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Friday, August 04, 2006

$$$, oversight and Iraq spending

Harper's features and interview with Gordon Adams documenting just how much the United States has spent, and with how little oversight, in Iraq. Adams insights are striking:

Virtually all of this money [for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan] has been authorized by Congress as “emergency supplemental” funding. That is supposed to mean “we didn't expect it and we need it right away, so don't waste time with the normal budget process.” And that is how it has been done. The funding request is prepared at the top of the Defense Department, but does not go through the regular internal budget planning process; it is waved through the White House, and lands—with minimal justification—on congressional desks. Normally, the defense budget is reviewed three times—by the Budget Committee, the Armed Services Committee, and the Appropriations Committee. Emergency supplementals skip the first two committees and go straight to the money guys—the appropriators. Over the past five years, the appropriators have held virtually no public hearings on the Iraq money; they just mark it up and push it through for a vote. So nobody is minding the store the way they should.

Read the whole interview, and weep. (h/t to Pontificator)

This dovetails with another piece in the New Yorker by Tom Surowiecki.

Dollars, of course, are not the same as lives. The opportunity cost of the dollars sunk into Iraq is, however, enormous. Katrina made that all too clear. As Surowiecki notes:

Earlier this year, for instance, the Senate cut funding for night-vision goggles for soldiers, while adding money to buy three new V-22 Ospreys, a plane that Dick Cheney himself tried to get rid of when he was Secretary of Defense. Similarly, we might have been able to afford appropriate body armor for the troops, and plates for the Hummers in Baghdad, if we were building only one new model of multi-billion-dollar jet fighter, instead of two.

Even more strikingly, while we pour money into all these new projects we’re underfunding crucial homeland-security programs. In the past few months, Congress has eliminated six hundred and fifty million dollars for port security. Funding for New York City’s security projects was cut forty per cent. And we cut nearly a hundred million from the requested budget for preventing the use of nuclear weapons in the U.S. Those cuts were considered necessary for budgetary reasons, yet the price of all of them together was less than a third of what it will cost to build a single destroyer. That ship will offer us not a whit of protection in the war on terror. But we can be sure it will keep the seas safe from the Soviet Navy.

Something to think about as Hurricane season and Heat Waves impress upon the United States public the ever-growing suspicion that the GOP Congress and this Administration are Ostriches of world historical dimensions.


  • This is something we need to hammer incumbent Republicans with. Does anyone know how to find Congressional voting records on this?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:34 AM  

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