Tom Coburn’s Final Wastebook

Burning our tax dollarsIn January an era will end when Tom Coburn (R-OK) will retire from the Senate. With him will go his Wastebook that details all of the egregious wasteful spending by a variety of government departments and agency.

Senator Coburn has sometimes seemed like a lone voice in Washington campaigning against those who waste the American taxpayers hard-earned money and he will be sorely missed.

For his Grand Finale Coburn and his staff have highlighted 100 government programs that they consider the most. Some are silly (other than the wasteful spending) others involve very serious misuses of government funds.

Here are some of the silly ones:

  • $171,000 To Study How Monkeys Gamble. This gem was brought to us by researchers at the University of Rochester.
  • $856,000 To Film Mountain Lions Running On Treadmills. If you liked the National Science Foundation’s hit film “Shrimp On A Treadmill”, you’re going to love its sequel.
  • Synchronized Swimming For Sea Monkeys. This epic performance cost the American taxpayers a cool $50,000.
  • Swedish Massages For Bunnies. Believe me, You can’t make this stuff up. This two-year study cost $387,000.
  • Free Luxury Gym Memberships For Federal Bureaucrats. This program brings cutting out fat literally to our bureaucracy. Homeland Security spent $450,000 on this perk.
  • $331,000 To Study Whether “Hangry” Spouses Are More Likely To Stab Voodoo Dolls. When spouses get “hangry,” they stab voodoo dolls representing their partners, according to a pricey study from the National Science Foundation.
  • $18 Million To Renovate A Low-Traffic Airport That Serves A High-End Ski Resort. The airport for “Sun Valley ski resort that is a magnet for the rich and famous” is getting a multi-million dollar facelift courtesy of taxpayers.
  • NIH Spent Over $800,000 To Make A Video Game About Food Fights. When NIH and the CDC complain about lack of funding for an Ebola vaccine why are they spending huge amounts of money on silly studies?

Coburn’s Wastebook claims that over $25 billion has been wasted on the 100 programs that are listed in his report. Some of the less silly waste includes the following:

  • $19 million was wasted by bureaucrats gone wild. This covers some of the bureaucrats who were placed on administrative leave for bad behavior.
  • $414,000 spent on a first-person shooter that the intelligence community worries could train terrorists.
  • OPM Paid Contractor $124.3 for invalid Security Clearance Investigations. This past January, the Department of Justice (DOJ) accused U.S. Investigations Services of submitting 665,000 fake background investigations.166 As a result, hundreds of thousands of people who may not have been eligible for clearances were given access to top secret information.
  • $146 million in subsidies for Sports Stadiums leave taxpayers holding the bill.
  • $3 billion for Golf Club Testing and Elementary School experiments aboard the International Space Station.
  • $44.5 million to maintain the “Launchpad to Nowhere” at the Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. The tower will cost $840,000 a year to maintain. In addition NASA will spend another $43 million to maintain unused or outdated facilities.
  • Exploding Claims of “Sleep Apnea” Threaten to Bankrupt VA Disability Program at a cost of $1.2 billion every year.

The list goes with wasteful spending in almost every government department. The problem is that no one has the political will to tackle this serious problem. Maybe President Obama should appoint Senator Coburn as “Waste Czar” with absolute power to fix this problem.

Here’s the link for Wastebook 2014.

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The Government’s Asset-Forfeiture Racket

I want your moneyWell, here’s a government law that amazes me hasn’t been ruled unconstitutional as a violation of the Fourth Amendment. That amendment states:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

The government has been able to get around the Fourth Amendment by claiming that in civil forfeiture cases, the government sues the item of property, not the person. The owner is effectively a third-party claimant.

The burden is on the Government to establish that the property is subject to forfeiture by a “preponderance of the evidence.” If it is successful, the owner may yet prevail by establishing an “innocent owner” defense. Criminal forfeitures are usually carried out in a sentence following a conviction and is a punitive act against the offender.

