Inside the Defense Budget

Winslow Wheeler, a former staffer for Sen. Pete Domenici, has an article in Counterpunch explaining how Congress can secretly add $12 billion in pork projects to the last defense appropriations bill while simultaneously reducing the apparent size of the bill by $4.4 billion. (Answer, they hide the money rather than cutting anything.) It’s one of the better explanations around of how Congress fiddles with bills to sneak in projects here and there. Wheeler, after all, helped design some of these tricks—for instance, “cutting” programs only to stuff them later into “emergency” spending bills, so that the money is spent but doesn’t show up on budget projections.

If that’s all that was going on, that would be bad enough (mind you, usually pork is just pork; a small waste, sure, but things wouldn’t get done without it—but the ever-inflating Pentagon budget is far more disconcerting, I think). But Wheeler points out a few places where actually crucial funds seem to have been cut in the appropriations bill—for instance, $1.3 billion for “Peacetime Training” and “Operations Support”—and then weren’t put back in the emergency bill, as they were presumably supposed to be. A bit of a morass, to say the least.


The more we thought about how MoJo's journalism can have the most impact heading into the 2020 election, the more we realized that so many of today's stories come down to corruption: democracy and the rule of law being undermined by the wealthy and powerful for their own gain.

So we're launching a new Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption. We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We'll publish what we find as a major series in the summer of 2020, including a special issue of our magazine, a dedicated online portal, and video and podcast series so it doesn't get lost in the daily deluge of breaking news.

It's unlike anything we've done before and we've got seed funding to get started, but we're asking readers to help crowdfund this new beat with an additional $500,000 so we can go even bigger. You can read why we're taking this approach and what we want to accomplish in "Corruption Isn't Just Another Scandal. It's the Rot Beneath All of Them," and if you like how it sounds, please help fund it with a tax-deductible donation today.

We Recommend


Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.


Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.