Friday, May 8, 2015

A Healthy Pentagon Budget

They got $38 billion$40 billion, what's the difference, with trillions in social service cuts while we were told....

"The central question that Obama’s budget will pose to Congress is this: Should Washington worry about what may be the defining economic issue of the era — the rising gap between the rich and everyone else — or should policy makers primarily seek to address a mountain of debt [driven] by Social Security and health care programs that the White House hopes to control but only marginally reduce as a share of the economy?" 

It's "more of the same," and where was he six years ago when he had a filibuster-proof majority? All we got was a really crappy health bill.

It’s a visionary document and basically says, ‘You’re with me or you’re not.’”

More "you are either with us or with the 'terrorists' delusion. Thought we were rid of such things.

"Obama’s budget seeks $534 billion for Pentagon" by Helene Cooper, New York Times  February 03, 2015

WASHINGTON — President Obama is asking the new Republican-controlled Congress for a base defense budget of $534 billion in 2016, the Pentagon said Monday in its annual budget release, exceeding by $35 billion the mandatory across-the-board reductions known as sequestration.

Separately, Obama is asking for an additional $51 billion to fund operations in the conflicts in Iraq and Syria, as well as the continued US military presence in Afghanistan.

The administration said next year’s overall military spending was a continuation of efforts to take into account the fiscal reality of government austerity and the political reality of a president who pledged to end two costly land wars.

The result, administration officials say, will be a military that continues to be capable of defeating any adversary but is too small for protracted foreign occupations.

But the budget also demonstrates a Defense Department that remains determined to invest in ambitious next-generation capabilities and big-ticket items, including naval ships, bombers and other aircraft. The Pentagon is also seeking funding for more F-35 Joint Strike Fighters.

The 2016 budget is notable because despite the talk about how the end of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will reduce spending on conflicts, the Defense Department is still seeking additional funding for the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

Defense officials hope the issues that emerged around the world in 2014 — from the Islamic State to Russian aggression in Ukraine to the fight against the Ebola virus in West Africa — which all required a US military response, will lead to an overall acceptance that the United States must continue to invest heavily in the Defense Department unless it is going to retreat globally.

RelatedUS Ebola centers have been largely unused in Liberia

More wasted Pentagon loot.

Defense officials want to erase the idea that the end of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will automatically lead to smaller Pentagon budgets.

“The geopolitical events of the past year only reinforce the need to resource DoD at the president’s requested funding level as opposed to current law,” the Pentagon said. 

And now there is some sort of terror alert, with 70 ISIS agents ready to spring attacks across Amerika, blah, blah, blah -- which means the FBI and NSA will have utterly failed and will need to be scrapped.


"The Pentagon’s bloat; Accounting tricks and self-interested politicians ensure that US military spending will remain immune from any real ‘hard choices’" by Benjamin H. Friedman  February 17, 2015

Ashton Carter, who took office as Secretary of Defense this week, and the heads of the military services all insist that it is impossible to execute the nation’s security strategy without busting through the $499 billion cap that law imposes on next year’s Pentagon budget. The military leaders warn that if Congress will not raise the cap and provide the $534 billon in non-war funds that they requested earlier this month for fiscal year 2016 — and get rid of future years’ caps — the United States will require a cheaper security strategy.

If only that were true.

What passes for American security strategy these days is a mixture of militarized global profligacy and national self-worship. The latest example is the “National Security Strategy,” which the White House released Feb. 6. It lists eight “top-strategic risks,” including non-security ills such as disease, economic slowdown, and climate change. But having eight top priorities really means having none. The document’s mentions “hard choices” and warns against “overreach” but then declares that “there are no global problems that cannot be solved without the United States.” It imagines that US military power can be everywhere to promote stability, democracy, and even equality.

Strategy is the prioritization of goals by assignment of resources. Hawks, like Senator John McCain, occasionally insist otherwise and call for military strategy’s liberation from budgetary constraints. But that is like suggesting that aircraft designs ignore physics. Strategy lacks meaning without budgetary context.

The White House then has not actually produced a security strategy. It has just affixed that title to a florid defense of US leadership and a list of nice things, which collectively define global good as a requirement of US security. Take that standard seriously and you get a permanent sense of insecurity.