So as far as governmental authorities are concerned the letter of the law is being followed. But is the spirit of the law, especially the Fourth Amendment, being followed? The good news is that a a new Rasmussen poll reveals that 70 percent of Americans oppose this legalized theft.

Municipalities have come to rely on confiscated property for revenue. Police and prosecutors use forfeiture proceeds to fund not only general operations but junkets, parties, and swank office equipment. A cottage industry has sprung up to offer law enforcement agencies instruction on how to take and keep property more efficiently.

At one time, forfeiture seemed eminently reasonable. Drug kingpins were making millions from criminal enterprises. Whether because they lacked enough evidence to convict kingpins or for tactical reasons, law enforcement officers settled for hitting them in the wallet by seizing money and property traceable to illegal activity.

But now asset forfeiture has become a racket with police seizing cash from motorists at traffic stops. In addition to drug violations some 200 other crimes now render individuals’ property subject to seizure.

There are many outrageous deeds covered in the asset seizure story. This part sounds like a RICO violation:

“…a practice known as ‘equitable sharing,’ in which local and state law enforcement officers seize property and then refer forfeiture actions to federal authorities in return for a portion of the resulting proceeds, encourages state and local authorities to do an end-run around some state laws that limit the ability of local authorities to seek forfeiture and to keep the resulting proceeds.”

In other words, local authorities hook up with the Feds to steal people’s assets, and then divide the spoils amongst themselves.

Let’s just look at one city that has abused this practice: Philadelphia the birthplace of the Constitution. How ironic. Here’s the video that tells it all.

 

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Obama Fleeces Taxpayers on Campaign Travel

Obama shushing everyone about the truthHere’s another report from Judicial Watch with how Obama fleeces taxpayers on campaign travel costs.

At a time when illegal immigrants are putting pressure on America’s porous southwestern border, and terrorists are gaining ground overseas, how should an American president spend his time? If you’re President Obama, you apparently feel you should drink beer, play pool and book expensive fundraising trips.

That’s what the records we obtained from the U.S. Department of Air Force Headquarters Air Mobility Command – through a July 21, 2014, Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request – appear to indicate.

Here are some of the numbers:  Transportation costs of the president’s July 8-9 fundraising trips to Denver, Colorado cost the taxpayers $695,894.10, while the transportation costs for the president’s July 17-18 fundraising trip to New York City, New York, cost taxpayers $463,929.40. That’s what we know. What we don’t know is the security costs to the taxpayer for these trips because the Secret Service, which can’t seem to be able to guard the front door of the White House, is obsessed with stonewalling our requests for the security costs of Obama’s fundraising travel.

And, of course, the Obama White House keeps secret how it determines if presidential travel is either “official” or “political.”  Political parties and campaigns are charged no more than the price of an individual commercial airline ticket, hotel, and food costs if a president uses Air Force One in whole or in part for a “political” trip. What a racket!

These fundraising trips coincided with international and domestic crises that call out for presidential leadership. While Obama was delivering his fundraising speeches in Denver and New York, thousands of illegal aliens were flooding across the Rio Grande Valley, with one law enforcement bulletin declaring that apprehensions were at “historically elevated levels.  Meanwhile, in Iraq, the terrorist group ISIS was seizing “vast areas of Iraq” according to theNew York Times. In the Ukraine, a Malaysia Airlines passenger jet was shot down, and, in the Mideast, Israel had begun its Gaza ground offensive.

With these facts in mind, consider how The Associated Press described the president’s July 8 and 9 fundraisers in Denver. Obama spent his time at “a crowded pizza restaurant, a pool bar and face-to-face with a man wearing a horse head mask.”  Images of President Obamadrinking beer and playing pool became the subject of national news. Not a very formidable, compelling image for the commander-in-chief. Just a few days later, on July 17 and 18, Obama traveled to New York City for a gala lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender fundraiser for the Democratic National Committee.

