SORRY, WE CANNOT MEET OBLIGATIONS TO SS TRUST AND VETERAN'S BENEFITS. THAT'S THE PLAN----IT DOES NOT HAVE TO HAPPEN. VOTE GLOBAL CLINTON NEO-LIBERALS AND NEO-CONS OUT AND SOCIAL DEMOCRATS INTO OFFICE.
Let's look at what else is killing our Veteran's benefits and why this is important. Veterans worked overseas often in wars posting incredible work hours under extreme conditions and often come home with compromised health conditions needing long-term health care. The FDR New Deal years created the GI bill and Veteran's Administration to honor these sacrifices made by those who enlisted. This fueled the growing middle-class as vets were able to come home to strong higher education funds and homeownership funds.
THIS IS GREAT PUBLIC POLICY FOLKS AND CLINTON/BUSH/OBAMA HAVE BEEN DISMANTLING ALL THAT IS VETERAN'S ADMINISTRATION WITH THE GOAL OF ENDING THIS PUBLIC TRUST.
The Affordable Care Act is written to do this as it places benefits that used to go to VA HOSPITALS that were geared to the needs of military vets====and created a funding source that pushes VETS into the same preventative clinical tiered system of Medicaid for ALL. We already don't have the doctors to serve our Medicaid patients and now VETS will fall into this system. Meanwhile, these few decades have watch strong VA doctors moved to global health tourism and for-profit health care.
This article below is long----but please glance through-----it is the Republican southern states that historically have provided the most military volunteers so this is why southern citizens really do not like Bush neo-cons. Then, Obama neo-liberals continued Bush's attacks on VA.
Bush Administration underfunded veterans' health care by $2 billion. G.W Bush Treated Veterans Like Garbage
by cut and paste king Posted December 23, 2013
Bush Administration underfunded veterans' health care by $2 billion. The Bush Administration's 2004 budget underfunded veterans' health care by nearly $2 billion. ("Vets Health Low on Bush's Priority List," The Hill, September 17, 2003; "Support for Troops Questioned," Washington Post, June 17, 2003; U.S. Department of Veterans' Affairs, September 2002)
Bush Administration budget cuts force more than 200,000 veterans to wait for health care. Over 200,000 United States veterans have to wait more than six months for a medical visit because of health care shortages. ("VA Health Care Funding Alert," Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States Press Release, January 31, 2003)
Bush Administration cuts $1.5 billion from military family housing. The Bush Administration cut $1.5 billion for military family housing, despite Department of Defense statistics showing that in 83,000 barracks and 128,860 family housing units across the country are below standard. ("Nothing But Lip Service," Army Times, June 30, 2003; "House Appropriations Committee Approves $59.2 Million for Ft. Hood," U.S. Rep. Chet Edwards Press Release, June 17, 2003)
Bush Republicans support millionaires instead of military veterans. Bush allies in Congress stopped efforts to scale back the tax cut for the nation's millionaires by just five percent - a loss of just $4,780 for the year - in order to restore this funding for military family housing. ("The Tax Debate Nobody Hears About," Washington Post, June 17, 2003)
For all of the military member's and staff out there. Let's not continue to listen to political redoric from party members that claim they are the party of the military. Read the facts and see what they have done for you lately.
Bush Administration proposal would end health care benefits for 173,000 veterans. More than 173,000 veterans across the country would be cut off from health care because of Bush Administration proposed budget cuts and its plan requiring enrollment fees and higher out-of-pocket costs. ("Support for Troops Questioned," Washington Post, June 17, 2003)
Bush Administration cuts $172 million allotted for educating the children of military personnel. The Bush Administration's 2004 budget cut $172 million of impact aid funding. Impact aid funding assists school districts by making up for lost local tax revenue from tax-exempt property, such as military bases. These education cuts will especially affect school-age children of troops serving in Iraq who reside on military bases. ("Support for Troops Questioned," Washington Post, June 17, 2003)
Bush Administration tax cut denies military families increase in child tax credit. The families of 262,000 children of military personnel do not receive the child tax credit increase because the plan fails to cover taxpaying families with incomes between $10,500 and $26,625. According to The Washington Post, the House version of the Bush Administration plan "wouldn't help many of those serving in Iraq." One solider who will not benefit is Army Specialist Shoshana Johnson, the soldier and single mother who was wounded twice in the same convoy as Jessica Lynch. ("Ex-POW's Family Accuses Army of Double Standard on Benefit," Washington Post, October 24, 2003; "The New Senate Child Credit Legislation - What It Does and Does Not Do," Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, June 25, 2003; "Whose Child Is Left Behind," Children's Defense Fund, July 23, 2003
Bush Administration opposed plan to give National Guard and Reserve Members access to health insurance. Despite the war efforts of America's National Guard and Reserve Members, the Bush Administration announced in October 2003 its formal opposition to give the 1.2 million Guard and Reserve members the right to buy health care coverage through the Pentagon's health plan. One out of every five Guard members lacks health insurance. ("Bush Opposes Health Plan for National Guard," Gannett News Service, October 23, 2003)
Aug 14 2003
Washington, DC - The Pentagon wants to cut the pay of its 148,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, who are already contending with guerrilla-style attacks, homesickness and 120- degree-plus heat.
Unless Congress and President Bush take quick action when Congress returns after Labor Day, the uniformed Americans in Iraq and the 9,000 in Afghanistan will lose a pay increase approved last April of $75 a month in "imminent danger pay" and $150 a month in "family separation allowances."
The Defense Department supports the cuts, saying its budget can't sustain the higher payments amid a host of other priorities. But the proposed cuts have stirred anger among military families and veterans' groups and even prompted an editorial attack in the Army Times, a weekly newspaper for military personnel and their families that is seldom so outspoken.
Congress made the April pay increases retroactive to Oct. 1, 2002, but they are set to expire when the federal fiscal year ends Sept. 30 unless Congress votes to keep them as part of its annual defense appropriations legislation.
Imminent danger pay, given to Army, Navy, Marine and Air Force members in combat zones, was raised to $225 from $150 a month. The family separation allowance, which goes to help military families pay rent, child care or other expenses while soldiers are away, was raised from $100 a month to $250.
Last month, the Pentagon sent Congress an interim budget report saying the extra $225 monthly for the two pay categories was costing about $25 million more a month, or $300 million for a full year. In its "appeals package" laying out its requests for cuts in pending congressional spending legislation, Pentagon officials recommended returning to the old, lower rates of special pay and said military experts would study the question of combat pay in coming months
January 28, 2005
During a recent interview with the Wall Street Journal (1-25-05), Pentagon official David Chu, in a mockery of the contribution of veterans, defended a new round of cuts by ironically describing funding for programs like veterans' education and job training, health care, pensions, Veterans Administration (VA) housing and the like as "hurtful" to national security.
Despite Republican pretense that spending increases for the VA budget under the Bush administration have been large, new spending has neither matched inflation over the same period, nor does it keep pace with growing need.
For example, as private sector health care costs skyrocket, veterans are turning more and more to the military's health insurance program, Tricare. Retired service members account for half of the people covered by Tricare, whereas just five years ago they accounted for only 40 percent. The Bush administration wants to find ways to stem this tide - none of which have anything to do with keeping private sector insurance affordable.
