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.