“The White House says Obama will raise money for the Senate Majority PAC, a Democratic group that takes unlimited donations. Obama’s appearance will complete his gradual acceptance of the big-money groups he once opposed,” according to a report from the Tribune Broadcasting’s WPIX-TV in Manhattan.

We searched in vain for any news about the president’s strong stance on terrorism in Iraq and turmoil on the border during his fundraising junket. But, apparently he was far more concerned with partying hard and making money – all at the taxpayers’ expense.

In the meantime, Judicial Watch, which seems to be the only entity in DC asking tough questions (and suing) about Obama’s abuse of his public office, is your one-stop source on the costs of Obama’s unnecessary luxury travel.

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Obama Luxury Travel costs taxpayers and weakens the Secret Service

What only four vacations this yearHere’s a post from Judicial Watch with a report with Barack Obama and his family’s astounding travel costs. It also details how Obama administration has abused the Secret Service by forcing them to weaken their protection plans for political considerations.

This week saw an astonishing report from the Washington Post that described how the Obama White House and other Obama officials lied and suppressed embarrassing information about the Secret Service and White House officials implicated in a prostitution scandal:

As nearly two dozen Secret Service agents and members of the military were punished or fired following a 2012 prostitution scandal in Colombia, Obama administration officials repeatedly denied that anyone from the White House was involved.

But new details drawn from government documents and interviews show that senior White House aides were given information at the time suggesting that a prostitute was an overnight guest in the hotel room of a presidential advance-team member – yet that information was never thoroughly investigated or publicly acknowledged.

For the Obama gang, election year politics took precedence over the truth and the safety of the president and the White House.  This is no surprise to us, but you can see how the Secret Service is at the breaking point because of the abuses of this presidency.

We announced this week that our investigators obtained more records from the U.S. Secret Service and the U.S. Department of the Air Force revealing the security costs for the Obama Family’s 2013 vacation in Honolulu and Martha’s Vineyard, and the flight cost for the First Lady’s 2014 ski trip to Aspen, CO, came to $972,450.24 in taxpayer-paid vacation expenses. The cost to taxpayers includes:

In February 2014, Judicial Watch released flight expense records from the U.S. Department of the Air Force revealing that President Obama incurred $5,250,624 in flight expenses alone for his 2013 vacations to Hawaii and Martha’s Vineyard. Adding in the newly released expense records, that brings total cost to the taxpayers for the two Obama family 2013 vacations and the First Lady’ 2014 Aspen ski trip to $6,223,074.24, not including the Aspen security costs.

From December, 21, 2012, to January, 5, 2013, the Obama family spent their Christmas vacation in Honolulu, Hawaii, where they stayed at the luxurious 6,000 square-foot, $7.9 million Kailua home they had rented in 2011. From August 11 – 17, 2013, the Obama family spent an extended week vacationing in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, where they stayed at the plush $7.6 million home of David Schulte, founder of the private equity firm Chilmark Partners and major contributor to Obama’s campaigns. These two vacations cost a total of $937,487.94 in security alone.

The Obamas continually abuse the public trust and raid the taxpayers’ coffers for unnecessarily luxurious and incessant vacations and travel.  The very fact that we repeatedly have to file Freedom of Information Act requests and lawsuits to obtain this information reveals that the most transparent administration in history knows that its behavior is extravagant and, therefore, seeks to cover it up.

One can only imagine how this unnecessary travel, and the cover up of facts about its costs, saps the budget and morale of a Secret Service that cannot even secure the White House complex, and had trouble keeping the president secure even when he’s traveling on important government business.  I am told that morale in the Secret Service is terrible and that good men and women are fleeing the agency in droves.

According to the numbers we’ve been able to extract thus far, the Obamas and Bidens have spent more than $40 million taxpayer dollars on trips since 2009 up through the president’s most recent Palm Springs and Key Largo golf outings, which cost the taxpayers $2,952,278 in flight expenses.  Tens of millions of dollars in taxpayer money to send Obama golfing and his wife skiing:  keep these numbers in mind as you hear the Obama gang distract from the corruption and abuse of the Secret Service with demands for more money and “reforms.”