It’d be easy to blame the authors, but recent Pentagon and national strategy documents share the problem. All fail to guide budgetary choice. Nor is writing alone at fault. American security policy, as reflected in budgets, cannot totally avoid prioritization, but somehow policy makers still try. There is no earthly region, with the possible exception of Antarctica, that the Pentagon has not labeled vital while justifying some garrison, alliance, or program there. Pentagon budgets have long avoided much shifting of money across military services, or even within them, though that is what implementing strategy requires.

Austerity, in theory, is a thorough auditor and creative reformer. For people and federal departments, wealth limits competition among desires, making their relative value academic. Belt-tightening, short of bankruptcy, demands choices, analysis to inform them, and sometimes innovative ways to do more for less.

Windfall defense budget growth in the 2000s — more than 50 percent, even adjusting for inflation — helped Pentagon leaders take a holiday from strategy. Counterinsurgency was the priority in Afghanistan and Iraq but not Washington, which preferred to fund wars with debt rather than limit investments in future wars linked to stateside jobs. The rising tide of largesse lifted all boats, fighter jets, four-star commands, and the like.

You would think austerity made this decade different. Annual Pentagon spending has fallen 25 percent over the past five years, accounting for inflation. Reduced war funds account for the bulk of the drop. Non-war Pentagon spending dropped 7 percent in 2013, the one year that the Budget Control Act of 2011 required sequestration, equally-applied, across-the-board cuts. Congress then slightly raised the spending caps that law had imposed for fiscal years 2014 and 2015 and passed budgets that did not exceed them. That avoided further sequestration and kept military spending level.

This relative poverty required some sacrifice. Mostly because of declining war funds, active-duty Army end-strength dropped from 570,000 to 475,000 troops and is supposed to hit 450,000 in 2018. The Navy and Air Force got fewer new ships and aircraft than they wanted. Base construction slowed. Reduced operational funding caused a Pentagon civilian hiring freeze, curtailed some training exercises, and produced slight reductions in management costs — despite much talk of efficiency.

Still, strategic change has not come. The end of occupational warfare in the Middle East allowed plans for an Asian pivot, a euphemism for shifting forces to deter China. But funds for troops in Europe and the Middle East (minus the war zones) and their combatant commands have not pivoted. The Navy and Air Force — the forces most relevant to fighting China — did not grab non-war funding at the expense of the ground forces. The pivot, relabeled as rebalance, ultimately amounted to little more than words. Rather than change course, the Pentagon is doing a bit less of everything, except grousing.

Whatever the chiefs say, that is unlikely to change, for two reasons. One is that current austerity is not that austere. 2015 Pentagon spending authority, adjusted for inflation, roughly matches 2004’s, the midpoint of the recent upswing. During the Cold War, spending was higher only in 1952 and 1985, the heights of the Korean War and Reagan buildup.

War budgets — officially, Overseas Contingency Operations funds — also limit pressure on the Pentagon. The 2016 request of $51 billion, ostensibly to fight the Islamic State and keep troops in Afghanistan, would be 21 percent less than 2015, but war budgets are declining slower than war costs.

Because budget caps do not apply to OCO, the Pentagon and Congress have increasingly hidden non-war expenses there. That off-book accounting now makes up roughly half of OCO funds. That’s $25 billion of proposed cushioning against austerity next year, more than the cut that the Pentagon would suffer by complying with the cap. The administration insists on keeping this slush fund as long as caps constrain military spending.

Beltway elites are a bigger obstacle to strategic reappraisal. Military leaders long ago learned not to push for funds at the expense of other services. This cartel, which they call jointness, stymies civilian efforts to change strategy.

Few are inclined to try. Foreign-policy makers in both parties, especially those vying to be president or get named to a top post by one, proclaim, almost in chorus, that stability everywhere depends on American military presence or actions. Recent experience has made everyone charier of occupying restive states, but Washington’s preferred alternatives are bombing, lethal aid, military training, or oaths of support backed by threats — not staying out and at peace. US leaders are today intellectually immune to real strategies, which require actual choices about what dangers to meet with what defenses.

Absent lower caps or better leaders, hard choices will remain, for Pentagon, just a slogan advertising slight discipline. With a trim here and an accounting trick there, the Department of Defense will muddle along its present course, while elected leaders justify it with paeans about American military power’s indispensability to every pleasant noun that “global” can modify. We that object might take solace in the fact that our hubris is a luxury that our fortune affords. Only blessed nations can worry so much about their safety while confusing it with everything they want.


