Sanders “Nobody really knows” Department of Defense spending

Kevin Rutledge on June 14, 2015
Senator Bernie Sanders addresses massive waste within the complicated military industrial complex when asked about what he'll do to make the public interest a priority over private interest. "So if you wanted to ask me ‘Well gee, how much money do we spend on this? How much money do we spend on that?’ The truth is, in many ways nobody really knows that.”

We set up our banners in the heavy rain as everybody huddled underneath the outdoor shelter to wait for Senator Bernie Sanders to speak at the Warren County Democratic Party’s 12th Annual Fundraiser in Indianola, Iowa. The sunshine finally came out and I was ready to ask Senator Sanders a question to shine the light on “governing under the influence” of massive Pentagon contractors.

My question: “Senator, it’s great to hear you talk about how we need to cut our military spending. Specifically, what will you do to be sure that the public interest has priority over the private interest of weapon-making corporations such as Lockheed Martin or Northrop Grumman, who spend millions on elections and lobbying?

Senator Sanders corrected me by saying, “Not millions. Billions.” He continued to address issues about the military industrial complex from Dwight D. Eisenhower’s farewell speech, the revolving door, auditing the Department of Defense, fraud from major military contractors, and the need for a cost-effective military.

Watch the video to see Senator Sanders’ response.  Here are some quotations:

“And he [Eisenhower] said, ‘Beware that they’re not necessarily entrusted in the wellbeing of our country, they’re entrusted in their own power and profits.” 

“There is a revolving door where generals and admirals go from the military into defense contractors.”

“There is no other major agency of government that cannot sustain an independent audit, other than the Department of Defense. In other words, their practices are so complicated and so unwieldy that we can’t even audit it. So if you wanted to ask me, ‘Well gee, how much money do we spend on this? How much money do we spend on that?’ The truth is, in many ways nobody really knows that.”

“We do know that virtually every major military contractor has been either convicted of fraud, trying to rip off the taxpayers of this country or reach a settlement with the government in lieu of being found guilty.”

“So we have every reason to believe there is massive waste within the military. Do we want a strong military? In my view, we do.  But we need a military which, like every other agency of government, should be cost effective, and that certainly is not the case now.”

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Kevin Rutledge

Kevin Rutledge AFSC Governing Under the Influence Presidential Campaign Project

Kevin Rutledge is the Grassroots Education Coordinator with AFSC’s Presidential Campaign Project in Iowa.  Kevin has deep family roots in Quaker activism for peace and social justice.  A graduate from Iowa State University in Sociology and Criminal Justice, his previous work includes: United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) organizer, Public Citizen online organizer to overturn Citizens United, U.S. Senator Tom Harkin, and a youth residential treatment facility.  Kevin hopes to one day return to Brazil and live by the beach.

“What the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve.” – Napoleon Hill .