The slow rate of VA spending growth enforced by Bush and the congressional Republicans over the last four years won't cover growing deferred benefits, such as education, housing, retirement, health care and so on, promised to current service members or that are supposed to be available for new enlistees.
Slow spending growth isn't even the biggest immediate problem for vets. In the last two years, Bush ordered the closing of several VA hospitals in different parts of the country, pushing waiting lists for medical services for veterans as high as six months for about 230,000 vets. These closings followed in the wake of the congressional Republican's concerted drive in 2003 to cut $15 billion from VA spending over the next ten years.
And, since his razor-thin victory over Senator Kerry and his claim of "political capital" to rule as he sees fit, President Bush, according to an Associated Press story about a leaked White House Budget Office memo, plans to slash veterans' health care benefits by over $900 million and veteran's housing programs by $50 million in 2005 alone.
A Center for American Progress analysis says, "President Bush's 2005 budget would increase prescription drug co-pays from $7 to $15 for many veterans. In 2002, the co-pay went from $2 to $7." This co-pay increase would have the biggest impact on "near-poor" veterans whose incomes are just high enough to require that they pay the new premium.
In fact the Republicans are so desperate to cut veterans' benefits they have started attacking fellow Republicans who want to preserve current benefit levels. The Wall Street Journal reports that "the House Republican leadership took the unusual step of stripping New Jersey Rep. Christopher Smith of his chairmanship of the Veterans Affairs Committee" for pushing "so aggressively for veterans benefits that he at times threatened to oppose their spending plans - and President Bush's - unless more retiree benefits were included."
The Wall Street Journal attributes the fact that the Republicans haven't been able to cut more from the VA budget to the work of large veterans' lobby groups such as the Military Officers Association of America and other veterans groups like American Legion and Vietnam Veterans of America who have consistently blocked cuts and have pushed for expanded programs and spending. Veterans groups have called for expanded VA hospital usage, larger retiree, disability, and survivor benefits, equitable pay for service members and better access to health care and health insurance for retirees and survivors.
The Bush administration and Congressional Republicans lament the fact that increasing entitlements promised to veterans have forced them to limit the growth of spending for questionable missile systems and other weapons programs. New funding for their illegal war on Iraq, they claim, is also in jeopardy as long as so much new military spending is set aside for veterans' programs.
These "compassionate conservatives" want to force American taxpayers to choose between the GOP's vision of "national security" and taking care of the people who have provided that national security. While the Republicans would like to see tax dollars handed over to the big defense that fund their election campaigns contractors - their version of an "entitlement program" - they will also have to deal with the 28 million people who sacrificed their time and lives in the US military.
The Pentagon plans to reduce deferred benefit packages and increase one-time cash awards for new enlistees in the hopes of reducing, even eliminating, long-term benefit programs. In other words, recruiters will ask young people to sign up with enticements of several thousand-dollar payments and forget to tell them that they could have more for college. Further, one Pentagon official said that they'd like to change existing benefit plans to cause older service members to retire early and thus have smaller pensions and fewer benefits.
Meanwhile, Republicans are blocking an effort to eliminate premium payments for some retirees who receive Medicare. Also, the reliance on reservists in Bush's war on Iraq to participate in longer terms of active duty without adequate increases in pay is a de facto pay cut that affects thousands of service members who share equally the risks of military service.
The Republicans' effort to cut veterans' benefits is just another sign of their callous attitude to the vast majority of people in this country. They feel that the very rich are entitled to hundreds of billions in tax cuts, but do not feel the least twinge of guilt in forcing veterans to forego the benefits and services promised in return for their sacrifices.
This week Bush announced his request to Congress for another $80 billion, bringing the total spent on his war to $280 billion. Critics of the new spending request see it as more money being thrown at a criminal invasion of Iraq based on lies about WMD and terrorist ties that also is draining national resources from programs that help people for a military machine that kills and tortures.
Opponents of Bush's war know that it has undermined national security making Americans the target of terrorism more than ever before. But Bush wants you to believe that the real threats to national security are retired veterans who need food, shelter, and medical care.
which does the Bush Administration choose, time and time again?
May 17th 2007
The Bush administration today threatened to a veto a House defense spending bill over a 3.5 percent pay raise for U.S. soldiers and a $40/month increase in benefits for military widows, among other provisions. The legislation passed the House today 397-27.
Troops don’t need bigger pay raises, White House budget officials said Wednesday in a statement of administration policy laying out objections to the House version of the 2008 defense authorization bill. […]
The slightly bigger military raises are intended to reduce the gap between military and civilian pay that stands at about 3.9 percent today. Under the bill, HR 1585, the pay gap would be reduced to 1.4 percent after the Jan. 1, 2012, pay increase.
Bush budget officials said the administration “strongly opposes” both the 3.5 percent raise for 2008 and the follow-on increases, calling extra pay increases “unnecessary.”
The White House says it also opposes:
– a $40/month allowance for military survivors, saying the current benefits are “sufficient”
December 19 2007
In a surprise move, the President has vetoed HR 1585, the 2008 Defense Authorization Act. This means that U.S. Military personnel will not receive the 3.5 percent raise in military pay authorized by the act on January 1. Instead, troops will receive a raise of 3.0 percent, which is an automatic adjustment for inflation required by previous law. . . In preventing the bill from becoming law, Bush used a tactic known as a "pocket veto." Under the U.S. Constitution, if a president does not sign a bill within 10 days after the bill is presented by Congress, it becomes law -- unless Congress is not in session at the time, in which case the bill dies. Both the House and the Senate adjourned December 19th, the same day the bill was sent to the President. Congress is not scheduled to return until January 15. The difference between a 3.0 percent pay raise and 3.5 percent pay raise are not great. For an E-5 with six years of service the difference is about $12 per month. For an E-8 with 16 years of service, it's about $19 per month, and for an O-3 with 10 years of service, it's about $25. per month.
– additional benefits for surviving family members of civilian employees
– price controls for prescription drugs under TRICARE, the military’s health care plan for military personnel and their dependents
House Minority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC) said today he was “shocked and disappointed in the President’s threat,” noting that Bush’s problems with the bill are over measures that benefit “the very people who sacrifice the most in the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and who serve at home and overseas.”
Clinton, as a Reagan neo-liberal pushed the privatization process forward by bringing in outsourcing in our military -----ergo, the private global military corporations were built on Clinton's sending of funds to outsourced military corporations and this is what created Dick Cheney and Halliburton-----the global military corporate complex. Along with breaking down the public military, Clinton started dismantling the housing on military bases calling it 'good for military personnel. Flash forward to today and there is very little military housing to be found on bases-----it is privatized away and now military are being soaked with the wheeling and dealing of predatory real estate subpriming and Wall Street investment firms. Once safe, stable housing attacked by Clinton neo-liberals who set the stage for Bush/Cheney neo-con global military corporate contractors.
Below you see where military families are today because of Clinton and his privatization of all that is our military and Veteran's benefits.
Housing Decline Adds Stress During Military PCS
Posted: June 20, 2011
Unlike civilians, military families on PCS suffer more financial stress during a housing decline.
Military servicemembers who are facing PCS orders need to sell their homes quickly, and for them, waiting for housing prices to rise again is not an option.
