That Wrench Cost How Much?

Mark your calendars. May 1st subcommittee hearings will begin in the House on the 1.8 billion (that’s with a “B”) dollars military and related agencies appropriation’s bill. Other than pointing out that over 90% of that sum is labeled by category for discretionary funding, I have little to say about the bill. You should scan it if you have some time. That would be after you’ve read the Mueller report. Why? Need I say more than $1.8 billion dollars 90% of which is labeled for discretionary funding? Nope.

So is this the whole message and your eyes get off easy this time around? Nope. Return with me to days of yesteryear when a retiring president with five stars earned as a general as he guided the good guys to victory in WW ll as Supreme Allied Commander. “Triple D” (which no one in their right mind ever called him) was President Dwight David Eisenhower. He left us with a “white paper” of sorts that stunned many, considering the Supreme Commander moniker, by criticizing what he called the military-industrial complex. It is worth a review.

The date was Nov. 16, 1961. It is hard to decide if Eisenhower’s main theme was the “complex” about which he had a complex, or the duties of a citizen in a democracy. He warned that if an alert citizenry did not watch and educate itself about the M-I Complex, it would harm democracy especially if the federal government was allowed to play ball unchecked with it.

The subject matter’s definition is simple. It is the “one hand washes the other” co-mingling of military procurement leaders and industrial leaders that won the war for us. But, like roaches, they were near impossible to get rid of after the war. After all, it’s hard to throw away a deal where everyone wins. The military order the stuff, it pays the industrialists to make it, they, in turn, sell it to the military. Throw in lobbyists, middlemen, corrupt elected officials, corrupt non-elected officials and you’ve got the potential for the biggest puss pimple imaginable. One example: The Abrams Tank. It costs over  $9 million (with the ability to add lots of important, expensive extras). It has an uncountable number of parts ranging from nuts and bolts to the most sophisticated electronics ever mounted on steel tracks. Let’s not forget the people and tools needed to put this jigsaw puzzle together. But it works and works well.

The other side of the coin is the F-35’s newest edition. It is the costliest piece of military warfare equipment in the world. It’s research and development price jumped $22 billion from last year. To lower costs, Lockheed Martin and Uncle Sam came up with this logic. If it costs so much let’s buy a lot of them and bring the cost down (buying in bulk). The cost per plane is now below $80 billion (Imagine the poor SOB like the pilot in Japan who all by his lonesome flew his F-35 into the ocean. He’s never been found–no wonder. Look for his Hiri Kari sword.) That slightly under $80 billion mark is making everyone crow with pride rather than eat crow. The problem is many a specialist, inside the military and out, say it doesn’t, and won’t work. Yet there’s so much invested in it to date, and so many lip-licking orders from countries around the world for it, that to scrap it is unthinkable, one giant Alka-Seltzer unthinkable.

So now is the time folks to heed Ike. It is unlikely any of us will turn ourselves into jet-age scientists able to make judgments in fine-tuning this behemoth. However, we can write to our elected representatives and tell them we are watching them watch this bill. It isn’t a question of weakening our military. For sure that was not Ike’s thought. What it is about is getting what you pay for.

So if it is ironic that the Supreme Allied Commander was cautioning us about the military and its potential procurement shenanigans, chew on this for a while. Towards the end of the speech–where it usually ends up in most speeches–was a warning about ecology. The out-going president warned us not to plunder our nation’s resources in the short term while leaving the long-term impact of that plundering to someone else. No one ever said Eisenhower was a liberal, a progressive, or even a visionary outside his own field. Yet there it is from over a half-century ago. Let’s all give a shout: “I like Ike!”

Sound prescient? ‘does to me–at least from my perspective.


In a “those who ignore history are doomed to relive it” column, this Sunday’s Bill Gralnick missive comes from over fifty years ago. He is amazed that the warnings given then are as compelling today as they were then.

A reminder: watch this space, the website, and Facebook for book number three, due out in a matter of weeks. We are pleased to add MSNBC’s 11th Hour commander Brian Williams to the book’s endorsers. Details will follow.

And remember Bill’s favorite plea: “Read! It’s good for both of us.”


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