Reflections on the Military/Industrial Complex

How Big is Huge?

  • Print

A little different subject for this article - still economics - but one that will probably have sufficient material in it to irritate almost everyone. In the interest of full disclosure, I am a Navy veteran, served in destroyers of the Atlantic Fleet as an Electronic and Fire Control Technician working out of Norfolk, VA., to the Med, N. Europe, Caribbean and the Middle East during the middle 1950's. Further, I have a son-in-law who is a retired Navy Chief Fire Controlman who worked 20 years on various Fast Attack submarines in the Pacific, Atlantic and Polar waters. Two Grandsons are Marines. I have earned the right to my opinions whether anyone agrees with them or not.

Dwight Eisenhower, one of this countries most talented and brilliant military and political leaders (better military than political but he did his best), long ago warned us of the dangers of the Military/Industrial Complex - meaning the unholy marriage of government, the military and the vast and numerous industries that supplies the military with everything from toys to tools to stealth bombers and ballistic missiles. On January 17, 1961, in his parting speech to the American people, President Eisenhower specifically warned of the dangers and "grave implications" of the alliance between government and the military/industrial complex (he coined the phrase). He knew exactly what he was talking about.

Source: DOD used with credits

The soldier above is our modern, equipped and armed ground pounder - a Marine or Army soldier with full pack and weapon, ready to hike out from a base camp to patrol or fight, whatever his assignment. He or she has to be in really good physical condition as that pack weighs in at half his or her weight not counting weapons.

taliban fighter

Source: DOD used with credits

This photo is his current enemy carrying his weapon of choice (or assignment), an RPG or rocket propelled grenade. Please compare the two.

Our solder's pack is over 100 pounds of high tech goodies, from dry socks to sanitary napkins ( if it's a "she"), oh Hell, read the list for yourself:

Source: DOD used with credits

On the other hand, our Taliban fighter carries his weapon (4 to 6 pounds plus an extra pound or two if he's carrying spare rocket heads) and nothing else. His supplies follow along on a donkey, he can sleep on the ground, survive on a gallon or two of water a day, wear the same clothes for a week or two (or three), never shave, eat dried or boiled strips of sheep or whatever can be commandeered from the civilian population along the way, fight from ambush rather than patrol and is generally far better suited for his war than we are. Give him 30 seconds to hide his weapon and you can't tell him from the opium farmer he's standing next to.

The IED's that he can bury are also carried on donkeys (or a dilapidated pickup truck) after dark to try and avoid our million dollar drones and can be made out of old Russian artillery shells and bombs left over from Russian occupation and abandoned when the Russians gave up (or furnished fresh from Pakistani intelligence services).

Ah, but never fear, the military/industrial complex to the rescue.

exo skeleton

Source: DOD used with credits

This warrior, provided he fights in an air conditioned clean room, can carry 300 pounds up hill and down, all day, and never break a sweat. He will cost about what a Predator drone will cost (well over a million$) and have a five mile supply column behind him just to keep him fed, lubricated, batteries charged and in working order.

Source: DOD used with credits

Or then, we have little robo-soldier here, of which there are (believe it or not) thousands already in service in Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan and other places. More on the way folks, every one to be operated and maintained by a fleet of civilian tech-reps huddled behind razor wire at some triple protected base far from any fighting. If you didn't know it by now, the Predator drones that are so sadly indiscriminate in who they blow up are piloted from air conditioned rooms at bases in the United States, never mind the slight satellite communications delay.

Boom! now or in a few seconds.

These little robo-troopers will set off IEDs (bless their little tracked souls), inspect the undersides of vehicles and generally tie up traffic while they zip and zoom around trying to find bombs and ambushes in the field. I suspect the Depot Overhaul cycle on these will be 5 days or so considering the environment they operate in.

At this time, the Military (all branches) costs the taxpayer (i.e. your children and grandchildren) over $850 billion a year in direct costs, not including war fighting funding, contingent funding and support. Several times a years, between bloated and porky budgets, Congress passes (very quietly) supplemental funding bills of $50 billion or $60 billion to pay for support of our troops and fighting the two wars we are fighting and the dozens of other overseas "secret" operations you never hear about, unless you go look at Wikileaks (which, I admit, I haven't visited yet - but I will one of these days!)

If this doesn't shock you, nothing will. The total amount of money spent this last year on all military and war fighting spending (including supplementary and other "hidden" costs that are not publicized) totaled about $1,400 BILLION dollars. This includes R&D, war funding, production, maintenance of dozens of military bases and equipment, aircraft, ships, personnel and tech reps both in the USA and abroad and everything else that is spent on or about the military. $1.4 Trillion dollars. Almost half of it is not advertised because it is hidden in contracts to the industrial part of the complex and hence not visible as a "purely" operational military expenditure.

Now tell me that doesn't have an impact on U.S. government spending and debt. This huge amount of money is also called "discretionary" spending - not stuff like Social Security, Medicare or other legally mandated spending. And it grows every year. By multiple percentage points.