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An Obamacare October surprise?

obamacare compositeObamacare premiums aren’t rising everywhere. They just have a way of finding the states with the biggest Senate races. And that could be very bad timing for Democrats in two of the party’s key contests.

Double-digit rate hikes for individual health insurance plans have become an issue in the Louisiana and Iowa Senate races over the past week, where the Republican candidates are hammering their Democratic opponents for the steep premium increases on the way next year for some customers under the Affordable Care Act.

In Louisiana, Rep. Bill Cassidy called the double-digit increases for some insurers — including Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana — “another hurdle for families and businesses already struggling under the demands of Obamacare” and blamed Democrats for “false promises” that premiums would go down.

The attacks could easily give the impression that the health care law is causing premiums to go through the roof around the country. They’re not. In reality, in most states, premiums for coverage in the Obamacare health insurance exchanges for 2015 are rising at about the normal rate for health insurance throughout the country. In some places, they’re even going down.

But there are a few states that are facing more extreme premium increases from some insurers — and Louisiana and Iowa are two of them. Alaska, where Democratic Sen. Mark Begich is struggling to win a second term, is another one.

Even there, it’s not all insurers that are raising rates that much. Louisiana, for example, is only announcing rates for the insurers that are raising rates by 10 percent or more, so the picture that’s being made public is incomplete.

But in an election year, a few states — and a few insurers — are all you need, particularly when they may serve to rekindle passions about a law that was already an Election Day concern for Democrats.

“In general, the premium increases have been pretty modest. But there are exceptions, and the exceptions happen to be in states with competitive races,” said Larry Levitt of the Kaiser Family Foundation, who has studied the premium trends around the country.

Republican strategists have been waiting for the big premium increases to show up as an Obamacare “October surprise.” They’ve been hearing for months through their GOP policy expert contacts that the rate hikes were a possibility, and that because of the timing of the next enrollment season — it starts on Nov. 15 — the increases would become final around now.

Democrats aren’t too concerned. It’s not as if the issue is dominating the airwaves, after all. With the Louisiana and Iowa Republican Senate candidates, it’s been press statements and Twitter for now — although a conservative group did run a TV ad in Alaska that hit Begich over the increases there.

Obama administration officials point out that even in the states with the biggest hikes, most customers won’t see them. In Iowa, for example, premiums for the second-lowest-cost “silver” health insurance plans — the kind most Obamacare customers buy — will go down by an average of 7 percent in Des Moines.

They also note that the typical premiums for people who get Obamacare subsidies are pretty low to begin with. In Louisiana, for example, the average monthly premium was $68 this year for a “silver” plan.

But why would the biggest rate hikes single out some of the hottest Senate races in the first place? There’s no conspiracy — it’s just the way the electoral math worked out. The states with the biggest increases are usually the ones where the political leaders have resisted the Affordable Care Act and haven’t done well at enrollment. And some of those states just happen to have the most competitive Senate races.

A study by PwC’s Health Research Institute, which researched premium data in 38 states and the District of Columbia, found that the average increase across states was just 6 percent. Only eight states had double-digit increases — but those states included Louisiana and Iowa, as well as Kansas, where Republican Sen. Pat Roberts is trying to head off a serious challenge from independent Greg Orman.

 

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Air Force to scrap planes worth over $500 million

C-27JWe wrote about this almost exactly one year ago. Here’s the original article from October 7, 2013:

And the hits keep coming for the procurement people at the Pentagon. In addition to the ongoing F-35 debacle, the newest money waster at the Pentagon is the C-27J cargo plane.

The right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing and the result is a waste of $567 million in cargo planes that the Air Force is purchasing and immediately flying to their “boneyard” in the Arizona desert. And while they’re doing this they continue to purchase even more planes.

The Pentagon doesn’t really want to publicize the existence of the “boneyard” at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, where some 4,400 aircraft and 13 aerospace vehicles, with a total value of more than $35 billion, sit unused.

