Congress departs for the Thanksgiving holiday having left us a gift. With the deficit committee failing to produce a plan to cut the deficit and with across-the-board cuts now the default, there remains a real chance for us to untie the Congressional straightjacket and refocus the national conversation on sustainable and constructive job creation.
The war industry knows this, and its allies in Congress are already moving to stop cuts to their piece of the federal budget, a total of $500 billion over 10 years. We're certain the war industry's Congressional allies are one among many things contractor CEOs are thankful for.
But as Americans take stock this Thanksgiving holiday, we thought it appropriate we expose some other turkeys that the war industry is celebrating this holiday season.
1. The V-22 Osprey
Not even then-Defense Secretary Dick Cheney could spike the V-22 Osprey. Each $70 million unit takes off like a helicopter, flies like a plane, and despite being responsible for the deaths of 30 test pilots, the $54 billion program is still business as usual for Congress. Free flight demonstrations for politicians and influential columnists (flights that manage to not spontaneously combust mid-air), as well as the Marine Corps insistence to institutionalize the aircraft have sustained the Osprey contract into one of the biggest black holes of taxpayer money.
There remains $18 billion left unspent in the fund behind the Osprey, one of two pools of war contractor projects the Project on Government Oversight identified as "cuts that could save taxpayers billions without putting American lives at risk." But the House committee chairman who oversees the project also represents a rural Texas district where the aircraft is assembled.
War contractors are toasting their lawyers and lobbyists who made this legal.
2. Rep. Buck McKeon
Rep. Buck McKeon is another Congressman who enables war industry CEOs and corporations to both enjoy record paydays and low tax rates. As the Chair of House Armed Services Committee, McKeon is the most powerful link between the war contractors and the power of the purse in the House of Representatives.
Earlier this month, McKeon defended the war contractors' bloated budget and broke into tears during a hearing about soldiers in Afghanistan. His tears were misplaced: war contractors enjoy a much larger slice of the pie than the troops. Almost on the same day, a Stimson Center study (.pdf) demonstrated how the U.S. military had used money, pegged for soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, on $1 trillion on tanks, ships and jets since Sept. 11, 2001.
Twenty-two percent of that $1 trillion came from "supplemental" war spending bills. In other words, $232.8 billion of taxpayer money that would've provided soldiers with better body armor, for example, was spent on Abrams tanks and jet fighters, both projects enrich war contractors while doing nothing to bolster the safety of our troops or our nation's safety at home.
It's no surprise then that Lockheed Martin's biggest political benefactor is Rep. Buck McKeon, who made this all possible. For that, he's a gravytrain-enabler who lets war contractors parade around in America's wealthiest 0.01%.
3. F-35 Jet Fighter
The Osprey is a Cornish game hen compared to the 49,500-pound mashed potato keg that is the largest war contract in the history of the Pentagon.
The F-35 Airplane Joint Strike Fighter has never seen one day of combat. It's, at best, questionably safe for human testing. The Aero News Network reported it was the latest in a long history of FUBAR cranberry sauce.
As those who have followed the program know, the JSF program has been plagued by cost overruns and delays. The test fleet was recently grounded due to a power supply problem, and had only just been returned to operational status. Back in January, then-defense-secretary Robert Gates had put the program on notice by imposing a two-year probation after discovering other structural flaws. Budget hawks have long viewed the program, often described as the most costly defense acquisition in history, as a tempting target. A major program review is also reportedly planned as pressure grows on Congress and the President to cut spending.