal programs compete, a very different picture arises.

The Military (“National Defense” budget function 050) consumes nearly 57% of the discretionary budget in comparison to Education (6%), Science (3%), Energy & Environment (3%), etc. Military spending has sharply risen since the beginning of the War on Terrorism, from $294b in FY 2000 to $705b in FY 2013 (data from Budget of the United States Government: Historical Tables Fiscal Year 2013, Table 6.1).

Military spending in inflation-adjusted dollars is now greater than at any time since World War II — even greater than during the peak spending years of the Vietnam War, the Korean War, and the Persian Gulf War (figure credit: RandomNonviolence).

A large portion of this spending goes to the military contractors, companies whose profits and viability critically depend on the size of the military budget. Defense contractors actively lobby and donate campaign money to the members of Congress who sit on the Armed Forces and Appropriations Committees which oversee military spending. The table below shows the amounts of federal contracts awarded to the five largest defense contractors, and the corresponding expenses on lobbying and political campaign contributions for 2011.

Sources: Center for Responsive Politics, FedSpending.org – a project of OMB watch

You can see that these companies are having an excellent return on their investment. To be fair we must also mention that defense companies do employ many workers across the country who are reminded by their bosses of potential job losses if spending decreases. Undoubtedly, the Military budget can be reduced at such a rate as to allow for natural job attrition from the defense sector to avoid the defense contractors having to fire their employees, but this is never discussed. Instead we hear that cuts to the Military budget will result in huge job loss for the economy; however, research shows otherwise. The Political Economy Research Institute conducted a study of “The U.S.

Employment Effects of Military and Domestic Spending Priorities” concluding that $1 billion spent on domestic priorities will create substantially more jobs within the U.S. economy than would the same $1 billion spent on the military: 1.5 times more in Clean Energy and 2.4 times more in Education. Therefore, spending shifted from the defense to the domestic sectors of the economy will actually create jobs not the other way around. You can watch interview with the institute’s co-director: Military spending: Bang for the Buck?

Similarly, reductions in the Military budget should be accompanied by a natural attrition of military personnel toward a more sustainable, leaner size for the Armed Forces. Veterans for Peace does not support pay cuts or forced lays offs of military personnel in order to balance a federal budget.

Reduction in the Military budget does not threaten our national security. Even if defense spending were reduced by half, the US would easily remain the world’s strongest military superpower. The figure below shows how the US military spending compares to the rest of the world. The US spends almost 5 times more than China on the military, 10 times more than Russia, and 95 times more than Iran!

And do not expect the DoD to be careful with that money. In 2001 the US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld admitted that the DoD cannot track $2.3 trillion in transactions, supposedly because of the complexity and the multitude of accounting systems which do not conform with each other. Read Rumsfeld’s entire speech.

The DoD continues on the goose chase after the loose money preparing for its first audit by 2017 amidst the Government Accountability Office’s sobering assessment of the department’s accounting issues.

The defense contracting systems is ripe with fraud and abuse and according to a DoD report hundreds of defense contractors that defrauded the U.S. military received more than $1.1 trillion in Pentagon contracts during the past decade.

Proponents of high military expenditures commonly emphasize that military spending as a percentage of GDP has considerably declined since the end of the WWII as shown in the figure below suggesting that military spending is already at historically low levels.

The problem with this argument is that military spending as a percentage of GDP represents the burden such spending puts on the entire economy, but does not indicate the burden military spending places on the taxpayers. The general decline in military spending as a percentage of the GDP is a testament to economic growth, not to a reduction in military appropriations, which have continued to increase since the end of WWII even when adjusted for inflation as was previously shown. The accurate measure of the burden military spending puts on the taxpayer is the percentage of the discretionary budget spent on the military as shown below.

This fraction has changed significantly since the end of the WWII and does not manifest a consistent downward trend. On the contrary, since the beginning of the War on Terrorism the fraction spent on the military is on the rise.

In any case, the US spends more of its GDP on the military than any other major military power as shown below, and far surpasses those nations in spending when looking in absolute amounts. 

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