December Disaster: Stories We Missed!

Pentagon Finds Way to Cut 23% of Bloated Budget; Buries Report

Right-wing rag Washington Post had an utterly demoralizing article out on December 5. Dark slant is direct quote and underlining or coloring is our emphasis.

Recently the National Defense Authorization Act of 2017 was passed to further the national debt (by veto-proof, Republican-based majorities in both House and Senate) and signed by Obama on December 23:

In Defense of Defense

Obama had requested $619.5 billion for the fiscal year 2017 defense budget. NDAA, from our prior reporting, provided $619 billion.

*

Annual budget for the Defense Department 2016 was $534.3 billion. 16% increase…winning!!! What $20 trillion national debt???

*

The Pentagon is “under fire” (not literally because it is a building of desk workers, yet somehow requires hundreds of billions of your dollars confiscated to help the actual military do their jobs) for a report, issued in January 2015, [which] identified “a clear path” for the Defense Department to save $125 billion over five years.

The Defense Business Board, a “federal advisory panel,” conducted the study to attempt to reign in bureaucracy at the Pentagon, the largest office building in the world. Some interesting findings came out of the report, many of which threatened the cancer of big government (and a military more pricey than our seven nearest peers…combined).

A $2.9 million consulting contract signed by the Pentagon stipulated that none of the data or analysis could be released to the news media or the public.

So the Federal Government hid the results until WaPo reportedly got its hands on some confidential memos.

The plan [to cut $125 billion] would not have required layoffs of civil servants or reductions in military personnel. Instead, it would have streamlined the bureaucracy through attrition and early retirements, curtailed high-priced contractors and made better use of information technology.

The DBB report reportedly showed the public over 1,000,000 “desk jobs” (non-combat) that fuel our bloated military.

These jobs are divided by the Post’s figure obtained from DBB.

Another important figure by WaPo shows we have nearly as many paper-pushers as actual troops on active duty:

The DBB investigation was ordered by Deputy Defense Secretary Robert O. Work (yes that is his actual name), the number two man at Pentagon.

Above: Work doing “work” for the Federal Government.

At first, Work publicly touted the efficiency drive as a top priority and boasted about his idea to recruit corporate experts to lead the way.

After the board finished its analysis, however, Work changed his position. In an interview with The Post, he did not dispute the board’s findings about the size or scope of the bureaucracy. But he dismissed the $125 billion savings proposal as “unrealistic“…

*

“We will never be as efficient as a commercial organization,” Work said. “We’re the largest bureaucracy in the world. There’s going to be some inherent inefficiencies in that.”

*

Some Findings:

For property management alone, Pentagon has 192,000 jobs and annual expenses of $22.6 billion.

92,000 people work in “human resources” at Pentagon.

Almost half of the Pentagon’s back-office personnel — 457,000 full-time employees — were assigned to logistics or supply-chain jobs. That alone exceeded the size of United Parcel Service’s global workforce.

 *

Contractors Cost!

Besides the bloated [six hundred] billions in budget, the military also employs contractors through its branches with additional tax money. Post:

Army has 199,661 full-time contractors, with average cost of $189,188, including salary, benefits and other expenses.

Navy: 197,093 contractors, average cost of $170,865.

Air Force had 122,470  at $186,142 each.

*

For the Pentagon/”Fourth Estate”: the average administrative job at the Pentagon [is] costing taxpayers more than $200,000, including salary and benefits.

*

Census Bureau estimated real American median household income was $54,462 in 2015. (Household in the very middle of earners brought home about 25% what an average Pentagon “worker” makes.)

*

Pentagon Circles Wagons

The Pentagon imposed secrecy restrictions on the data making up the study, which ensured no one could replicate the findings. A 77-page summary report that had been made public was removed from a Pentagon website.

They’re all complaining that they don’t have any money. We proposed a way to save a ton of money,” said Robert “Bobby” L. Stein, a private-equity investor from Jacksonville, Fla., who served as chairman of the Defense Business Board.

Mr. Stein (above) was reportedly a campaign “bundler” for Obama.

He called the study results “indisputable” and Pentagon’s suppression of the report “a travesty.”

We’re going to be in peril because we’re spending dollars like it doesn’t matter [sic].”

*

As a reminder, this was mostly going down after former Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel resigned after semi-public bickering with the Obama administration. Ash Carter was taking over, and scheduled to work with the aforementioned DBB. However:

Briefings that had been scheduled for military leaders in the Tank — the secure conference room for the Joint Chiefs of Staff — were canceled. Worse, the board was unable to secure an audience with Carter, the new defense secretary.

Stein, the board chairman, accused Carter of deliberately derailing the plan through inaction. “Unfortunately, Ash — for reasons of his own — stopped this,” he said in an interview.

*

Whistleblower alert??

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus (above) apparently burned some bridges last year by daring to suggest a nation $20,000,000,000,000 in the hole cut costs.

On June 2, 2015, Mabus delivered a speech at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank. He complained that 20 percent of the defense budget went to the Fourth Estate — the defense agencies that provide support to the armed forces — and called it “pure overhead.”

Pentagon chief weapons buyer Frank Kendall III was not pleased.

According to the Post, he emailed Mabus the day after the speech:

“Ray, before you publicly trash one of the agencies that reports through me I’d really appreciate a chance to discuss it with you.”

Mabus responded:

“I did not say anything yesterday that I have not said both publicly . . . and privately inside this building. There have been numerous studies, which I am sure you are aware of, pointing out excessive overhead.”

Mr. Work at that point jumped into the convo.

“Ray, please refrain from taking any more public pot shots,” Work said in an email. “I do not want this spilling over into further public discourse.”