The planes are built by Rome-based Alenia Aermacchi, under what was initially a $2 billion contract, though that was scaled back. Of course, they had an assist from two Ohio Senators, Democrat Sherrod Brown and Republican Rob Portman.

When the program began 800 jobs and a mission at Mansfield Air National Guard Base depended on it. Brown urged the military in a 2011 letter to purchase up to 42 of the aircraft, saying too few planes “will weaken our national and homeland defense.”

The program was canceled because of sequestration but service officials still issued a request to industry on May 10 for proposals to purchase even more of the same exact aircraft that will likely sit in the boneyard.

What’s behind this incredible waste of money? The C-27J Spartan has found itself in the middle of a battle between the Air Force’s active duty and the Air National Guard. Active duty leaders have said the service likes the aircraft, but can’t afford it with the forthcoming budget cuts.

Guard leaders have responded saying the aircraft will save the service money and the Guard, which was set to receive the bulk of the fleet, is being unfairly targeted to absorb the brunt of the service’s budget cuts.

For the most part Congress has taken the side of the Guard in this ongoing debate. Lawmakers have ordered the Air Force to consider buying more C-27Js even though they are set to follow through on plans to send the C-27J fleet to the service’s boneyard.

Air Force leaders had said the sustainment costs were too expensive to keep the C-27J when compared to the C-130. Former Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz told Congress in 2012 it cost $9,000 per hour to fly the C-27J and $10,400 to fly the C-130.

Even though the C-130 was slightly higher per hour, the C-130 is well established within the fleet and the Air Force couldn’t afford to introduce and sustain the C-27J.

Meanwhile, The U.S. Forest Service has released a study on how the C-27J could be used by the agency if the Air Force gives them seven as expected.

Well, the chickens have come home to roost or more rightly to the Air Force bone yard.

WASHINGTON – A U.S. government watchdog agency is asking the Air Force to explain why it destroyed 16 aircraft initially bought for the Afghan air force and turn them into $32,000 of scrap metal instead of finding other ways to salvage nearly $500 million in U.S. funds spent on the program.

John Sopko, special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, asked Air Force Secretary Deborah James to document all decisions made about the destruction of the 16 C-27J aircraft that were stored at Kabul International Airport for years, and what the service planned to do with four additional planes now in Germany.

“I am concerned that the officials responsible for planning and executing the scrapping of the planes may not have considered other possible alternatives in order to salvage taxpayer dollars.” Sopko said in a letter to James that was dated Oct. 3 and released Thursday by his office.

Sopko also asked if any other parts of the planes had been sold before they were destroyed by the Defense Logistics Agency.

Sopko’s office has been investigating the matter since December 2013 after numerous non-profit groups and military officials raised questions about funds wasted on the planes.

The U.S. government spent $486 million to buy and refurbish 20 older C-27A airplanes from Alenia, a unit of Italy’s Finmeccanica SpA , but later canceled the program because a lack of spare parts was severely limiting their availability for military use.

Instead, the Pentagon decided to buy four larger C-130 planes built by Lockheed Martin Corp to do the work.

Pentagon spokesman Major Brad Avots said the U.S. military decided to destroy the planes “to minimize impact on drawdown of U.S. forces in Afghanistan,” but would provide more information after a review.

Avots said the Pentagon and Air Force would consider various options for the remaining four planes, including possible sale to other parties.

“Working in a wartime environment such as Afghanistan brings with it many challenges, and we continually seek to improve our processes,” he said.

He said the U.S. military was also working to help Afghanistan “improve accountability and help instill sound financial management practices in daily operations while reducing the risk of fraud, waste and abuse.”

In an interview last year with NBC News, Sopko said it was unclear if the incident was criminal fraud or mismanagement, but the waste was not an isolated incident in Afghanistan.

The Pentagon’s inspector general has also investigated the issue, which the non-profit Project on Government Oversight calls “a shining example of the billions wasted in Afghanistan.”

