Does The Pentagon Hiding Its Waste Of 125 Billion Dollars Qualify As An Obama Administration Scandal? Nah! Don’t You Know That The Obama Administration Is Scandal Free?

the_pentagon

Scandals? In the Obama Administration? Of course not! David Brooks said so, remember?

“President Obama has run an amazingly scandal-free administration, not only he himself, but the people around him. He’s chosen people who have been pretty scandal-free. And so there are people in Washington who do set a standard of integrity, who do seem to attract people of quality.”

The IRS targeting conservative groups to blunt their influence on an election? Not a scandal! HHS rolling out a non-functional website for Obamacare that cost 2 billion dollars? The Veterans Administration being mismanaged at epic proportions while veterans died waiting for care? Jonathan Gruber’s declaration that Obamacare depended upon the “stupidity of American voter”? The Secret Service showing utter incompetence repeatedly? The head of the CIA giving classified information to his mistress? The NSA allowing a low-level contractor to steal and publish crucial secrets? The Office of Personnel Management allowing hundreds of thousands of government employees to have their sensitive information hacked? Unprecedented sexual harassment and assault in the Armed Services? Fast and Furious? Wait, wasn’t there a Secretary of State who violated her own department’s security policies, covered it up, lied about it, and did so with the knowledge of the President? The Attorney General meeting with the husband of a target of an FBI investigation, when that husband was the former President who once promoted that AG? No scandals?

Nah, President Barack Obama administration is scandal free!

I was watching CNN and Headline News this morning specifically to see if the Washington Post’s scoop last night was deemed worthy of mention. Of course, it wasn’t, and so far, almost all of the mainstream news media apparently believes that it’s less important for Americans to know about than, well, just about everything. Here what Google’s software ways are the top stories based on what the web is reporting:

Donald Trump
Oakland
Manchester United F.C.
College football
Westworld
Seattle Seahawks
Manuel Valls
OPEC
New York Jets
Pat McCrory

Clearly, what the  Post’s Craig Whitlock and Bob Woodward  reported last night is trivia—fake news, really, since we know there are no scandals in the Obama Administration:

The Pentagon has buried an internal study that exposed $125 billion in administrative waste in its business operations amid fears Congress would use the findings as an excuse to slash the defense budget, according to interviews and confidential memos obtained by The Washington Post.  Pentagon leaders had requested the study to help make their enormous back-office bureaucracy more efficient and reinvest any savings in combat power. But after the project documented far more wasteful spending than expected, senior defense officials moved swiftly to kill it by discrediting and suppressing the results.

You know: integrity!

I could just leave the post at that, but a few rueful observations are clawing at the inside of my skull:

1. I am reminded of the best exchange from the original “Independence Day,” when the weak U.S. President, played by Bill Pullman, learns that there really is an Area 51, that is huge, and that he never knew about. Judd Hirsch, doing an embarrassing Borscht Belt impression of an elderly Jewish man, is incredulous:

President Thomas Whitmore: I don’t understand, where does all this come from? How do you get funding for something like this?

Julius Levinson: You don’t actually think they spend $20,000 on a hammer, $30,000 on a toilet seat, do you?

2. Did you wonder how the national debt increased by about a third in just 8 years?

3. How much money is 125 billion dollars in budget terms? Well, lets look at discretionary spending in last year’s budget:

All the spending on energy and the environment

40 billion dollars

plus all the discretionary spending on transportation

26 billion dollars

plus Social Security, labor and unemployment…

30 billion dollars

plus food and agriculture

13 billion dollars

…comes to “only”

109 billion dollars, or

16 billion less than the Defense Department wasted all by itself.

Then, to make sure that nobody noticed and the public wouldn’t learn about it with an election coming up, and that the Obama Administration remain “scandal free,” of course, they covered it up. They needn’t have bothered; Headline News thought that showing a Miley Cyrus duet with Dolly Parton was more worthy of the its precious time than informing the public of where their taxes go.

5. You may have noticed that the news media is flogging the “fake news” angle as part of its effort to undermine legitimate conservative reporting and Donald Trump’s victory. If the left-biased mainstream media doesn’t report it, the news must be “fake.” The truth is that the mainstream media makes fake news credible by deliberately withholding real news, a practice that tells the false story that the news never happened.

