Hedging Your Threats

As we ponder Governor Walker and John Boehner agonizing over deficits, our thoughts turn to that mountain of cash flying and flapping at all those patriotic security and intelligence and defense contractors. How do they do it and how do they keep taking the candy from our baby officials and procurement officers?

There seems to be a general formula.

  1. Get a threat (based on reality or not)
  2. Connect the threat with as much fundable activity as possible
  3. Legislate an open check book to deal with threat
  4. Funnel untrammeled spending authority to a new secret or old secret agency
  5. Institutionalize positive feedback to recipient contractors that recycles the public money as political contributions, public relations media management, high paying management positions, graft, bribes and regular conventions and insider parties for government/industry win/win activity.
  6. Build in failure to terminate the threat through threat escalation or diversification or both.
  7. Keep the cycle going until funds, patience, or taxpayers are truly exhausted or flat broke.
  8. Maintain threat priority constantly.

Essential ingredients: unverifiable degrees of threat, unregulated agency anti-threat spending, no benchmarks of success beyond media drama (“Drug kingpins arrested” “#2 Al-Qaeeda droned out””Surge is working” My favorite from Colin Powell “We are winning but we have not won.”)

If you build a bridge and it collapses, there is an investigation. If a secret plane crashes or a secret agent is turned, or a secret code is cracked, the failure is secret. “We cannot reveal our achievements.” Hmmm.

That’s why procurement and development as opposed to actually fielding forces are the best ploys. Nobody knows or cares except those getting paid.

Although our current defense-related expenditures are the largest in absolute dollars in history, our Navy was bigger and stronger during Korea, our air force during Vietnam, our Army in WW 2. We then had many more copies of practical workhorses. Now we have immensely more expensive fewer copies of delicate high maintenance boondoggles (B 2 bomber, V 22 Osprey). Our one example of a lot of copies of an alleged workhorse, the Hummer, was a deathtrap even after modifications (very expensive). You could almost say the more we spend the weaker we become, not only economically, which is obvious, but militarily. Note that after the Cold War the Military/Industrial/Congressional complex justified continued high spending and later even increases so that we could successfully wage war in “two theaters simultaneously.” The money was spent and more is being spent and we cannot keep two medium cities, Baghdad and Kabul, safe from teen agers with AK-47s. But have you seen all those immense flat screen video battle and surveillance monitors in the Green Zone? And what about those drones! Others have pointed out the tactical and even worse strategic idiocy of our version of the suicide bomber, without the suicide part. At least not immediate concurrent suicide. Maybe suicide on the [large] installment plan.

I guess we must be grateful that at least a lot of dough is being spent on advanced trauma treatment and limb prosthetics. But maybe not enough.