In January 2013, the Pentagon’s inspector general office said the aircraft flew only 234 of the 4,500 required hours from January through September 2012. The office also said about $200 million were needed to buy spare parts for the planes.

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by David Gregorio & Kim Coghill)

Sometimes, the incompetence at the Pentagon knows no bounds.

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The State Dept Doesn’t Know Where the Money goes

Money down the drainNow, this shouldn’t come as a real surprise to anyone who’s paying attention to the Obama administration. Barack Obama’s two Secretaries of State are not exactly Harvard MBA managers.

They are both politicians who served in the Senate and never managed as much as a corner candy store. Although the image of either one behind a counter is hilarious.

According the department’s Inspector General billions of dollars have been flowing out of the State Department’s coffers without adequate oversight or adequate assessment of the risks. The money is going to activities that range from cultural exchanges to climate change and everything in between.

Ever since 2008 the Office of Inspector General has pointed out this issue as one of the department’s “major management challenges”.

In a special “management alert” issued last month, the IG’s office reports that 61 out of 156 of all the watchdog’s inspections since 2010 of the State Department’s widely varying branches  have found “specific grant-management deficiencies,” such as lack of oversight, absent or incomplete documentation, or a lack of proper final closeout for the projects.

That’s a nice way of saying that the bureaucrats tasked with administering these funds are asleep at the switch. No one appears to care that the money involved was provided by the American taxpayers who expect it to used in a prudent manner.

The alert cites around 20 critical audits and inspections  in the past two years alone — not to mention a previous management alert last March on “contract file management deficiencies,” which identified some $6 billion worth of contracts where files were “incomplete or could not be located at all.”

One of the main reasons is that the number of State Department officers overseeing the cash has been nowhere near up to the task. Only some 570 grant overseers work at State, with more than 500 of them abroad.

In many cases they are under-trained, and in virtually all cases overworked — the alert cites one overseer who is managing 500 grants — and they usually perform their oversight part-time while doing other Foreign Service jobs. Turnover among the overseers is high, which, the alert notes, “hampers the development of institutional memory.”

The GAO Report on this subject would almost suggest that the State Department is handing out wads of cash like sailors on leave. The current OIG management alert is essentially a lengthy compilation of lapses, poor practices and inattention outlined in previous audits and inspections. Unfortunately, nothing that the OIG has said has spurred managers into changing the situation.

Part of the problem is that a dizzying array of offices are authorized to hand out cash, 27 in all. In addition, embassies and consulates also distribute largess to all and sundry. It all adds up to an administrative nightmare that screams for better centralization.

But every office, embassy and consulate would fight tooth and nail to retain the authority to distribute American tax dollars. After all, money is power in the modern world.

Until we come up with a different set of rules the Department of State will continue to fling money around like a conquering monarch. It’s good to be the King.

 

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Where the Money goes: The Obamacare Slush Fund

The public troughLike many things in Washington these days Obamacare had a $5 billion slush fund that was under the public’s radar. It purported to be an effort to pay for health insurance for early retirees. Called the Early Retiree Reinsurance Program (ERRP) it has already doled out all of its funding to corporations, states and unions.

Administration officials insisted that it was simply an attempt to make sure that early retirees continued to be covered for health insurance while Republicans were not so sure. They considered it nothing less than a slush fund for political supporters of the administration.

The Washington Post Company received $573,217 in taxpayer subsidies and CBS Corporation secured $722,388 worth of American taxpayer’s money.

Rep. Marsha Blackburn, Republican of Tennessee, in an e-mail to The Daily Caller wrote:

It is fine with me if they continue covering the ObamaCare debate. When NBC used to cover energy issues, they identified themselves as a subsidiary of General Electric. CBS and Washington Post just have to disclose that they are subsidiaries of the Obama Administration.

The Republicans held a series of House hearings in 2011 when the program became public knowledge. The initial $5 billion dollar fund had already been depleted by $2 billion then and there was a concern the funds would run out before the 2014 sunset date.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations in 2011, chaired by Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-FL), asked Center for Consumer Information & Insurance Oversight official Steven Larsen how the administration decides who gets a slice of the $5 billion pie and how the application process works.