6. I apologize for the tone of this post. I’m blowing off steam, I admit it. But everything about the story—the waste, the cover-up, the two term trend of incompetence in the Obama Administration, the hypocrisy of the “fake news” spin and the continuing attempted manipulation of public opinion by journalists infuriates me.

32 Comments

Filed under Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, War and the Military

32 responses to “Does The Pentagon Hiding Its Waste Of 125 Billion Dollars Qualify As An Obama Administration Scandal? Nah! Don’t You Know That The Obama Administration Is Scandal Free?

  1. junkmailfolder

    Yes, his administration is scandal free. He does, however, read about a lot of scandals in the newspaper.

  2. Sam

    Keep up the good work Jack.
    It’s refreshing to find individuals such as yourself calling it like it is. Makes me happy to know there other people out there who realise the truth lies somewhere in the middle of all this self interest and deception.

  3. Brian

    There needs to be a standard way to report government spending, because the window is never constant. The 125 billion was potential savings over 5 years. So 25 billion from an organization that spends 600+ billion per year. The auditor identified less than 5% of spending that could be saved. In an organization as large as DoD 5% is large in absolute terms, and also not surprising as all large organizations have waste and redundancies, add the politically influenced programming they do and im sure you can find more.

    I’m not defending the buring of the report, they need congressional oversight like a frog needs water. But i am frustrated that as reported, or at least as headlined, it is a bit sensational.

    • It should be sensational. 125 billion is 125 billion. That’s an absurd among of waste, and all under Obama’s management. Bring on mad dog.

      • brian

        We disagree on it being sensational, I find it far less sensational to find out that there is possible 5% of government spending that is wasteful, I’m actually surprised it’s that low. Should we reduce that, of course, but practically speaking we can never get it to 0$, and there are costs associated with reducing it.

        To me the sensational aspect of the story, and the scandal, is that Director Cater buried the report and is avoiding congressional oversight. This is mismanagement and I believe endemic in the executive branch under this administration. They do not believe they require congressional oversight, and instead of working collaboratively with their co-equal branch of government, they protect their turf.

        • The fact that 125 billion in waste in ONE DEPARTMENT is shrugged off as not that bad is sensational in itself.

          • brian

            Not when that waste is out of 3 trillion spent.

            • What? That’s ridiculous. 125 billion is still 125 billion, and obviously Defense thought so too, or they wouldn’t have tried to cover it up. If they can’t avoid waisting that much money, then obviously they can’t be trusted to have the budget they do.

            • brian

              And I’ll add that the waste identified was as best as I can understand it, the ability to reduce back office support by implementing better IT strategies. I have personally seen this recommendation playbook before and am a skeptical of the numbers provided. When consultants come in with a report showing how much can be saved by implementing new IT, it is almost always too aggressive in the the cost savings and low balls the IT expense. IT implementation is always more expensive and complicated than initial estimates, even when done well because the people generating the estimate have an incentive to low ball the cost and don’t have the expertise to provide realistic numbers..

              Look, the report found real money, and that information should have been acted on and provided to the oversight committee. Large bureaucracies should be constantly looking for ways to improve efficiency and deliver more value, and the fact that the DoD under this administration is actively subverting that approach is a scandal. But I don’t find it a scandalous that a rounding error on their budget could have been better spend, that’s literally always true. They could have gotten by on $3.0 trillion instead of $3.1 trillion. Because it’s literally always true that some money is not being spent effectively, the scandal is that management choose to stick it’s head in the sand instead of manage, but that’s pretty indicative of this administration’s constant elevation of political decision making over effective executive leadership.

      • Phlinn

        The timeframe makes your point 3 a bit of an apples to oranges comparison though.

        • How? The study came out in Jan 2015. Money is money. Had that amount not been wasted, those expenditures in 2015 would have been paid for (recognizing that they are all different pockets.)

          • brian

            I’m confused. The report came out in Jan 2015. Had they acted on and implemented it immediately, it would have freed up 25 billion in 2015 to spend somewhere else. That’s overly optimistic though because their would have been implementation costs and the savings is surely back loaded as it relies on retirement and other organic workforce losses.

            I suppose this is my issue, had there been 125 billion in waste per year that’s staggering. A full quarter of the DoD budget would be waste. That’s sensational, that’s nuts. But the report didn’t find that. It found that the back office support structure was very, very, very poorly managed, and they could save an average of 25 billion per year by reducing their support staff by 250,000 workers over 5 years. BTW, how much did Clinton win Virginia by?