On February 11, 1996, President Clinton signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1996, containing authorities for the Military Housing Privatization Initiative (MHPI). This act, Public Law 104-106 (110, Stat 186, Section 2801), includes a series of authorities that allow DoD to work with the private sector to build, renovate and sustain military housing.
The goals are to:
- obtain private capital to leverage government dollars,
- make efficient use of limited resources, and
- use a variety of private-sector approaches to build and renovate military housing faster and cheaper for American taxpayers.
DoD currently faces two significant housing problems:
- The condition of DoD-owned housing is poor
- There is a shortage of affordable, quality private housing available to Service members and their families.
Today's military is living in yesterday's houses. DoD currently owns 257,000 family housing units on- and off-base. About 60 percent need to be renovated or replaced because they have not been sufficiently maintained or modernized over the last 30 years. Using the traditional military construction approach, it would cost taxpayers nearly $16 billion and take 20 years to solve this problem. Furthermore, traditional military construction requires contractors to adhere to military specifications, which make projects significantly more costly than building to market standards.
Too Few Units On-Base, Too Few Affordable Units Off-Base
DoD policy is to rely on the private sector to provide suitable housing for Service members and their families. The services have been directed to acquire family housing only for families that can't find suitable housing in the private sector.
This means the majority of service families live in local communities. Most of them are families of enlisted personnel, whose salaries are at the lower end of the military pay scale, making it difficult for them to find quality, affordable housing within a reasonable commuting distance. In addition, some of these communities, located in extremely rural or metropolitan areas, do not have enough affordable, quality rental housing to accommodate Service members and their families.
Information from the Past and Present Will Improve the Future
While the quality of existing on-base military housing has declined during the last three decades, deployments and family separations have lengthened, out-of-pocket expenses for Service members living in private housing have risen, and demands on military personnel and their families have increased.
A DoD Quality of Life Task Force report confirmed these disconcerting trends and warned that readiness and morale are in jeopardy. Continuing to neglect these issues runs the risk of collapsing the force because even the most dedicated Service members will decide to leave the military. This is why MHPI is so important to DoD, Service members and their families, and American taxpayers.
The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1996 provides DoD with a variety of authorities that allow us to obtain private-sector financing and expertise to improve our housing situation. These authorities can be used individually or in combination and include the following:
- Guarantees, both loan and rental
- Conveyance or leasing of existing property and facilities
- Differential lease payments
- Investments, both limited partnerships and stock or bond ownership
- Direct loans.
- Guarantees. These can be loan or rental guarantees. We can guarantee mortgage payments, directly or through an intermediary, or provide a limited guarantee against base realignment and closure (BRAC), force reductions, or major deployments. DoD can also provide guarantees for mortgage insurance. Finally, we can guarantee rent and occupancy levels as specified in an agreement.
- Conveyance or Leasing. DoD can convey or lease family housing units to private persons for purposes of using proceeds to finance the privatization projects.
- Differential Lease Payments. This authority allows DoD to pay the difference between the negotiated rent and basic allowance for housing to make housing available to Service members.
- Investments. The investment authority allows DoD to invest in nongovernmental entities involved in the acquisition or construction of family housing and supporting facilities. These investments can be in the form of limited partnerships, for which DoD provides cash, land, or facilities as equity. A limited partnership arrangement operates purely as a private business: DoD has no part in the management. Although no minimum cash contribution has been set for any DoD investment in a project, there is a maximum cash contribution. DoD may invest a maximum of 33.5 percent of the capital cost of a project. Because all sites and projects differ, and because the services each prioritize their own projects, the full 33.5 percent cash contribution may not be needed in each project. However, DoD also has the authority to convey land or buildings as all or part of its investment. If it chooses this route, it may not exceed 45 percent of the total capital cost if land or facilities are conveyed. For projects involving renovation, replacement, and support facilities, DoD’s total equity contribution may not exceed 45 percent of a project's capital cost.
As a stockholder, DoD may be involved in the management of a project without losing limited liability. DoD could have considerable control over a project if it provides capital through a loan, bond. or mortgage.
- Direct Loans. DoD may offer a direct loan. The title, land, and improvements remain with the developer.
Advantages for the Military, Venture Capital Opportunities for the Private Sector
MHPI promotes a mutually beneficial relationship between DoD and the private sector. For DoD, it results in the construction of more housing built to market standards for less money than through the military construction process. Commercial construction is not only faster and less costly than military construction, but private-sector funds significantly stretch and leverage the DoD’s limited housing funds.
Developers and financiers can find significant venture capital opportunities in DoD housing. Privatization opens the military construction market to a greater number of development firms. MHPI stimulates the economy through increased building activity, and MHPI projects can provide a long-term continuous inflow of capital to an investor.
DoD allows as much flexibility as possible for developers and financiers to create the best possible proposals. However, we have identified several broad guidelines to give offerors some direction. We want to
ensure our Service members and their families are properly housed on and off military installations;
- leverage our funds with private capital;
- involve local governments to help with infrastructure, financing, permits and use their knowledge of local developers;
- integrate projects with private-sector housing, with a mix of bedroom sizes; and
- have housing projects developed within reasonable commuting distance of military installations.
The Services nominate installations that have large housing deficits or need housing renovations. They visit and evaluate each site with contracted private-sector finance experts, identify problems, determine which authority best addresses site issues, hold industry forums to introduce the project to the private sector, and then draft and issue the solicitation. Once the solicitation is issued, the service holds local preproposal conferences so officials may travel to the communities and meet with developers and financiers, who may have questions and want to learn more about the process and project specifics. The service then reviews and evaluates the proposals and makes a selection. DoD notifies Congress of the proposed contract. The contract is executed, and the developer obtains final zoning, site plan approval, and financing.
It was the goal from Clinton to Bush to end our Federal public military as they moved global corporate tribunal policies in place. After all, if they are going to have global corporate tribunal rule and the US is simply going to be a series of colonial international economic zones with no national sovereignty----they did not want a US military to protect the American people against this invasion of sovereignty. From Clinton to Bush outsourced global military corporate employees replaced standing troops-----and Obama and Hillary as Secretary of State has made privatization of military soar. GI bill housing for military was the target of Wall Street just as city homeowners that were working/middle-class----and that is what global pols think of US military and our veterans.
Today, the VA hospitals and Administration has been outsourced away------Baltimore has one of the worst VA's as goes handling veteran's health care and housing-----vets are pushed to Section 8 housing and Section 8 housing is frozen in Baltimore for example. Baltimore was tops in military having to wait months for health care services with people dying from not receiving help. That is because Baltimore is Johns Hopkins/Bush neo-conservative and sees global military as private global military corporations----that is why our Baltimore Police Department is being privatized to these global militarized security corporations.
THIS IS ALL ONE STRATEGY TO END OUR US PUBLIC MILITARY======AND DISMANTLE ALL NEW DEAL GI BILL BENEFITS FOR TROOPS. CLINTON/BUSH/OBAMA----GLOBAL CORPORATE TRIBUNAL RULE.
Survey: Morale of the Military Alarmingly Low
Katie Pavlich | Dec 08, 2014
A Military Times survey of 2,300 active-duty troops found morale indicators on the decline in nearly every aspect of military life. Troops report significantly lower overall job satisfaction, diminished respect for their superiors, and a declining interest in re-enlistment now compared to just five years ago.
