The Nossiter Net
The net that shall enmesh them all
Edited, Written, and Published by Josh Nossiter
Big Time Spender
Friday, December 29th, 2006
The Nossiter Net is cast  to snare some of  the riper rascalities of the day.  Comments?
The 2006 holiday shopping season was a disappointment for retailers, who saw sales rise only 3% compared to last year’s 5% gain.  In the Bush wage stagnation era, expectations were low anyway.  But one big spender is undeterred.  Mr. Bush himself is going shopping for a bigger army.  His defense budget is already over half a trillion dollars a year, but for the Connecticut cowboy, too much military spending is never enough.  A man needs more than six shooters and snakeskin boots to stand truly tall, and nothing fills the manly breast with more pride than a few tens of thousands of new soldiers.

According to the Department of the Army each addition of 10,000 troops will cost an extra 1.2 billion a year.  By any measure, extra spending in increments of over a billion pretty soon starts to add up to real money.  But in the fantasy world of the Bush administration, that’s mere loose change.  The president is getting a holiday bargain.

Consider the Coast Guard, which was given a mandate to build itself a new fleet.  The $17 billion dollar Deepwater project quickly swelled to $24 billion under the management of the two principal contractors, Lockheed and Northrop.  In keeping with the Bush administration’s MBA style of governance, in which management is handed off to private sector consultants at every turn, the contractors themselves ran their own program.  Instead of naval engineers directing and supervising the work, Lockheed and Northrop called their own shots.  The result:  overpriced new ships that don’t float, renovations for old ships that effectively torpedoed them, billions wasted, and calls to deep-six the Deepwater program.  According to the Washington Post and the New York Times, neither Lockheed nor Northrop cared to comment.

The Coast Guard is now part of the Department of Homeland Security, which is preparing to spend $7 billion to strengthen the nation’s borders.  Don’t expect DHS to learn from the Deepwater fiasco.  Boeing is the main contractor for the border upgrade; it’s also managing the project.

But DHS is a piker when it comes to flushing taxpayer dollars down the toilet.  Back in 2003, when the Pentagon budget was a mere $400 billion, the DOD’s Inspector General reported that the Pentagon couldn’t account for a cool trillion dollars in spending.  Since the department’s budget has increased by more than a quarter since then, and we all know what a fine manager former Defense Secretary Rumsfeld proved to be, it’s no stretch to imagine those substantially unaccounted for funds rising into the $1.25 trillion range.

If we’d spent the Coast Guard’s $24 billion on new troops, we’d have 200,000 more men and women in uniform.  Even the DHS’ $7 billion in border improvements could have translated into 58,000 more pairs of boots on the ground.  As for the Pentagon’s wasted one and a quarter trillion, that would have paid for nearly ten and a half million new troops.

What an opportunity missed.  Unemployment wouldn’t exist.  All of its associated ills, homelessness, substance abuse, crime, would instantly vanish.  And what terrorist would dare take on a nation with an army that big?  No wonder Mr. Bush is looking a little gray and shrunken lately.  With ten million soldiers at his back, even a Connecticut cowboy could have stood mighty tall indeed.

©Joshua C. Nossiter, 2006
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