            Scandalous to me is the WH response:

            http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/309018-wh-disputes-that-pentagon-suppressed-waste-report

            “‘I would point out there are many self-described defense hawks and fiscal conservatives in the United States Congress who are blocking Pentagon-recommended reforms that would strengthen our military and save taxpayers billions of dollars, That’s the real scandal’

            He cited a number of cost-saving moves backed by President Obama that Congress has not advanced, including restarting the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission progress, phasing out the A-10 Air Force combat jet and slowing down production of the littoral combat ship. ”

            So yeah, his DoD buries a report about how poorly managed his executive branch of government is, and he points the finger at those Republicans in congress, the exact same people who they were hiding the report from because presumably they would have done what? By his logic, they don’t want to save cost at DoD, so why not give them the report, and their is no reason to worry about the report opening that can of congressional worms. But he doesn’t actually believe that, as can be seen by the Carter’s decision, so he lies, obfuscates, and passes the blame. And the media cover for it, all the while reporting on how scandal free this administration is and how awful those Republican’s in congress are.

          • Phlinn

            125 million over 5 years should not be directly compared to single year amounts. It’s like comparing 5 meters per second to 10 miles per hour and thinking the second number one is faster.

            • No, because it’s cumulative. The percentage rationalization is how the debt grows while those responsible keep saying, “But as a yearly percentage of X, it’s nothing at all!

              Whether I waste 1000 last year or 100 a dollars a year for ten leading up to this year, I’m still 1000 poorer now than I would have been without the waste. And if I juggle the books to hide it from my wife, I’m engaging in the same duplicity and breach of trust.

  4. Why are you apologizing? This is refreshing.

    • luckyesteeyoreman

      “This is refreshing.”

      Yeah, refreshing, if in no other way than insofar that it’s more like the good old days of the-DOD-is-always-wasting-money-somehow-somewhere, unlike the more recent bad old days (8 years’ worth) of Executive Branch unaccountability as the “scandal-free” Obama regime.

  5. Jack this one is too easy.

    Military? War.

    War? Republicans.

    Republicans? Bush.

    There, source of the scandal resolved.

  6. So this came to light because the military requested an indepth audit of its practices from a fiscal perspective…

    I wonder what we’d find if the other departments would be so introspective?

    • brian

      Oddly enough, the deputy who asked for the audit over the objections of other senior DoD administrators, presumable because he know there was a problem, also didn’t like the findings. Not sure how to take that information.

  7. fattymoon

    “The NSA allowing a low-level contractor to steal and publish crucial secrets?”

    ‘Allowing’ may be the wrong word here. ‘crucial’, yes, but crucial to whom? Big Brother?

    But that’s neither here nor there. Let’s take a peek at “The 10 Biggest Revelations From Edward Snowden’s Leaks” and then you decide – is Snowden a traitor or a patriot? http://mashable.com/2014/06/05/edward-snowden-revelations/#0sTMEXdREkqA

    The above piece was written in 2014. If you follow Snowden, as I do, you will learn many more interesting, formerly hidden nuggets. One of which, recently, is his take on Trump’s victory. Goes well with strong coffee at 4 in the morning while waiting for someone to bite the bullet and face me on the virtual chessboard.

    • brian

      Patriot or traitor is irrelevant to the competence question. However you fall on your question, the government was still totally incompetent. And yes, I would agree that ‘Allow’ is the correct verb in this instance, because they ‘give the necessary time or opportunity for’ the crime to occur. The NSA knows this information is constantly under threat of being stolen, and should have had in place the appropriate restrictions to stop Snowden.

  8. Leslie

    I agree with your post. I shared it with my friends on Facebook who are probably exhausted with politics because it’s important and I felt that you said it best. I’m not trying to be a jerk, but you have multiple spelling errors I hope you will fix. I usually won’t post anything with more than one error. Especially with the increased scrutiny of conservative news being called “fake news.” Enviornmentt, unemploymentt, Google software ways (says?). If we’re going to point out the incompetence of others we need to edit well…

  9. Matthew B

    “The head of the CIA giving classified information to his mistress? ”

    That one causes a side diversion – Not that I already don’t think pretty negatively about Trump, but a David Petraeus SOS better turn out to be a psych op rather than a real appointment.

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