Today's service members say they feel underpaid, under-equipped and under-appreciated, the survey data show. After 13 years of war, the all-volunteer military is entering an era fraught with uncertainty and a growing sense that the force has been left adrift.
One trend to emerge from the annual Military Times survey is "that the mission mattered more to the military than to the civilian," said Peter Feaver, a political science professor at Duke University who studies the military. "For the civilian world, it might have been easier to psychologically move on and say, 'Well, we are cutting our losses.' But the military feels very differently. Those losses have names and faces attached to [them]."
According to the Military Times survey, active-duty troops reported a stunning drop in how they rated their overall quality of life: Just 56 percent call it good or excellent, down from 91 percent in 2009. The survey, conducted in July and August, found that 73 percent of troops would recommend a military career to others, down from 85 percent in 2009. And troops reported a significant decline in their desire to re-enlist, with 63 percent citing an intention to do so, compared with 72 percent a few years ago. The reasons for the decrease are fully analyzed in the Military Times piece, which can be read in its entirety here, but a lack of leadership from Washington, uncertainty, lack of mission and draconian budget cuts seem to be the biggest reasons for the drop in morale.
With a lack of direction over the course of the past few years combined with suffocating rules of engagement that prevent troops from doing their jobs, these numbers aren't surprising but are extremely alarming for both the short-term and long-term health of the military as a whole. Less than one percent of the American population volunteers for military service. These morale numbers greatly threatened the incentive for good, committed people to sign up for service at all. Worse, according to the Armed Forces Foundation a veteran commits suicide every 65 minutes, which is 22 men or women every day.
Further, 73 percent of casualties during the Afghanistan war have occurred since 2009 when President Obama took office and changed the rules of engagement. The severe injury rate, meaning amputations, lost limbs and traumatic brain injury, has also skyrocketed over the past six years by 500 percent. Adding insult to injury the very system that is supposed to take care of injured troops, the Veteran's Affairs administration, has been manipulating care wait times for years, resulting in dozens of premature deaths.
Most recently, Republicans joined Democrats last week in further cutting military benefits right before Christmas time.
"Harry Reid screwed this up all year long and President Obama and now Republicans are going along with the screwing of the military. I do not know why we bother to win elections when we turn around and screw the people we campaign on," conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt said on his show last night after an interview with Republican Senator Jim Inhofe.
Yesterday the lame-duck Senate released its detailed plan for the National Defense Authorization Act. The legislation cuts the pay raise for the military, imposes caps on basic housing allowance and imposes co-pays on prescription drugs totaling $5 billion in overall cuts.
When asked to explain the reasoning behind the cuts, especially when the federal government funds so much nonsense, the best Inhofe could come up with in the interview was, "We need a bill." Inhofe sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee.
As Hewitt points out during the interview, these cuts directly affect the men and women coming home from overseas who are experiencing PTSD and dealing with severe injuries. These cuts also directly impact their families right before Christmas time. It should be noted that the rate of severe injuries like lost limbs have skyrocketed under President Obama, and since 2009 the extreme injury rate for our troops in Afghanistan has gone up by 500 percent according to iCasulaties.org. Further, 22 military veterans and active duty soldiers commit suicide every day.
"I have to give voice to the people who have been writing me all day. They are pissed. And they are so upset that Republicans have agreed to this in order just to keep the record going. They really, I hope some Republican stands up and filibusters it. Maybe it will be you [Inhofe], because these men and women...they’re struggling with PTSD, they’re struggling with multiple deployments. They’ve got no money, no disposable income, and basically, what the lame duck Congress is doing is paying for the war in Iraq and Syria by cutting active duty servicemen’s benefits," Hewitt argued. "I think you guys should dig in…I think you guys should dig in and say damn, no, we’re not going to do this, we are not going to balance the Pentagon’s cuts on the backs of the military. And if you have to shut down the government, do it for the military."
Our military and veterans deserve better. They are owed a clear mission on the battle field and the security of their futures here at home should never be in question. When it comes to budget cuts, with all the frivolous things the federal government spends money on (like "Romance Projects," "Moosicals," video games and shrimp on treadmills), the men and women of the volunteer military should be the last on the list for slashing of funding. Period.
Clinton and Bush started this outsourcing with vigor and every time a private global military corporation came into the picture it created a tiered wage scale that made US public military troops impoverished next to global private military employees getting big checks. Clinton and Bush were the ones making US troops impoverished-----and the Bush/Cheney global military corporations were behind big wages for their employees. This was not because Bush/Cheney were great guys wanting their employees to be paid well-----it was to move more and more public troops to private corporations and create the same conditions of hating the public structure as they move to end it. You defund and dismantle public education and public transportation so people will hate it in order to privatize it away-----that is what Clinton/Bush did to the military.
Bush super-sized this hate for the public military by using Executive Order to keep people in tours of action----forcing state national guards into the overseas war zones long after their tours of duty should have ended. Bush/Cheney went out of office having fleeced the US military of all their rights, all their expected benefits and their vision of what the US military meant-----
AND IT IS WHY MILITARY TROOPS ARE AS ANTI-WAR AND ANTI-GLOBALIZATION AS ANY GROUP.
Clinton/Bush/Obama are making a global corporate mercenary army------and removing the idea that US troops work to protect the American people.......
Tuesday, January 19, 2010Outsourcing War: The Rise of Private Military Contractors
Outsourcing War: The Rise of Private Military Contractors (PMCs) - by Stephen Lendman
In The Prince, Machiavelli (May 1469 - June 1527) wrote:
"The mercenaries and auxiliaries are useless and dangerous, and if anyone supports his state by the arms of mercenaries, he will never stand firm or sure, as they are disunited, ambitious, without discipline, faithless, bold amongst friends, cowardly amongst enemies, they have no fear of God, and keep no faith with men."
In an August 11, 2009 Global Research article titled, "The Real Grand Chessboard and the Profiteers of War," Peter Dale Scott called Private Military Contractors (PMCs) businesses "authorized to commit violence in the name of their employers....predatory bandits (transformed into) uncontrollable subordinates....representing....public power in....remote places."
True enough. Those performing security functions are paramilitaries, hired guns, unprincipled, in it for the money, and might easily switch sides if offered more. Though technically accountable under international and domestic laws where they're assigned, they, in fact, are unregulated, unchecked, free from criminal or civil accountability, and are licensed to kill and get away with it. Political and institutional expediency affords them immunity and impunity to pretty much do as they please and be handsomely paid for it.
So wherever they're deployed, they're menacing and feared with good reason even though many of their member firms belong to associations like the International Peace Operations Association (IPOA) and the British Association of Private and Security Companies (BAPSC). Their conduct codes are mere voluntary guidelines that at worst subject violators to expulsion.
When IPOA wanted Blackwater USA investigated (later Blackwater Worldwide, now Xe - pronounced Zee) for slaughtering 28 Iraqis in Al-Nisour Square in central Baghdad and wounding dozens more on September 16, 2007, the company left the association and set up its own, the Global Peace and Security Operations Institute (GPSOI), with no conduct code besides saying:
"Blackwater desires a safer world though practical application of ideas that create solution making a genuine difference to those in need (by) solving the seemingly impossible problems that threaten global peace and stability."
