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Issue Position: Homeland Security and Defense

Issue Position

Location: Unknown

Despite the fact that you are hundreds of times more likely to be killed in a car wreck or even struck by lightening than killed by an act of terrorism, we keep increasing spending on homeland security far beyond any sensible levels. We cannot make this country 100% safe even if we spent the entire federal budget on security. Ian Lustick , a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, recently wrote about the War on Terror money feeding frenzy:

"Nearly seven years after September 11, 2001, what accounts for the vast discrepancy between the terrorist threat facing America and the scale of our response? Why, absent any evidence of a serious domestic terror threat, is the War on Terror so enormous, so all encompassing, and still expanding? The fundamental answer is that al Qaeda's most important accomplishment was not to hijack our planes, but to hijack our political system. For a multitude of politicians, interest groups, professional associations, corporations, media organizations, universities, local and state governments and federal agency officials, the War on Terror is now a major profit center, a funding bonanza, and a set of slogans and sound bites to be inserted into budget, project, grant and contract proposals. For the country as a whole, however, it has become a maelstrom of waste…"

Professor Lustick pointed out that even Dunkin' Donuts franchises had received $22,000,000 in federal counterterrorism loans.

Actually, we could spend far less on homeland security and have a far safer nation if we would just adopt a more neutral, non-interventionist foreign policy all over the world, but especially in the Middle East. In a debate during the 2000 presidential campaign, then Gov. Bush said other nations would perceive us based on our foreign policy: "If we're an arrogant nation, they'll resent us. If we're a humble nation but strong, they'll welcome us." He said, "We can help build coalitions, but we can't put our troops all around the world." During our most recent wars practically all of the funding has come from the U.S. Candidate Bush said he was opposed to nation-building, and that use of military "needs to be in our vital interest; the mission needs to be clear and the exit strategy obvious." If President Bush had followed this policy, our Nation would have been safer, our economy stronger, and he would be much more popular.

The Government Accountability Office issued a report in 2008 saying the Pentagon had cost overruns totaling a mind-boggling $295 billion on just 72 of its largest weapons systems. This did not even count all the cost overruns on its thousands of other large, medium and small contracts.

National defense is one of the most important and most legitimate functions of our federal government, and I have great respect for those who serve or have served in the military. Both sides of the aisle are afraid to criticize the Pentagon or vote against any defense spending, no matter how high, for fear of appearing to be unpatriotic. However, it really is unpatriotic to never question or oppose unbelievably wasteful spending just because it is being done by the Defense Department. We are now spending more on defense than all other nations combined, and those who believe in world government are seeing it in action thought this Department.

Because it is so unpopular today to criticize even wasteful spending by the Defense Department, a December 1, 2008, column by Vice Admiral Jack Shanahan was almost amazing. Admiral Shanahan is the former commander of the U.S. Second Fleet. He wrote:

"Our government is sinking $700 billion in taxpayer dollars into a system riddled with waste, and often incapable of tracking where the money goes. No, I'm not talking about Wall Street. The teetering enterprise in question is actually the Pentagon. The U.S. defense establishment is in dire need of a rescue. But unlike Wall Street, where we threw billions of dollars at the problem, a Pentagon bailout requires taking money away - and fast."

The only thing I would add is that we are spending more than $700 billion a year now when you count not only the regular appropriation, but also emergency, supplemental and omnibus appropriations, and military construction appropriations, which are all in separate bills.

Admiral Shanahan said the Defense Department's "culture of easy money and no accountability eventually endangers us all." One of many examples of this culture could be seen in the Pentagon's cost overrun in the Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter Program. This contract was finally cancelled Oct.16 after the per unit cost went 43% over budget. The result: $5,000,000,000.00 spent, 0 (zero) helicopters produced.

The main reason that defense costs have exploded so much in recent years is that almost all federal contracts - defense and non-defense - are sweetheart, insider deals given to firms that employ former government employees. A GAO study found that in 2006, 52 contractors employed 2,435 former generals, admirals and high-ranking Defense Department employees. Two-thirds were hired by SAIC, Northrop Grumman, Lockheed-Martin, Booz Allen Hamilton, L3 Communications, General Dynamics, and Raytheon.

This is also why there is so much pressure to keep expanding the mission of the Defense Department from one of national defense to doing anything and everything around the world. It is all more about money and power than it is about real threats to the U.S.

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