*

Frank Kendall DOD photo.JPG

“If the impression that’s created is that we’ve got a bunch of money lying around and we’re being lazy and we’re not doing anything to save money, then it’s harder to justify getting budgets that we need.”

Frank Kendall (above)

*

Mr. Kendall was livid at the findings of the DBB, and reportedly challenged the numbers.

“If you don’t believe me, call in an auditor. They’ll tell you it’s even worse than this,” Kenneth Klepper, “restructuring expert” for the board, responded.

Kenny Klepper

Mr. Klepper, according to his linkedin image, is a Dallas Cowboys fan.

*

Post interviewed Kendall:

Kendall acknowledged he was “very disappointed” by the board’s work, which he criticized as “shallow” and “very low on content.” He said the study had ignored efforts by his agencies to become more efficient, and he accused the board of plucking the $125 billion figure out of thin air.

“It was essentially a ballpark, made-up number,” he said.

*

New Defense Secretary Carter was not waiting around for the report to do more damage. He replaced Stein with fellow panel member Michael Bayer. Post reported Bayer refused comment.

Klepper then resigned from the board. Per his linkedin, he worked for DoD

*

[Mr. Work] said the Pentagon is adopting some of the study’s recommendations on a smaller scale and estimated it will save $30 billion by 2020. Many of the programs he cited, however, have been on the drawing board for years or were unrelated to the Defense Business Board’s research.

*

INTERESTINGLY, The Hill reports that Russia was pissed and reacted to the NDAA signing with the following response:

“Overall, it appears that [NDAA] has been adopted by the outgoing Obama administration, which is hastily introducing new sanctions against Russia, to create problems for the incoming Trump administration and complicate its relations on the international stage, as well as to force it to adopt an anti-Russia policy.

“This policy has brought the current US administration, which believed that Russia would bow to pressure, into a dead end. We hope the new administration will be more sagacious.”

–Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova

As in other recent years, the bill prohibits military cooperation between the United States and Russia until Russia has “ceased its occupation of Ukrainian territory and its aggressive activities that threaten the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine and members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.”

The bill will reportedly also supply weapons to “vetted” Syrian rebels, as the United States continues our responsibility of solving the Syrian refugee crisis by borrowing money to give people guns.

Zakharova said supplying such weapons to Syrian rebels “directly threatens” Russian air forces, which are operating in Syria in support of President Bashar Assad.

*

Somewhat related: Also per WaPo, Obama gave Federal “workers” a significant raise just before the holidays (and the end of his presidency). Bill the taxpayers.

While he submitted for a 1.6% pay increase in August, the December measure bumped that to a 2.1% pay increase.

The increase against another record annual deficit (projected over $550,000,000,000) was sold to the (ostensibly fiscally conservative) GOP-controlled House and Senate during Obama’s otherwise lame-duck regulation spree period as a pay increase for the military (whose salaries have been frozen by the across-the-board cuts Obama gambled with in the 2013 debt ceiling showdown), while also incidentally raising wages for the rest of the Federal Government’s near-3,000,000 non-military, paycheck- and benefit-collectors:

“[I]n light of the decision of Congress to provide a 2.1 percent pay increase for military personnel in 2017 and reconsideration of current and projected economic conditions, I have concluded it would be appropriate to revise my original alternative plan for locality payments so that the total combined cost of the 1.0 percent across-the-board base pay increase and varying locality payments will be 2.1 percent of basic payroll.” —Obama

According to National Treasury Employees Union President Tony Reardon, who represents 150,000 employees of 30 government agencies, NTEU encouraged the pay bump for civilian employees when they heard the military were getting raises. America was founded to strive for equality of outcome.

*

Also reportedly nestled in Obama’s final behemoth, utterly un-affordable big government grab bag is the Countering Disinformation and Propaganda Act, which establishes Global Engagement Center under the State Department.

Common Dreams reported that the new program (with a leader appointed by incoming president Trump) will coordinate to “recognize, understand, expose, and counter foreign state and non-state propaganda and disinformation efforts aimed at undermining United Sates national security interests.”

Non-government actors will receive grants (again, no national debt to worry about) to “collect and store examples in print, online, and social media, disinformation, misinformation, and propaganda […] [and] counter efforts by foreign entities to use disinformation, misinformation, and propaganda to influence the policies and social and political stability” of America and its allies.

Perhaps the “fake news epidemic” is indeed the next frontier for Federal Government to confiscate more of our money to save us from ourselves. The Hill reported that polls this year showed19 percent of U.S. adults approved of the media in a recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll. And only 32 percent trust the press, according to a Gallup survey from September. 

Thanks to our sources:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/investigations/pentagon-buries-evidence-of-125-billion-in-bureaucratic-waste/2016/12/05/e0668c76-9af6-11e6-a0ed-ab0774c1eaa5_story.html?utm_term=.4f7a72f6db7e

http://defense360.csis.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/Analysis-of-the-FY-2017-Budget-final-with-cover.pdf

http://thehill.com/policy/defense/311868-russia-us-defense-bill-creates-problems-for-trump

https://www.linkedin.com/in/kenny-klepper-3496566

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/powerpost/wp/2016/12/09/obama-authorizes-larger-raise-for-federal-employees/?utm_term=.42f3f0dac495

http://federal-budget.insidegov.com/l/119/2016-Estimate

http://www.commondreams.org/news/2016/12/26/under-cover-christmas-obama-establishes-controversial-anti-propaganda-agency

http://thehill.com/homenews/media/304829-unpopular-media-sees-ratings-spike