Blackwater, now Xe, makes them far worse as unchecked hired guns. Wherever deployed, they operate as they wish, take full advantage, and stay unaccountable for their worst crimes, the types that would subject ordinary people to the severest punishments.
In his book "Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army," Jeremy Scahill described a:
"shadowy mercenary company (employing) some of the most feared professional killers in the world (accustomed) to operating without worry or legal consequences....largely off the congressional radar. (It has) remarkable power and protection within the US war apparatus" to practice violence with impunity, including cold-blooded murder of non-combatant civilians.
Employing Mercenaries - A Longstanding Practice
Called various names, including mercenaries, soldiers of fortune, dogs of war, and Condottieri for wealthy city states in Renaissance Italy, employing them goes back centuries. In 13th century BC Egypt, Rameses II used thousands of them in battle. Ancient Greeks and Romans also used them. So didn't Alexander the Great, feudal lords in the Middle Ages, popes since 1506, Napoleon, and George Washington against the British in America's war of independence even though by the early 18th century western states enacted laws prohibiting their citizens from bearing arms for other nations. Although the practice continued sporadically, until more recently, private armies fell out of favor.
Defining a Mercenary
Article 47 in the 1977 Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions provides the most widely, though not universally, accepted definition, based on six criteria, all of which must be met.
"A mercenary is any person who:
(a) is specially recruited locally or abroad in order to fight in an armed conflict;
(b) does, in fact, take a direct part in the hostilities:
(c) is motivated to take part in the hostilities essentially by the desire for private gain and, in fact, is promised, by or on behalf of a Party to the conflict, material compensation substantially in excess of that promised or paid to combatants of similar ranks and functions in the armed forces of the Party;
(d) is neither a national of a Party to the conflict nor a resident of territory controlled by a Party to the conflict;
(e) is not a member of the armed forces of a Party to the conflict; and
(f) has not been sent by a State which is not a Party to the conflict on official duty as a member of its armed forces."
This Article's Focus and Some Background
This article covers the modern era of their resurgence, specifically America's use of private military contractors (PMCs) during the post-Cold War period. However, the roots of today's practice began in 1941 in the UK under Captain David Stirling's Special Air Service (SAS), hired to fight the Nazis in small hard-hitting groups. In 1967, he then founded the 20th century's first private military company, WatchGuard International.
Others followed, especially during the 1980s Reagan-Thatcher era when privatizing government services began in earnest. As vice-president, GHW Bush applied it to intelligence, and then defense secretary Dick Cheney hired Brown and Root Services (now KBR, Inc., a former Halliburton subsidiary) to devise how to integrate private companies effectively into warfare.
The Current Proliferation of PMCs
According to PW Singer, author of "Corporate Warriors: The Rise of the Privatized Military Industry:"
Included are companies offering "the functions of warfare....spanning a wide range of activities. They perform everything from tactical combat to consulting (to) mundane logistics....The result is that (the industry) now offers every function that was once limited to state militaries."
Warfare, in part, has been privatized so that "any actor in the global system can access these skills and functions simply by writing a check."
In the 1991 Gulf War, the Pentagon employed one PMC operative per 50 troops. For the 1999 Yugoslavia conflict, it was one for every 10, and by the 2003 Iraq War, PMCs comprised the second largest force after the US military.
They've also been used in numerous civil wars globally in nations like Angola, Sierra Leone, the Balkans throughout the 1990s, Papua New Guinea, and elsewhere. From 1990 - 2000, they participated in 80 conflicts, compared to 15 from 1950 - 1989.
Singer cites three reasons why, combined into "one dynamic:"
1. Supply and demand
Since the Cold War ended in 1991, the US military downsized to about two-thirds its former size, a process Dick Cheney, as defense secretary, called BRAC - Base Realignment and Closure, followed by privatizing military functions. But given America's permanent war agenda, the Pentagon needed help, especially because of the proliferation of small arms, over 550 million globally or about one for every 12 human beings, and their increased use in local conflicts.
2. Changes in the conduct of war
Earlier distinctions between soldiers and civilians are breaking down, the result of low-intensity conflicts against drug cartels, warlords and persons or groups aggressor nations call "terrorists," the same ones they call "freedom fighters" when on their side for imperial purposes.
High-intensity warfare also changed, so sailors aboard guided missile ships, for example, serve along side weapons and technology company personal, needed for their specialized expertise.
In addition, the combination of powerful weapons and sophisticated information technology let the Pentagon topple Saddam with one-fourth the number of forces for the Gulf War. This strategy can be just as effective in other conventional warfare theaters, depending on how formidable the adversary, but it doesn't work in guerrilla wars - the dilemma America faces in Afghanistan, earlier in Iraq and still now as violence there is increasing.
3. The "privatization revolution"
Singer calls it a "change in mentality, a change in political thinking, (a) new ideology that" whatever governments can do, business can do better so let it. The transformation is pervasive in public services, including more spent on private police than actual ones in America. And the phenomenon is global. In China, for example, the private security industry is one of its fastest growing.
By privatizing the military, America pierced the last frontier to let private mercenaries serve in place of conventional forces. Singer defines three types of companies:
1. "Military provider firms"
Whatever their functions, they're used tactically as combatants with weapons performing services formerly done exclusively by conventional or special forces.
2. Military consulting companies
They train and advise, much the way management consulting firms operate for business. They also provide personal security and bodyguard services.
3. Military support firms
They perform non-lethal services. They're "supply-chain management firms....tak(ing) care of the back-end, (including) logistics and technology assistance...." They also supply intelligence and analysis, ordnance disposal, weapons maintenance and other non-combat functions.
Overall, the industry is huge and growing, grossing over $100 billion annually worldwide, operating in over 50 countries. By far, the Pentagon is their biggest client, and in the decade leading up to the Iraq War, it contracted with over 3,000 PMCs, and now many more spending increasingly larger amounts.
A single company, Halliburton and its divisions grossed between $13 - $16 billion from the Iraq War, an amount 2.5 times America's cost for the entire Gulf War. The company profits handsomely because of America's commitment to privatized militarization. More about it below.
Since 2003, Iraq alone represents the "single largest commitment of US military forces in a generation (and) by far the largest marketplace for the private military industry ever."
In 2005, 80 PMCs operated there with over 20,000 personnel. Today, in Iraq and Afghanistan combined, it's grown exponentially, according to US Department of Defense figures - nearly 250,000 as of Q 3, 2009, mostly in Iraq but rising in Afghanistan to support more troops.
Not included are PMCs working for the State Department, 16 US intelligence agencies, Homeland Security, other branches and foreign governments, commercial businesses, and individuals, so the true total is much higher. In addition, as Iraq troops are drawn down, PMCs will replace them, and in Afghanistan, they already exceed America's military force.
According to a September 21, 2009 Congressional Research Service (CRS) Report, as of June 2009, PMCs in Afghanistan numbered 73,968, and a later year end 2009 US Central Command figure is over 104,000 and rising. The expense is enormous and growing with CRS reporting that supporting each soldier costs $1 million annually, in large part because of rampant waste, fraud and abuse, unmonitored and unchecked.
