Your Pentagon tax dollars at work, a correct step and why Texans should care. First, some feel-good facts: The Pentagon shipped 1.1 million frozen hamburger patties to Afghanistan in March alone, compared with 663,000 burgers in March 2009. Fuel deliveries to Afghanistan have almost doubled, rising from 15 million gallons a month in March 2009 to 27 million this March. (By the time a gallon of gas has made it to those U.S. troops, its cost is estimated at up to $100.) The U.S. military decided it didn’t have the perfect type sand for making the miles of protective “blast walls” in Iraq. So taxpayer dollars floated in boatloads of foreign sand from the United Arab Emirates and Qatar to create 15-ton blast walls at $3,500 each. U.S. planners now may ship some of the leftover walls on a seven-nation, 2,300-mile, two-and-a-half-month odyssey to Afghanistan at a transportation cost of $15,000 each. The U.S. Navy has 11 aircraft carriers (at $11 billion each) for the next 30 years when no other country has more than one. Annual defense spending has nearly doubled in the last decade to $549 billion. That does not include the cost of the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan, which this year will add $159 billion. The U.S. all by itself spends 48 percent of the world’s military budgets, more than the total for the next 46 highest spenders. The Pentagon inspector general says Houston-based KBR, holding a $38 billion contract to provide the U.S. military with “a range of logistic services,” has cost Washington $21 million in “waste” just on truck maintenance by billing for 12 hours of work when, on average, its employees were actually putting in 90 minutes. And, while it’s not totally a military expenditure, we now have a 104-acre U.S. embassy in Baghdad, the largest embassy on the planet, which cost $736 million to build. It has the first, and only, Astroturf sports field in Iraq. The reason we are discussing these matters is that Defense Secretary Robert Gates – former prez of Texas A&M – is trying to cut back on some military expenses. No, he is not, repeat, NOT, trying to cut the budget of the Department of Defense (DoD). Actually, he wants an increase of 2 to 3 percent after inflation, so let’s not listen to those fishers of red herrings. Nevertheless, good luck, Bobby. When lobbyists and Congress members – protecting their own district’s slice of the defense budget -- not to mention the brass behind Pentagon desks, get through with his plan, it will be MIA. Gates said that two decades after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the DoD “still has more than 40 generals, admirals or civilian equivalents based on the continent” of Europe. We must remember that generals and admirals are a package deal. Each one has aides, a car, driver, secretary, nice salary and big pension. Gates also took on the military bureaucracy, noting overhead makes up about 40 percent of the Pentagon budget. He also points out military health care costs rose from $19 billion to $50 billion in a decade. Active-duty military and their families do not pay for health care. But what retirees pay -- $460 annually per family -- has not risen in 15 years. Of course, Gates has been head of DoD for 3 and a half years. You’d think he’d moved before now, but let’s not quibble. But why should we care? Because Texan Tea Partiers are demanding cuts in the federal budget, an end to needless programs like the Departments of Education and Energy, the IRS and Food Stamps. And reduce taxes. Meantime -- and this is not hypocritical really, well, maybe -- we also shout: “Congress, don’t you dare cut funds for cut my Medicare and Social Security, don’t clip our highway money or close Texas military bases. We know all that stands between a free America and the Taliban is that Army contract with the truck factory in Sealy.” Texans have always been talented at the government trough. By 1853, about one-third of the entire U.S. Army was stationed in Texas, and in most cases it was the only game – and paycheck – in town. “The whole state of Texas counts on the expenditure of money for Army supplies, and when a Congressman tackles the appropriations bill he joins issue with the whole state from Dan to Beersheba.” -- Dr. Samuel Smith, U.S. Army, Camp Charlotte, Texas, July 4, 1879. For decades, West Texas in particular has been dotted with military air bases, while a goodly number of military aircraft are crafted in Fort Worth. To keep getting our fair share of the pork, we even have an official Texas government agency, the Texas Military Preparedness Commission. According to this agency, “Department of Defense (DoD) military expenditures, including military and DoD civilian payroll, totaled more than $65.4 billion in 2008, making Texas the number one recipient of DoD expenditures.” We have 17 military installations in Texas, second only to California, and every one of them is critical to, uh, well, our paycheck. We’ve got Fort Sam Houston, Fort Bliss, Fort Hood – the largest military installation in the Free World -- Randolph Air Force Base and Naval Air Station Corpus Christi. Indeed, “Texas is host to the most active duty military personnel in the country and Texas ranks second in DoD civilian workforce.” It’s not just the military. Our Congress members scream about the necessity to continue manned space flights headquartered in Houston. The lawmakers don’t know beans about space flight, but they do know about retaining jobs – mainly their own. In this light, we must look at the Defense Department, not as a military organization, but as a jobs program. Dwight Eisenhower, the supreme allied commander in Europe during World War II, in his farewell address as president warned the nation of the menacing influence of an emerging “military-industrial complex.” And he was from Texas! Shame on you, Ike, from Dan to Beersheba! Ashby is owed his at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Comments (0)

There are no comments posted here yet

Leave your comments

  1. Posting comment as a guest. Sign up or login to your account.
Attachments (0 / 3)
Share Your Location