This Week in National Insecurity: July 4th Edition

Luigi Crespo/<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/crespoluigi/1557536517/sizes/l/in/photostream/">Flickr</a>

Happy (almost) birthday, America! Nothing says red, white, and blue firecrackin’ love of country like a roundup of defense dementedness. Each Friday, we grab our lensatic compass, rucksack, and canteen, then mount out across the global media landscape for a quick national security recon. Whether you think our military is too damned busy—or not busy enough—here’s all the ammunition you’ll need, in a handy debrief.

In this installment: No to “toe shoes”! And no to tech support! But yes to ugly cars, loads of marijuana, $5 trillion wars, and coating your colleagues in “foreign substances.”

The sitrep:

The government’s national threat level is Elevated, or Yellowat a heightened level of vigilance.

  • Bye bye, Bob Gates. Care for a Presidential Medal of Freedom on your way out? All outgoing defense secretaries get a medal now. (Stars & Stripes)
  • And what does the new secdef, Leon Panetta, get? A $5 trillion war on terror. A new study says that’s the actual cost of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars (not the $1 trillion the Pentagon estimated last week). The report also gives an “extremely conservative” estimate of 225,000 deaths and 365,000 injuries in the wars. (Time)
  • So what are we spending all that money on? Computer systems that don’t work, apparently. The Army’s $2.7 billion DCGS-A network is supposed to give commanders real-time battlefield data, but “was unable to perform simple analytical tasks” and has actually helped insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan. “There’s a lot of bugs in the workflow,” says one officer. Lesson learned: Computers can make chocolate rain, but they can’t rebuild failed nations. (Politico)
  • But here’s something the Army’s unwilling to spend money on: “toe shoes” for exercising soldiers. According to a new directive from the brass: “…only those shoes that accommodate all five toes in one compartment are authorized for wear. Those shoes that feature five separate, individual compartments for the toes, detract from a professional military image and are prohibited” during workouts. (Washington Post)
  • Speaking of soon-to-be-ex-soldiers, congratulations to the new chief spook, David Petraeus. CIA officers, he’ll be the one rolling around your Langley headquarters in his favorite toe shoes. (Stars & Stripes)
  • Here’s something nobody in the Senate asked Petraeus about in his confirmation hearing: There’s a quiet debate on the Hill over whether to keep the intelligence budget buried in the Pentagon’s spending bill, where nobody can see any real details about how spies spend taxpayer money. James Clapper, the US intel czar, would like a separate, sort-of-more-transparent budget for intel operations, but a key House committee has stymied him. Given Clapper’s job, he probably should have seen that coming. (Washington Post)
  • There’s plenty of other military budget news this week: Republicans say they are considering deeper military spending cuts, but they’re long on talk and short on details as yet. Lockheed, maker of the trillion-dollar Joint Strike Fighter, has an online map to show how much of that money (theoretically) gets funneled back to your state. The Senate is actually trimming more than $1 billion in base construction spending that Obama wanted. (The body is making “tough decisions in Guam, Bahrain, and Germany,” says one lawmaker.) Perhaps they can use the savings to pay for these Boeing helicopter parts, which were marked up 21,772 percent when sold to the Pentagon.

  • Lest you forget that the Coast Guard is a branch of the military, its members would like to remind you that they, too, haze their colleagues (if you could call being “tied down, stripped, coated in foreign substances and called derogatory names” getting hazed). (Navy Times)
  • And while Capitol Hill conservatives have been busy warning about a post-DADT upheaval in the ranks, the Navy is making splendid progress integrating women into the submarine service. (Military Times)

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

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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 want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

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