With America heading for 100,000 troops on the ground and more likely coming, $100 billion will be spent annually supporting them, then more billions as new forces arrive, and the Iraq amount is even greater - much, or perhaps most, from supplemental funding for both theaters on top of America's largest ever military budget at a time the country has no enemies except for ones it makes by invading and occupying other countries and waging global proxy wars.
Efforts to do so have been fruitless despite the General Assembly trying in 1989 through the International Convention against the Recruitment, Use, Financing and Training of Mercenaries. It took over a decade to get the required 22 signatories, but neither
America or other major PMC users were included.
An earlier effort also failed when in 1987 a special UN rapporteur was established to examine "the use of mercenaries as a means of impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination." It was largely ignored, and a 2005 effort won't likely fare better under a working group for the same purpose. Nor will industry associations functioning more for show than a commitment to end bad practices that will always go on as long as rogue firms like Xe and others like it are employed.
Singer noted how PMCs have been involved in some of the most controversial aspects of war - from over-billing to ritual slaughter of unarmed civilians. Yet none of them have ever been prosecuted, convicted or imprisoned, an issue Singer cites in listing five "dilemmas:"
1. Contractual ones - hiring PMCs for their skills, to save money, or do jobs nations prefer to avoid. Yet unaccountability injects a "worrisome layer of uncertainty" into military operations, opening the door to unchecked abuses.
2. PMCs constitute an unregulated global business operating for profit, not peace and security when skilled killers are hired - former Green Berets, Delta Force soldiers, Navy Seals, and foreign ones like the British SAS.
3. Conducting public policy as serious as war through private means is worrisome, including covert operations to avoid official oversight and legislative constraints.
4. Moving private companies into the military sphere creates disturbing gray areas. PMCs can't be court martialed, and international law doesn't cover them. Further, operating in war zones makes them even less accountable as who can prove their actions weren't in self-defense, even against unarmed civilians.
5. Increasing PMC use also "raises some deep questions about the military itself." How do you retain the most talented combat troops when they can sell their skills for far greater pay? Also consider the uniqueness of the military.
"It is the only profession that has its own court system, its own laws; the only profession that has its own grocery stores and separate bases;" its own pensions and other benefits for those staying around long enough to qualify. So what happens when it's transformed into a business with profit the prime motive? Simple - more wars, greater profits. The same idea as privatizing prisons - more prisoners, fatter bottom line.
Another consideration is also worrisome. Given America's imperial ambitions, global dominance, permanent war agenda, and virtual disregard for the law, public distrust is growing for politicians who never earned it in the first place.
Given the Pentagon's transformation since 1991, the number of services it privatized, and America's permanent war agenda, what will conditions be in another decade or a few years? How much more prominent will PMCs be? How much more insecurity will result? How soon will it be before hordes of them are deployed throughout America as enforcers in civilian communities outside of conflict zones, with as much unaccountability here as abroad? What will the nation be like if it happens?
In his book, "Halliburton's Army: How a Well-Connected Texas Oil Company Revolutionized the Way America Makes War," Pratap Chatterjee describes a company tainted by bribes, kickbacks, inefficiency, corruption and fraud, exploitation of workers as near-slaves, and other serious offenses, yet operates with impunity and sticks taxpayers with many billions of dollars in charges.
Before spun off in 2007, KBR won the bulk of Iraq contracts as part of Halliburton, many of them no-bid. Earlier from 2002 to March 2003, it was involved with the Pentagon in planning the war and its role once it ended - the one co-founder George Brown claimed Lyndon Johnson described in the 1960s as a "joint venture (in which) I'm going to take care of politics and you're going to take care of the business side of it." Fast forward, and nothing's changed.
In a February 19, 2009 article, titled "Inheriting Halliburton's Army," Chatterjee writes how their employees are in "every nook and cranny of US bases in Iraq and Afghanistan," yet stateside operations yield additional billions in revenue. He describes their "shoddy electrical work, unchlorinated shower water, overcharges for trucks sitting idle in the desert, deaths of KRB (its former subsidiary) employees and affiliated soldiers in Iraq, alleged million-dollar bribes accepted by KBR managers, and billions of dollars in missing receipts, among the slew of other complaints" that got wide publicity since the beginning of the Iraq war.
He explains that since it got a 2001 contract to supply US forces in combat theaters, KBR grossed over $25 billion. It then got new contracts under Obama, leading Chatterjee to ask: "How did the US military become this dependent on one giant company?"
Tracing its history since the 1960s, he noted its connection to Lyndon Johnson, its profiteering from the Vietnam War, again under Ronald Reagan, then more under GHW Bush and Dick Cheney, his defense secretary who accelerated the Pentagon's privatization agenda, then headed the company as CEO. Bill Clinton continued it, hiring KBR in 1994 to build bases in Bosnia, later Kosovo, and run their daily operations.
Then under Bush/Cheney, outsourcing accelerated further, so today there's one KBR worker for every three US soldiers in Iraq. They build base infrastructure and maintain them by handling all their duties - feeding soldiers, doing their laundry, performing maintenance, and virtually all other non-combat functions.
Despite its abusive practices, KBR is such an integral part of the Pentagon that Chatterjee asks "could Obama dismiss (its) army, even if he wanted to?" Not at all so expect KRB's $150 billion 10-year LOGCAP contract (the Army's Logistics Augmentation Program - beginning September 20, 2008) to continue, and KBR's army to remain on the march reaping billions from the public treasury as the nation's largest PMC war profiteer.
PMCs Under Obama
In February 2007, Senator Obama introduced the Transparency and Accountability in Military Security Contracting Act as an amendment to the 2008 Defense Authorization Act, requiring federal agencies to report to Congress on the numbers of security contractors employed, killed, wounded, and disciplinary actions taken against them. Referred to the Senate Armed Services Committee, it never passed.
Then in February 2009 as president, Obama introduced reforms to reduce PMC spending and shift outsourced work back to government. He also promised to improve the quality of acquisition workers - government employees involved in supervising and auditing billions of dollars spent monthly on contracts. Even so, PMCs are fully integrated into national security and other government functions, as evidenced by the massive numbers in Iraq and Afghanistan alone.
Earlier, PMCs were at times used in lieu of US forces. As mentioned above, they helped General Washington win America's war of independence. Later the war of 1812, and in WW II the Flying Tigers fought the Japanese for China's Chiang Kai-Shek. In the 1960s and early 1970s, they were prominent nation builders in South Vietnam. From 1947 through 1976, the CIA's Southern Air Transport performed paramilitary services, including delivering weapons to the Contras in Nicaragua in the 1980s.
In 1985, the Army's LOGCAP was a precursor for more extensive civilian contractor use in wartime and for other purposes. It's involved in pre-planned logistics and engineering or construction contracts, including vehicle maintenance, warehousing, base building abroad, and a range of non-combat functions on them.
The Clinton administration's "Reinventing Government" initiative promised to downsize it by shifting functions to contractors as a way cut costs and improve efficiency. Later under George Bush, private companies got to compete for 450,000 government jobs, and in 2001, the Pentagon's contracted workforce exceeded civilian DOD employees for the first time.
In 2002, under Army Secretary Thomas White, the military planned to increase its long-term reliance on contracted workers, a plan known as the "Third Wave" after two earlier ones. Its purposes were to free up military manpower for the global war on terror, get non-core products and services from private sources so Army leaders could focus on their core competencies, and support Bush's Management Agenda.