To keep from boring you to death, I include here a link to the list of all the current military contractors sucking money from the federal government (i.e you) to protect us from almost everything except common sense. The current leadership of our country, sadly, has little of that and if they did, would probably try and protect us from common sense as well so we wouldn't complain. I'm sure a lot of them try to do right, but there are too many oxen to be gored by cutting anything.

(link to contractor list)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_United_States_defense_contractors

This list will give you a feel for how the $billions of dollars (what's left of the poor depleted things) are spread around. I would love to have the time or ability to run a search of these contractors versus the congressional districts they are in to see a graphic representation of which Congressmen have the biggest connections to our military/industrial complex. I bet it's spread around in as many congressional districts as possible (regardless of efficiency or effectiveness) so most congressmen can point to this Army base or that Air Force base and say, "That's my baby!".

The point I want to make:

Source: DOD used with credits

In my very humble opinion, we don't need a brand new heat ray machine (of which this is a picture) to fight the kind of wars we are now fighting or likely to fight in the foreseeable future. I can't think of a war where we need a whiz-bang heat ray weapon at all, unless we line them up side by side in Southern Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California and scan Northern Mexico with them. But you bet your bippy (old enough to remember "Laugh In"?) it cost multi-millions to develop this RF spewing monster (kind of like a broadcast microwave oven) and one Taliban troop, wrapped in a blanket with a rifle, an RPG or an IED can kill it. Shoot a hole in the waveguide and it either shuts itself down or burns itself up. Plus all you need to defend against it is a metallic covered mylar sheet (hopefully camouflaged). Have I seen the specs on this? Nope, I'm just an old scientist and engineer who knows physics and can recognize broadcast microwave powered equipment when I see it. I bet it's effective range is limited to a medium rifle shot too.

There are thousands of these whiz-bang projects being worked on by hundreds of military contractors and most of them will never see the light of day. After billions are spent, a lot of them are not feasible, don't work, won't work as designed or are pure pork never really meant to work but to put profits on the bottom line of the industries that play patty-cake with the military and contribute millions via lobbyists to congress. It makes me want to throw up.

And - never forget that the military needs wars. That's the way it trains people to fight. No wars, lousy war fighting ability. That's one reason we fought in Korea, Vietnam, Grenada, Panama, Iraq and now Afghanistan. (WWII was a different kind of fight). I know, you just think the stupid government just didn't learn anything in Korea or Vietnam? Wrong. The government and the military needs to fight something, somewhere in order to test new equipment, tactical methods, soldier training and such with real shoot-em-up weapons to keep an edge on the rest of the world in war fighting ability. Not to mention they need bad guys and enemies to keep the U.S.population in line, worried, agitated and "patriotic".

The military and federal government will never admit it but that's the case and you better believe it. Having several hundreds of thousands of service men and women parked on submarines (75 now commissioned and active and more in production), aircraft carriers (11 operational aircraft carriers now active, one under construction and two more planned), air bases, army bases, marine assault ships and land bases won't teach a single one of them how to fight in a real fire fight. To do that, you train them all the best you can, simulate what they will see and do to the best of your ability and then put them in a situation where they shoot at people and are shot at ( and sometimes die) to learn how to really fight. Then the ones that survive get promoted and teach the next bunch of volunteers.

For those of you who would like to get some real heartburn, please check the following link to the Procurement News for the defense department. If there isn't 150 things or more that make you wonder if our government and defense department haven't lost their minds, you aren't reading the newsletter closely enough.

http://www.defenseprocurementnews.com/

Remember, what ever human beings invent and develop, they use, sooner or later. Some of these things have been deemed to nasty to use these days (such as atomic weapons, gas and bio-weapons). WWI saw the use of chemical weapons before they were "outlawed". WWII saw atomic weapons used and the world drew back from that brink (temporarily). Believe me, the department of defense has buckets full of nasty ways to destroy and slaughter that they haven't told anyone about - and they will be used sooner or later depending on the threat situation that is perceived to exist against this country or perceived to threaten the government.

Do we need a defense budget that exceeds the rest of the world's defense spending in total? I don't think so. We need to fight smarter, smaller and fiercer and adjust our armed forces to the world we live in today rather than keep fighting just to enrich the military/industrial complex of corporations and empires for the civilian defense and military elite. We do need to generate a cadre of soldiers, sailers, marines and airmen who know how to fight, but there are smarter, smaller, simpler ways to go about that if we don't let it get out of hand. We also need to secure our borders (!) and mind our own business (!) but that's another reflections article entirely.

I do not pretend to know how to reduce the current defense budget (much less any other part of the Federal Money Machine) because I'm not that kind of engineer. But a bloated military, bloated federal government, bloated health and social services sectors are going to have to be restructured and shrink or they will all be used to dominate and control our freedoms (more than they do now) one way or the other.

Likely internal unrest, riots and blood in the streets will be required before any significant changes are made. Too bad but it's happened before and it will happen again as the stupidity and cupidity of the oncoming generations push us ever closer to the total nanny state and all it implies.

Semper Fi guys. Remember your oath. Domestic and foreign.

Duty, honor and country. Look at the sequence closely.

End

CLICK HERE to subscribe to the free weekly Best of Financial Sense Newsletter .

About Mike Endres

Quantcast