Farewell. The Flying Pig Has Left The Building.

Steve Hynd, August 16, 2012

After four years on the Typepad site, eight years total blogging, Newshoggers is closing it's doors today. We've been coasting the last year or so, with many of us moving on to bigger projects (Hey, Eric!) or simply running out of blogging enthusiasm, and it's time to give the old flying pig a rest.

We've done okay over those eight years, although never being quite PC enough to gain wider acceptance from the partisan "party right or wrong" crowds. We like to think we moved political conversations a little, on the ever-present wish to rush to war with Iran, on the need for a real Left that isn't licking corporatist Dem boots every cycle, on America's foreign misadventures in Afghanistan and Iraq. We like to think we made a small difference while writing under that flying pig banner. We did pretty good for a bunch with no ties to big-party apparatuses or think tanks.

Those eight years of blogging will still exist. Because we're ending this typepad account, we've been archiving the typepad blog here. And the original blogger archive is still here. There will still be new content from the old 'hoggers crew too. Ron writes for The Moderate Voice, I post at The Agonist and Eric Martin's lucid foreign policy thoughts can be read at Democracy Arsenal.

I'd like to thank all our regular commenters, readers and the other bloggers who regularly linked to our posts over the years to agree or disagree. You all made writing for 'hoggers an amazingly fun and stimulating experience.

Thank you very much.

Note: This is an archive copy of Newshoggers. Most of the pictures are gone but the words are all here. There may be some occasional new content, John may do some posts and Ron will cross post some of his contributions to The Moderate Voice so check back.


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

What Price National Security?

By Steve Hynd

New Defense Secretary Leon Panetta joined with SecState Clinton today to warn that cuts to the Pentagon's budget could be "devastating" to America's national security.

Panetta said the Pentagon is prepared to make $350 billion in cuts over the next 10 years, as agreed by Congress. But he warned of dangers to the national defense if bigger reductions are required.

The deficit compromise reached between the White House and Congress set up a special bipartisan committee to draft legislation to find more government cuts. If the committee cannot agree on a deficit-reduction plan by year's end or if Congress rejects its proposal, it would trigger some $500 billion in additional reductions in projected national security spending.

"This kind of massive cut across the board � which would literally double the number of cuts that we're confronting � that would have devastating effects on our national defense; it would have devastating effects on certainly the State Department," Panetta said.

Woah. State has a fraction of the DoD's budget - it's entire annual budget is what the Pentagon spends on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan alone every quarter. Does anyone at all get why State has to bear any burden when what we need to do is empty the bloated Pentagon's piggy bank some, other than some Beltway B.S. about proportionate fairness between departments? Beuller?

Nancy Youssef at McClatchy has a great piece on just how profliagte DoD has become: "True cost of Afghan, Iraq wars is anyone's guess".

Yes, Congress has allotted $1.3 trillion for war spending through fiscal year 2011 just to the Defense Department. There are long Pentagon spreadsheets that outline how much of that was spent on personnel, transportation, fuel and other costs. In a recent speech, President Barack Obama assigned the wars a $1 trillion price tag.

But all those numbers are incomplete. Besides what Congress appropriated, the Pentagon spent an additional unknown amount from its $5.2 trillion base budget over that same period. According to a recent Brown University study, the wars and their ripple effects have cost the United States $3.7 trillion, or more than $12,000 per American.

...According to Defense Department figures, by the end of April the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan � including everything from personnel and equipment to training Iraqi and Afghan security forces and deploying intelligence-gathering drones � had cost an average of $9.7 billion a month, with roughly two-thirds going to Afghanistan. That total is roughly the entire annual budget for the Environmental Protection Agency.

Of that insane amount, the Saintly Director-General's own staff estimates that:

$360 million spent on combat support and reconstruction contracts in Afghanistan has ended up in the hands of people the American-led coalition has battled for nearly a decade: the Taliban, criminals and local power brokers with ties to both, The Associated Press has learned.

Over at Danger Room, Noah Shachtman and his staff have daily stories about even more waste and profligate spending. The entire U.S. inventory of stealth fighters - F22 and F35s, build at a cost of hundreds of billions - is grounded due to technical difficulties. Not that they've been used in any of the small wars the U.S. has involved itself in, because they're too expensive to risk. And just like those shiny jets, the insanely expensive Falcon Hypersonic Technology Vehicle 2 is intended for hypothetical wars with nations that spend 10% of America's annual defense budget (and that own America's debt, making some wonder what percentage they'd see in war). The Falcon HTV2 crashed again this week - the rocket that launched it alone costs at least $30 million a pop.

The DoD's budget for 2012 is $671 billion; $553 billion in the �base budget� and $117.8 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Projecting forward, the entire looked-for savings from national security spending amount to only 5% of the entire spend over the decade. Even if a debt trigger gets pulled, we're still only talking about less than 10% of the total spend. Yet the DoD itself doesn't expect to do anything other than be involved in small colonial wars of choice like Libya, Afghanistan and Iraq: wars that are almost certainly a bad idea in the first place and have a net effect of driving down America's approval abroad while simply stalling inevitable civil wars until the U.S. decides to pack up and go home. A sizeable chunk of spending, around $200 billion a year, is actually going to preparation for "hypothetical" wars with states that spend a tiny fraction of the U.S. budget and which have no intention of starting a fight in any case.

The only rational conclusion is that the military-industrial complex has grown hopelessly out of control and needs courageous politicians to drastically trim what can no longer be afforded. Unless, of course, someone would like to make the case that the idea of "American exceptionalism" is worth $6.5 trillion a decade when the civilian infrastructure and social fabric of the nation - an entirely different type of "national security" - are frayed beyond belief and in danger of being collapsed entirely so that DoD can afford its shiny new toys.

Update: Chris Hellman at Salon.

This June, the Institute for Policy Studies released the latest version of what it calls "a Unified Security Budget for the United States" that could make the country safer for far less than the current military budget. Known more familiarly as the USB, it has been produced annually since 2004 by the website Foreign Policy in Focus and draws on a task force of experts.

As in previous years, the report found -- again in layman's terms -- that the U.S. invests its security dollars mainly in making war, slighting both real homeland security and anything that might pass for preventive diplomacy. In the Obama administration's proposed 2012 budget, for example, 85 percent of security spending goes to the military (and if you included the costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, that percentage would only rise); just 7 percent goes to real homeland security and a modest 8 percent to what might, even generously speaking, be termed non-military international engagement.


  1. Some more info on costs of war here: How the Cow Gets Fed.

  2. We need to change the name back to the original Department of War. It's not about defense but all about war.