“The Biden administration released its proposed $715-billion defense budget this morning. First up on today’s show, William Hartung, director of the arms and security program at the Center for International Policy, puts the budget in context and discusses the wastefulness of military spending.
Then, Allyson Siwik from the Gila Conservation Coalition talks about their successful campaign to oppose F-16 fighter jet expansion in New Mexico, and Madison activists Vicki Berenson and Lance Green from Safe Skies Clean Water Wisconsin give updates on local efforts to halt the bedding of F-35 fighter jets at Truax Field.”
“The authoritative publication Defense News reported late last month that key members of Congress are objecting to proposals to increase funding for Lockheed Martin’s F-35 joint strike fighters in the upcoming fiscal 2022 budget. They say they will not support any increase until the Pentagon and the manufacturer address what Defense News refers to as “a laundry list of problems” with the planes.
Officials in Wisconsin should be paying close attention to the growing debate over the F-35 boondoggle, as the U.S. Air Force plans to station a squadron of F-35 fighter jets at Truax Field in Madison.
There is a lot of opposition to that move in Madison, especially from residents of the Eken Park neighborhood, which is located not far from Truax. But people who don’t live anywhere near that east-side neighborhood over which the planes would fly should also be concerned about the prospect of basing these messed-up planes in Madison.
Noting the many problems with the planes, U.S. Rep. John Garamendi, the California Democrat who leads the defense readiness subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee, said in April, “The program is over budget. It fails to deliver on promised capabilities. And its mission capability rates do not even begin to meet the service thresholds.”
Garamendi complained that Lockheed Martin’s “solution” to troubles with with the planes “is simply to ask the taxpayers to throw money at the problem.”
“That will not happen,” said the powerful congressman. “The easy days of the past are over.”
House Armed Services Committee chair Donald Norcross, D-New Jersey, was equally blunt. “If this program continues to fail to significantly control and reduce actual and projected sustainment costs, we may need to invest in other, more affordable programs and backfill an operational shortfall of potentially over 800 tactical fighters,” he said. “Given the overall affordability concerns that exist within the program, I would not support any requests for additional aircraft beyond what is contained in this year’s president’s budget request.”
State and local officials need to be thinking a lot harder about the question of whether aligning Madison’s future with the F-35 program is a wise course. To our view, the evidence suggests that it is not.”
“On the eve of his visit this week to Asia, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin outlined his key concern. “China is our pacing threat,” he said. He explained that for the past 20 years, the United States had been focused on the Middle East while China had been modernizing its military. “We still maintain the edge,” he noted, “and we’re going to increase the edge going forward.” Welcome to the new age of bloated Pentagon budgets, all to be justified by the great Chinese threat.
What Austin calls America’s “edge” over China is more like a chasm. The United States has about 20 times the number of nuclear warheads as China. It has twice the tonnage of warships at sea, including 11 nuclear-powered aircraft carriers compared with China’s two carriers (which are much less advanced). Washington has more than 2,000 modern fighter jets compared with Beijing’s roughly 600, according to national security analyst Sebastien Roblin. And the United States deploys this power using a vast network of some 800 overseas bases. China has three. China spends around $250 billion on its military, a third as much as the United States. Michael O’Hanlon of the Brookings Institution notes that, “if China were in NATO, we would berate it for inadequate burden-sharing, since its military outlays fall well below NATO’s 2 percent minimum.”
And yet the United States never imagines that this kind of spending could ever be seen by other countries as threatening. In requesting even more money for his region, the head of the Indo-Pacific Command, Adm. Philip S. Davidson, remarked on China’s increases in defense spending: “I cannot for the life of me understand some of the capabilities that they’re putting in the field unless it is an aggressive posture.” But the fact that Washington is spending more on the military than it did at the height of the Vietnam War (even accounting for inflation) should threaten no one?
In any case, the size of military spending is a misleading indicator of strength. Far more important are the objectives sought and the political-military strategy used to achieve those objectives. The United States has probably outspent the Taliban 10,000 to 1 in Afghanistan. And yet Washington has been unable to achieve its objective there — ensuring that the Kabul government rules the country uncontested. If the United States defines its goals carefully and assembles an intelligent and consistent political and military strategy to achieve them, it can succeed. Without that, millions of troops and trillions of dollars will not guarantee victory. Bigness is not a substitute for brains.