In April 2003, the initiative stalled when White resigned, among other reasons for a lack of basic information required to effectively manage a growing PMC force, then estimated to be between 124,000 - 605,000 workers. Today, more precise figures are known and for what functions, but a lack of transparency and oversight makes it impossible for the public, Congress, the administration, or others in government to assess them with regard to cost, effectiveness, their services, whether government or business should perform them, and their effect on the nation for good or ill, with strong evidence of the latter.
The 2008 Montreux Document is an agreement obligating signatories with regard to their PMCs in war zones. Seventeen nations ratified it, including America, Britain, France, Germany, Switzerland, Canada and China, pledging to promote responsible PMC conduct in armed conflicts. Divided in two sections, its first one covers international laws binding on private contractors, explains states can't circumvent their obligations by using them, requires they take appropriate measures to prevent violations, address them responsibly when they do, and take effective steps to prevent future occurrences.
The second section lists 70 practices for helping countries fulfill their legal obligations, including not using PMCs for activities requiring force, implementing effective control, using surveillance and sanctions in case of breaches, and regulating and licensing contracted companies, that in turn, must train their personnel to observe the rules of law.
Given the obvious conflicts of interest, self-regulation won't work. Unchecked, combatant PMCs are accountable only to themselves, operating secretly outside the law - for the Pentagon as an imperial tool.
Given Obama's permanent war agenda and how entrenched PMCs have become, expect little constructive change, save for tinkering around the edges and regular rhetorical promises, followed by new fronts in the war on terror and even greater numbers civilians and soldiers for them.
Then add hundreds more billions diverted from vital homeland needs to enrich thousands of war profiteers, addicted to sure-fire blood money, and expecting plenty more ahead. They'll get it unless enough public outrage demands an end to this madness before it's too late to matter.
Some Final Comments
On January 13 (on antiwar.com), Jeremy Scahill reported that Representative Jan Schakowsky (D. IL and House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence member):
"is preparing to introduce legislation (Stop Outsourcing Security Act - SOS) aimed at ending the US government's relationship with Blackwater and other armed contracting companies."
Originally introduced in 2007 but not passed, Schakowsky says:
"The legislation would prohibit the use of private contractors for military, security, law enforcement, intelligence, and armed rescue functions unless the President tells Congress why the military is unable to perform those functions. It would also increase transparency over any remaining security contracts by increasing reporting requirements and giving Congress access to details about large contracts."
Meanwhile on January 12, 2010, a coalition of groups opposed to Blackwater called on Congress to investigate why criminal charges against the company were dismissed on grounds of prosecutorial misconduct. They also want to "pull the funding on war profiteers like Blackwater (and) stop them for good."
It's a tall order given how entrenched they are and expanding. In Haiti, for example, reports say Blackwater is there providing security, an indication perhaps of more contingents to follow, from them and other armed contractors, "authorized to commit violence in the name of their employers."
Stephen Lendman is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization. He lives in Chicago and can be reached at email@example.com.
Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to the Lendman News Hour on RepublicBroadcasting.org Monday - Friday at 10AM US Central time for cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on world and national issues. All programs are archived for easy listening.
Now, when the Federal government outsources our Defense contracts to these private global military contractors it is Federal funds supporting all that high salary-------and Dick Cheney loved this. As more and more US military were moved from public US troops to private global military employees------it appeared the troops were getting paid too much. Here we see an article that makes it appear that the US troops are getting far more than US civilians-----does this sound like the same argument against pubic sector unions still having a middle-class wealth vs the rest of Americans busted to poverty? YOU BETCHA!
The plan was to privatize, demoralize, defund and dismantle all FDR New Deal social programs built for our VETERANS-----and replace a US military with the global corporate tribunal mercenary troops-----today's veterans will be pushed out of all they were guaranteed to have when they signed on with the military IF WE KEEP ELECTING GLOBAL WALL STREET CLINTON/OBAMA NEO-LIBERALS OR BUSH/JOHNS HOPKINS NEO-CONS. Social Democrats like Bernie Sanders and Cindy Walsh for Mayor of Baltimore will protect those social contracts made to our VETS and make sure the health are and housing are there.
Are Servicemembers Over Compensated?
December 03, 2012 | Terry Howell
Growth in military pay has exceeded civilian wages over the last ten years, but does that mean they are overpaid?
According to the Congressional Budget Office, growth in military compensation has exceeded private-sector wages by more than 25 percent over the last ten years. In addition, a Dayton Daily News article posted on Military.com sites the following military pay and compensation costs:
- $149 billion is planned for military compensation this fiscal year (28 percent of a $526 defense budget).
- More than $90 billion would pay for 2013 basic pay, food (BAS) and housing allowances (BAH), bonuses, and special pays.
- $16 billion is set aside for future pension benefits for current servicemembers.
- Approximately $40 billion pays for health care for 1.4 million active-duty servicemembers.
In fact, the CBO suggests that the DoD could save money by reducing the rate of basic pay raises along with asking servicemembers and retirees to pay more for their Tricare benefits and to contribute to their retirement.
The article points out that “military advocates say many servicemembers have sacrificed with multiple deployments to war zones in Iraq and Afghanistan, spend lengthy time away from their families and are entitled to more compensation for the risks they face to protect the nation.”
Col. Steve Strobridge (USAF, Ret), the director of the government relations at the Military Officers Association of America, told the Dayton Daily News, “If anything, the hardships of military service are worse now.”Adding, “People tend to forget what it takes to serve a [military] career.”
But, it is not just a matter of fairness. Col. Strobridge went on to explain that military pay restrictions are “counterproductive,” pointing out that when military pay was restricted in the past, retention dropped significantly.
The question is, do the people asking if the military is over compensated really understand the long hours, operation tempo, hazardous duty, personal sacrifice and hardship many of our servicemembers and their families endure, especially in a time of war?
All of the military funding that should and could have gone into all of these Veteran's benefits and strong military health care with the VA-----was squandered on defense industry fraud------trillions of dollars were lost to DOD fraud from Clinton/Bush/Obama ------far more than needed to provide every VET with all they were guaranteed. If your Democrat is not shouting that bringing back the DOD fraud to fund all VET programs------and if, like Baltimore where all that is VET benefits have been dismantled-----you know that pol is a Clinton neo-liberal or a Bush/Johns Hopkins neo-conservative.
IT IS EASY PEASY TO FULLY FUND VETS------REINSTATE RULE OF LAW.
'Despite the high levels of corruption, waste, mismanagement, and fraud by military contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. government continues to shield them, resisting any attempts at greater oversight or accountability. War, after all, has become a huge money-making venture, and America, with its vast military empire, is one of its best customers'.
Privatizing the War on Terror: America’s Military Contractors
by John W. Whitehead, January 18, 2012
Print This | Share ThisOf all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes … known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few.… No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.
– James Madison
America’s troops may be returning home from Iraq, but contrary to President Obama’s assertion that “the tide of war is receding,” we’re far from done paying the costs of war. In fact, at the same time that Obama is reducing the number of troops in Iraq, he’s replacing them with military contractors at far greater expense to the taxpayer and redeploying American troops to other parts of the globe, including Africa, Australia, and Israel. In this way, the war on terror is privatized, the American economy is bled dry, and the military-security-industrial complex makes a killing — literally and figuratively speaking.
