GUI Fingerprints all over Federal Budget

Arnie Alpert on December 17, 2014

Weighing in at 1603 pages, the $1.1 trillion government spending package finalized by Congress on December 13 includes $595 billion for military spending.


Weighing in at 1603 pages, the $1.1 trillion government spending package finalized by Congress on December 13 includes $595 billion for military spending.   

That amount is more than the Pentagon even requested.

Congressional budget writers added $3 billion in weapons spending above the Pentagon’s own prposal.  Politico called it “a bill packed with goodies for the military’s top defense contractors, including aerospace giants Lockheed Martin and Boeing.”  Among the goodies:  four more F-35 aircraft than the Pentagon proposed.  

It is no coincidence that Lockheed Martin, the F-35’s prime contractor, has spent more than $10 million lobbying so far this year and invested more than $4 million in politicians, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.  

The F-35 spending in this year’s budget is just another down payment toward the $1.5 trillion that F-35 is expected to cost over its life cycle.  (Yes, that’s trillion with a “t.”) Critics point out that “the most expensive weapons program in Pentagon history” has been plagued from the start by cost over-runs and malfunctions, like bursting into flames on the runway.

The vote in Congress came in the same week that the Air Force admitted it has had to repaint fuel trucks in order to keep F-35 planes in the air.  It’s not about style.

In a report posted December 6 on an Air Force web site, a spokesperson for the 56th Logistics Readiness Squadron in Luke, Arizona, said "We painted the refuelers white to reduce the temperature of fuel being delivered to the F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter."

"The F-35 has a fuel temperature threshold and may not function properly if the fuel temperature is too high, so after collaborating with other bases and receiving waiver approval from (the Air Education Training Command), we painted the tanks white." explained Senior Airman Jacob Hartman, a 56th LRS fuels distribution operator.

NBC News notes “there have been no publicly reported cases of current jet fighters experiencing problems with hot fuel. At the same time, repainting trucks bright white could make them easier targets if based in hostile territory subject to high temperatures, such as deserts. Temperatures in Iraq, for instance, can exceed 120 degrees.”

The $595 billion figure includes a Pentagon base budget of $496 billion, $64 billion for “overseas contingency operations” (a term used to obscure spending for wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and now Syria), plus nearly $18 billion for nuclear weapons.  Added together the amount makes up 54% of the appropriations approved by Congress.

The F-35 was not the only weapons system that got a boost in the budget process.   The EA-18G Growler, made by Boeing, and the M1 Abrams tank, made by General Dynamics, won funding at levels higher than Pentagon requests. 

To be fair, lobbyists for Pentagon contractors were not the only ones working behind the scenes to make the budget work for them.  The amendment to provide federal insurance coverage for risky derivative investments was reportedly written by Citgroup’s lobbyists.  Its acceptance was aided by last minute phone calls from Jamie Dimon, the CEO of JP Morgan.   Despite a revolt by progressive Democrats, Wall Street got what it wanted.   

The political parties and their corporate backers also got a prize in the budget.  A provision added in at the last minute raises the limits on contributions to political parties from $97,200 a year to $776,000 a year, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.  Even that assumes the donor is giving to only one party.   Politico reports the deal was engineered behind the scenes by Marc Elias, a well-connected Democratic lawyer, working with the offices of Senate President Harry Reid and Speaker of the House John Boehner.   



Arnie Alpert

Arnie Alpert

Arnie Alpert is co-director of the American Friends Service Committee’s New Hampshire Program, which he has led since 1981.  In that time he has been involved in movements for economic justice and affordable housing, civil and worker rights, peace and disarmament, abolition of the death penalty, and an end to racism and homophobia.