In his response, Stearns referred to the fact that corporations like General Electric, Verizon and AT&T in addition to several labor unions were getting taxpayer funding. Stearns was not impressed. In an email to the Daily Caller he wrote:

This program is providing ‘free’ money to corporations, states, unions, and pension plans,” In addition, the Washington Post and CBS received funding under this program. How can the Washington Post and CBS be impartial on the issue of health care when they received funding under the health care law?

The program was so ‘successful’ that its funding was almost immediately exhausted. The program was established June 1, 2010 and was supposed to end as of January 1, 2014 or when appropriated funds are exhausted.

The program ceased accepting new program applications on May 6, 2011 and on December 9, 2011, CMS and HHS announced that the Early Retiree Reinsurance Program (ERRP) will not reimburse any claims incurred after December 31, 2011.

The connected favorites of the administration had drained the public trough of $5 billion in less than half the time that was allotted. So much for bending the cost curve down, Mr. Obama.

 

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Brass Creep and Cruise Missiles

Brass creepYou’re probably wondering what brass creep and cruise missiles have in common and the answer is quite simple Both issues involve money. Like many things in our modern military decisions are being made on the basis of money and these two areas are no exception.

Let’s look at brass creep or as it is sometimes called star creep first. By law the United States armed forces have a legal limit of 498 generals and admirals This is precisely defined as 230 for the Army, 208 for the Navy and 60 for the Marines.

But today, we currently are far beyond that legal limit with 963 generals and admirals for all of our services. That’s almost twice the legal limit.

The law that regulates the limits allows the Secretary of Defense to increase the number of generals and admirals in time of need. Bob Gates allowed the promotion of 300 officers to star rank during his term in office. In fact, the Pentagon’s largest cost overrun isn’t for military hardware but for top brass.

We now have more generals and admirals than we had in World War. This despite the fact that the armed forces are half the size of our World War II era military.

The Project on Government Oversight’s Ben Freeman testified in 2011:

The three- and four-star ranks have increased twice as fast as one- and two-star general and flag officers, three times as fast as the increase in all officers and almost ten times as fast as the increase in enlisted personnel. If you imagine it visually, the shape of U.S. military personnel has shifted from looking like a pyramid to beginning to look more like a skyscraper (i.e. higher ranks having fewer lower ranking personnel under them rather than more)….

Although not on pace with the Air Force and Navy, star creep within the Army and Marines is also apparent. The Army has decreased its number of one-star generals, while increasing its higher ranking generals. Specifically, the Army cut 13 brigadier generals between September 2001 and April 2011, but added 11 major generals, 11 lieutenant generals and two four-star generals. Thus, even within the general and flag officer ranks, it is the higher ranks that are being added while only brigadier generals are being cut. The Marines’ story is very similar: five brigadier generals were cut during this time period, seven major generals were added and four lieutenant generals were added. Since September 2001, three- and four-star officers in the Army and Marines have increased by 25 and 24 percent, respectively.

So not only do we have more top brass but we have more top-top brass with more three-and four-star officers. And they cost big bucks. They are paid a significant salary with generous benefits. But the real cost is in their staffs, housing, transportation and other perks that come with high rank.

The next time that one of these top officers testifies in front of a Congressional committee. The days of arriving with one or two lower ranking aides are long gone. Most come with a bevy of one- and two-star officers. You may see a full colonel or a Navy captain working the charts.

And this show of shiny brass seems to work on representatives and senators. They are over-awed by this show of military power. Has anyone sat down and calculated the cost of this display to the American taxpayers? I think not.

Members of Congress have, for the most part, seem hesitant if not reluctant to submit a three- or four-star general to close questioning. It would look bad on C-SPAN to be seen as beating up our soldiers.