The war effort in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan has already cost taxpayers more than $2 trillion and could go as high as $4.4 trillion before it’s all over. At least $31 billion (and as much as $60 billion or more) of that $2 trillion was lost to waste and fraud by military contractors, who do everything from janitorial and food service work to construction, security, and intelligence — jobs that used to be handled by the military. That translates to a loss of $12 million a day since the U.S. first invaded Afghanistan. To put it another way, the government is spending more on war than all 50 states combined spend on health, education, welfare, and safety.
Over the past two decades, America has become increasingly dependent on military contractors in order to carry out military operations abroad (in fact, the government’s extensive use of private security contractors has surged under Obama). According to the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States can no longer conduct large or sustained military operations or respond to major disasters without heavy support from contractors. As a result, the U.S. employs at a minimum one contractor to support every soldier deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq (that number increases dramatically when U.S. troop numbers decrease). For those signing on for contractor work, many of whom are hired by private contracting firms after serving stints in the military, it is a lucrative, albeit dangerous, career path (private contractors are 2.75 times more likely to die than troops). Incredibly, while base pay for an American soldier hovers somewhere around $19,000 per year, contractors are reportedly pulling in between $150,000–$250,000 per year.
The exact number of military contractors on the U.S. payroll is hard to pin down, thanks to sleight-of-hand accounting by the Department of Defense and its contractors. However, according to a Wartime Contracting Commission report released in August 2011, there are more than 260,000 private contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan, more than the number of ground troops in both countries. As noted, that number increases dramatically when troops are withdrawn from an area, as we currently see happening in Iraq. Pratap Chatterjee of the Center for American Progress estimates that “if the Obama administration draws down to 68,000 troops in Afghanistan by September 2012, they will need 88,400 contractors at the very least, but potentially as many as 95,880.”
With paid contractors often outnumbering enlisted combat troops, the American war effort dubbed by George W. Bush as the “coalition of the willing” has since evolved into the “coalition of the billing.” The Pentagon’s Central Command counts 225,000 contractors working in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. Between December 2008 and December 2010, the total number of private security contractors in Afghanistan increased by 413% while troop levels increased 200%. Private contractors provide a number of services, including transport, construction, drone operation, and security. One military contractor, Blackbird, is composed of former CIA operatives who go on secret missions to recover missing and captured U.S. soldiers. Then there is the Lincoln Group, which became famous for engaging in covert psychological operations by planting stories in the Iraqi press that glorified the U.S. mission. Global Strategies Group guards the consulate in Basra for $401 million. SOC Inc. protects the U.S. embassy for $974 million.
Unfortunately, fraud, mismanagement, and corruption have become synonymous with the U.S. government’s use of military contractors. McClatchy News “found that U.S. government funding for at least 15 large-scale programs and projects [in Afghanistan] grew from just over $1 billion to nearly $3 billion despite the government’s questions about their effectiveness or cost.” One program started off as a modest wheat program and “ballooned into one of America’s biggest counterinsurgency projects in southern Afghanistan despite misgivings about its impact.” Another multi-billion-dollar program resulted in the construction of schools, clinics and other public buildings that were so poorly built that they might not withstand a serious earthquake and will have to be rebuilt. Then there was the $300 million diesel power plant that was built despite the fact that it wouldn’t be used regularly “because its fuel cost more than the Afghan government could afford to run it regularly.” RWA, a group of three Afghan contractors, was selected to build a 17.5-mile paved road in Ghazni province. It was paid $4 million between 2008 and 2010 before the contract was terminated with only 2/3 of a mile of road paved.
Mind you, with the U.S. spending more than $2 billion a week in Afghanistan, these examples of ineptitude and waste represent only a fraction of what is being funded by American taxpayer dollars. (Investigative reports reveal that large amounts of cash derived from U.S. aid and logistics spending are being flown out of the country on a regular basis by Afghan officials, including $52 million by the Afghan vice president, who was allowed to keep the money.) Yet what most Americans fail to realize is that we’re funding the very individuals we claim to be fighting. The war effort has become so corrupt that U.S. taxpayers are not only being bilked by military contractors but are also being forced to indirectly fund insurgents and warlords in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the Taliban, which receives money from military contractors in exchange for protection. This is rationalized away as a “cost of doing business” in those countries. As the Financial Times reports, the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan “found that extortion of funds from U.S. construction and transportation projects was the second-biggest funding source for insurgent groups.”
Despite what one might think, the boom in contracting work in the war zones isn’t necessarily aiding U.S. employment, given that large numbers of contractors are actually foreign nationals. For example, over 90% of the private security contractors in Afghanistan are Afghans. One contractor, Triple Canopy, most of whose guards are from Uganda and Peru, has a $1.53 billion contract with the State Department to protect its employees. ArmorGroup North America (AGNA), which is contracted to secure the U.S. embassy in Kabul, hires many Nepalese (known as Gurkhas) whose English is not proficient. “One guard described the situation as so dire that if he were to say to many of the Gurkhas, ‘There is a terrorist standing behind you,’ those Gurkhas would answer, ‘Thank you, sir, and good morning.’”
The practices employed by the military contractors also reflect poorly on America’s commitment to human rights — both in the way that they treat their employees and in their employees’ behavior. For example, Triple Canopy houses its employees in overcrowded shipping containers. In addition to soliciting underage Chinese prostitutes, AGNA contractors have also been described as “peeing on people, eating potato chips out of [buttock] cracks, vodka shots out of [buttock] cracks (there is video of that one), broken doors after drnken [sic] brawls, threats and intimidation from those leaders participating in this activity….” This behavior is not reserved to lower-level employees, and it has been observed and even encouraged by upper-level management. Blackwater employees have also been accused of weapons smuggling as well as cocaine and steroid use. Despite all this, Blackwater — which, as the New York Times reported, “created a web of more than 30 shell companies or subsidiaries in part to obtain millions of dollars in American government contracts after the security company came under intense criticism for reckless conduct in Iraq” — still won a cut of a $10 billion contract given out by the State Department in 2010.
Despite the high levels of corruption, waste, mismanagement, and fraud by military contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. government continues to shield them, resisting any attempts at greater oversight or accountability. War, after all, has become a huge money-making venture, and America, with its vast military empire, is one of its best customers. Indeed, the American military-industrial complex has erected an empire unsurpassed in history in its breadth and scope and dedicated to conducting perpetual warfare throughout the earth.
What most Americans fail to recognize is that these ongoing wars have little to do with keeping the country safe and everything to do with enriching the military-industrial complex at taxpayer expense. It’s the military-industrial complex (the illicit merger of the armaments industry and the government) that President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned us against more than 50 years ago and which has come to represent perhaps the greatest threat to the nation’s fragile infrastructure today.
Unfortunately, Americans have been inculcated with a false, misplaced sense of patriotism about the military that equates devotion to one’s country with supporting the war machine, so that any mention of cutting back on the massive defense budget is immediately met with outrage. Yet the military-industrial complex is engaged in a deadly game, one that all presidents, including Obama, foster. And the consequences, as Eisenhower recognized, are grave:
Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children…. This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.