Posts Tagged: Department of Defense

FAA Cleared for Takeoff

The U.S. Senate is expected to approve a bill this morning written by the House that will resume operations at the Federal Aviation Administration — at least until Sep. 16, reports the New York Times’ Edward Wyatt. At issue in the FAA’s shutdown is a Congressional dispute over whether the agency should give subsidies so rural airports get commercial airline service. The broader issue is Congress’s astonishing indifference about a functioning federal agency. (more…)

Chicago to have most patriotic hospital ever

A federal health center that will open in North Chicago Oct. 1 will be the first of its kind to combine services for both the Dept. of Defense and the Dept. of Veterans Affairs. The Chicago Tribune’s Peter Cameron reports that the DOD/VA project has taken eight years to complete and required the transfer of 530 civilian employees from DOD to VA, the assimilation of medical records, and the construction of a 290,000 foot ambulatory care center. (more…)

Gitmo in Illinois minus the Gitmo part

The Chicago Tribune’s Christi Parsons reports that the Justice Dept. will buy a correctional facility in Thomson, Illinois even if Congress continues to block funding to move Guantanamo Bay detainees to Illinois. Turning the Thomson facility into a federal prison while sidestepping possible hysteria over housing terrorist suspects would appear to be a win-win for Illinois. (more…)



Justin Elliot of Talking Points Memo has a nice pick-up of two reports critical of the Defense Contract Audit Agency, which is supposed to police all dealings between military and industry — or $501 billion worth of government contracts. It’s hard to audit that many contracts, but what the Government Accountability Office and Pentagon Inspector General find most problematic is not that the auditors are overwhelmed, or even incompetent. It’s that the auditors become friends with the military and private contractors, and don’t make serious audits. Pruning the Pentagon budget is one the biggest ways curtail government waste and reduce the national debt. But the DOD bureaucracy still seems far away from internal reform.


Here is a potentially positive shift in foreign policy from the Bush to Obama administration: the New York Times’ Judy Dempsey and Peter Baker reported this weekend that Barack Obama might want to scrap the missile defense shield George W. Bush wanted to build in Poland and the Czech Republic. The shield is supposed to cost at least $4 billion and its purpose is unclear: stopping a potential Iranian nuclear attack? Stopping a Russian nuclear attack?

Not surprisingly, Russia is happy that the U.S. might not have a missile defense shield in two former Soviet bloc states, after all. Besides relations with Russia, there’s another reason Obama should can this program: missile defense doesn’t work. Even if Iran were to develop the nuclear weapon needed to attack Poland and then decided it would be a great idea to attack Poland (and be subsequently annihilated), the technology isn’t there to actually shield Poland from such an attack.-MB


I hope Secretary of Defense Robert Gates writes a serious memoir after he retires.  He might explain why he’s been targeting the Future Combat Systems program, designed to digitalize the infantry experience and use technology for more precise attacks on the enemy.  The reason described in Christopher Drew’s piece in the New York Times is practical — Gates, says Drew, has voiced concerns that new hi-tech vehicles "would not provide enough protection against simple roadside bombs that have killed soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan."

Drew shows how weapons systems — futuristic or not — can lose their relevance after design is completed and production starts.  The combat vehicles Gates nixed were supposed to be light and easily transportable, but after IEDs became the norm in Iraq, the manufacturers added tons of armor — making the vehicles "less easy to transport and weakening the rationale for the project."

But the rationale for ever-more advanced weapons systems has always been weak.  Technological omnipotence is impossible to obtain — as IEDs and suicide bombers have made clear — and the desire for it masks another one, from defense contractors, which is to keep tax dollars flowing their way.  The simple dynamic of getting ever more fancy stuff and then wanting to try it out has been a constant in American life for decades, and some in the military establishment seem prey to this consumerist drive.  I’m wondering if there’s more to Gates’s objections to Future Combat Systems than is captured in the press. -NH