Consider two contrasting exercises of power. The United States’ F-35 fighter jet program, bedeviled by cost overruns and technical problems, will ultimately cost taxpayers $1.7 trillion. China will spend a comparable amount of money on its Belt and Road Initiative, an ambitious set of loans, aid and financing for infrastructure throughout the world, aimed at creating greater interdependence with dozens of countries that are important to Beijing. Which is money better spent?
The Pentagon operates in a realm apart from any other government agency. It spends money on a scale that is almost unimaginable — and the waste is, too. Every government agency is required to audit its accounts, but for decades, the Pentagon simply flouted this law. In 2018, it finally obeyed, paying $400 million for 1,200 auditors to examine its books, yet it still could not get a clean bill of health. As writer Matt Taibbi noted in a brilliant 2019 exposé of Pentagon accounting, the auditors “were unable to pass the Pentagon or flunk it. They could only offer no opinion, explaining the military’s empire of hundreds of acronymic accounting silos was too illogical to penetrate.” The Defense Department has failed to pass two more audits since then.
Having spent two decades fighting wars in the Middle East without much success, the Pentagon will now revert to its favorite kind of conflict, a cold war with a nuclear power. It can raise endless amounts of money to “outpace” China, even if nuclear deterrence makes it unlikely there will be an actual fighting war in Asia. Of course, there might be budget wars in Washington — but those are the battles that the Pentagon knows how to win! “
Fareed Zakaria writes a foreign affairs column for The Post. He is also the host of CNN’s Fareed Zakaria GPS and a contributing editor for the Atlantic.Follow
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“For over five years, Yemenis have endured a civil war which has already killed nearly a quarter-million people. Roughly half of those who perished died from war-induced malnutrition, disease and lack of basic services.
Intervening on one side, a Saudi-led and U.S.-supported coalition has used overwhelming military force — including laser-guided bombs and other high-tech weapons supported by our tax dollars — to systematically devastate huge areas of Yemen that their rivals control.
The U.S. has supplied combat ships that are vital to the naval and air blockade presently denying millions of people in Yemen essential food and medicine (90% of Yemen’s food supply is imported).
The U.S. has also directly carried out bombing raids against those it labels “terrorists.” Recently, Congress failed to stop the Trump administration from selling F-35s like those the Air Force wants to station at Truax to the United Arab Emirates, one of the countries bombing Yemen.
As was predicted, famine is now widespread. Two-thirds of Yemenis are hungry and many tens of thousands, especially children, are truly bloated-belly-and-stick-limbs starving. Moderate to severe malnutrition afflicts a quarter of the population, including more than 2 million children.
And now COVID-19 has joined cholera and diphtheria in exponentially compounding their misery.
Bad Yemen policy predates the outgoing administration, but things got worse under Trump. Along with Saudi Arabia and the UAE, the U.S. slashed contributions to international relief agencies trying to mitigate the carnage in Yemen.
Just as they applied “maximum pressure” to the recalcitrant Palestinians by eliminating U.S. funds to UNRWA, the UN agency critical to their survival, the Trump administration did not hesitate to further destroy the lives of the poor, weak, sick and elderly people of Yemen in pursuit of its foreign policy agenda.
Now the Trump administration has made good on its long-standing threat to label Ansar Allah, an Iran-supported Houthi militia in the coalition opposing our dear friends the Saudis, as a Foreign Terrorist Organization. This is designed to tighten the already suffocating blockade of Yemen.
In November, major international humanitarian organizations begged U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo not to make this designation, warning that humanitarian relief could be crippled by charges of aiding terrorism for cooperating with rebels in delivery of relief to civilian populations.
Neither Ansar Allah nor the Houthis pose any threat to the U.S. or its citizens, but that didn’t keep the FTO designation from speeding ahead as Trump, egged on by his allies in Israel and Saudi Arabia, maneuvered to keep the Biden administration from altering our reckless, aggressive campaign against Iran.
No FTO designation has yet been reversed in less than two years.
Millions of Yemen’s children don’t have another two years.
Momentum is building to get the Biden administration to immediately reverse the FTO designation. Jan. 25 has been declared a worldwide day of action to finally stop the Yemen war.
Please contact your representative and Sens. Tammy Baldwin and Ron Johnson, asking them to end the U.S. role in the vicious, criminal war on Yemen.
By Cassandra Dixon and Barb Olson | members, Madison-Rafah Sister City Project.