Plus, the generals know how to speak Pentagonese (“We are working the problem on a time multiplex basis”), which makes it sound like they have everything under control while their staffs behind them shuffle ersatz, complex information up to the general to further confuse and intimidate the members of Congress.

So now we should look at the second half of the equation: the connection between brass Sea-launched cruise missilecreep and cruise missiles. The Obama administration has proposed that as part of Defense Department cuts that the Navy will decrease the purchase of cruise missiles and consider discontinuing the program by 2016.

Historically, the Pentagon has purchased roughly 200 Tomahawks a year from manufacturer Raytheon, at about $1.4 million per missile. But Obama slashed that number to 100 for all of 2015 – just double what the Navy fired into Syria in one day.

Let’s look at some of the facts. At the start of the Iraq War in 2003, for example, coalition forces fired upward of 725 missiles, accounting for one-third of the entire inventory. Eight years later, in 2011, the United States and the United Kingdom launched more than 160 Tomahawks in the opening days of the campaign in Libya.

The opening salvo against the ISIS terrorists was 47. We currently have 4,000 in inventory. At a rate of 50 per day we have an 80 day supply.

Navy acquisition executive Sean Stackley told DoD Buzz in March:

We had been sustaining a 200 Tomahawk-per-year rate. In 2015, we’ll drop down to 100. In 2016, we will revisit the question of whether the time is right to stop production of Tomahawks.

House Armed Services Chairman Buck McKeon is a huge supporter of the program and opined:

As we saw in this week’s airstrikes against ISIL, Tomahawk missiles are among the most valuable and precise tools in our military arsenal.

They provide unmanned, all-weather, deep-strike attack capability against both fixed and mobile targets, which makes them particularly useful against terrorist groups … that transcend nations and borders.

During markups of the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2015, the armed services committees in both chambers supported continued production of Tomahawk missiles. In the Senate Armed Services Committee’s revision of the NDAA, lawmakers allocated an additional $276.3 million to maintain a rate of 200 per year.

So, rather than decrease the over-the-limit numbers of generals and admirals, the Pentagon has chosen to eliminate one of the most effective weapons systems in our arsenal. What’s wrong with this picture?

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What You Should Know About Student Loan Forgiveness

Teachers celebrating after union victory in IllinoisWere you aware of the more than 60 ways that student loans can be forgiven? I bet that you weren’t. Many trillions of dollars are owed in outstanding student loans.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, however, estimates that one-fourth of the American workforce may be eligible for repayment or loan-forgiveness programs, the Associated Press reported last month.

The website www.saltmoney.org has a free ebook that details the more than 60 ways that student loans can be forgiven.

Here are the most used ways:

1. Become a public school teacher in a low-income area.

2. Join the military.

3. Apply for the Income-Based Repayment Plan.

4. Get a public service, government or non-profit job.

And if this multitude of ways to get student loan forgiven Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) has introduced a new bill in the Senate for student loan forgiveness.

“Teachers, police officers, public health workers and other public servants should be applauded and supported — and not drowned in debt to pay for the degrees many such jobs require,” he said.

Blumenthal neglected to point out that these group support the Democrat Party both financially and with their get-out-the-vote campaigns at election time. It’s an obvious payoff to these groups.

Some public sector employees already get to have part of their student loans canceled under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. That program requires people to work in the government and make student loan payments for 10 years — after that, the rest of their loan is “forgiven.”

But Blumenthal says that isn’t good enough, and introduced a plan that would cancel part of workers’ qualifying student loan debt after every two years.

The current Public Service Loan Forgiveness program should be expanded — and made more flexible — to enable student debt to be worked down or off completely. My bill strengthens the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program to ensure that it enables repayment assistance proportional to years of service. We should reward public service — particularly as the need for talented and dedicated public servants grows.

Specifically, his bill would forgive 15 percent of a government worker’s student loan after just two years. After two more years, another 15 percent would be canceled.

After six years of working in the public sector, another 20 percent would be forgiven, followed by another 20 percent after eight years. Ten years into the job, the remaining 30 percent would be canceled.

 

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