"Obama’s bold budget has kernels with GOP appeal" by Jonathan Weisman and Julie Hirschfeld Davis, New York Times  February 03, 2015

WASHINGTON — The $4 trillion budget that President Obama released Monday is more utopian vision than pragmatic blueprint for his final years in office but buried in the document are kernels of proposals that could take root even with a hostile Republican Congress.

In his penultimate budget, Obama proclaimed victory in the long climb from deep recession and said the time had come to loosen the strictures of austerity to invest in the nation’s future, laying out a plan likely to shape the 2016 presidential contests. He relies on large tax increases on corporations and the wealthy to finance efforts in education, infrastructure construction, and workforce development that he says have waited far too long.

The document is undergirded by two major presidential initiatives that have virtually no chance in Congress: large tax increases on multinational corporations and the rich, and a comprehensive immigration law that would lift the economy with millions of newly legalized, tax-paying workers.

Hidden in some of his most ambitious proposals to diminish the wealth gap and remake the corporate tax code are areas of potential compromise that nod to Republican ideas: an expansion of the earned income credit for the working poor, a revitalized Pentagon budget, and a surge in spending on roads, bridges, airports, and other infrastructure, financed by a new tax rate on foreign corporate profits.

The White House even did away with the usual plain-blue budget document cover for a gritty black-and-white photo of the Tappan Zee Bridge in New York, making vivid the president’s emphasis on “a 21st-century infrastructure that creates jobs for thousands of construction workers and engineers, connects hard-working Americans to their jobs, and makes it easier for businesses to transport goods,” as the president wrote in the opening budget message.

Absent from the plan is any pretense of remaking the main drivers of the long-term debt — Social Security and Medicare — a quest that has long eluded both parties....

(Blog editor shakes head in pain)


"The president expects to raise $5.6 billion by increasing health care co-payments and premiums for military veterans, another difficult lift in Congress."

Apparently, I'm not the only one noticing such things.


"Under Obama budget, many Medicare recipients would pay more" by Robert Pear, New York Times  February 03, 2015

WASHINGTON — In his new budget, President Obama proposed Monday to squeeze $399 billion over the next 10 years out of Medicare, Medicaid, and other programs run by the Department of Health and Human Services.

Under the proposals, many Medicare beneficiaries would have to pay more for their care and coverage.

The president would, for example, introduce a co-payment for new Medicare beneficiaries who receive home health care services, and he would collect $4 billion over 10 years by imposing a surcharge on premiums for new beneficiaries who buy generous private insurance to supplement Medicare.

In addition, Obama’s budget would reduce scheduled Medicare payments to teaching hospitals, nursing homes, and health maintenance organizations that care for older Americans and those with disabilities.

The budget would reduce the projected growth of Medicare payments for graduate medical education by $16 billion over 10 years while saving $116 billion in Medicare payments to drug companies for medicines prescribed for low-income patients.

Obama would save more than $100 billion over 10 years by reducing inflation updates for providers that care for Medicare beneficiaries after they leave hospitals.

And he would cut $43 billion over 10 years from the projected growth of federal payments to Medicare managed-care plans, known as Medicare Advantage. The goal of this proposal, the White House said, is to “improve payment accuracy for Medicare Advantage.”

The president’s budget would collect $66 billion over 10 years by charging higher premiums to higher-income Medicare beneficiaries, for coverage of doctors’ services and prescription drugs.

Obama again proposes to ban deals between brand-name and prescription drug manufacturers that he says delay marketing of generic medicines. This, he said, would save Medicare and Medicaid more than $11 billion over 10 years.

The budget proposes to continue the Children’s Health Insurance Program through 2019. Under current law, the White House said, financing for the program will end in 2015. Obama would pay for extension of the program by raising tobacco taxes, which could help reduce youth smoking.

The president would reduce Medicare payments to hospitals for “bad debt” — the share of bills they cannot collect from beneficiaries — and he would cut Medicare payments to hospitals for training doctors.


It's rationing, but they won't call it that.

Also seeHow other agencies fare in Obama budget

Veterans not doing so good.

"Senate budget sticks to military spending caps" by Jonathan Weisman New York Times  March 19, 2015

WASHINGTON — Senate Republican budget writers Wednesday rebuffed House Republican efforts to circumvent military spending caps, releasing instead an austere budget that sticks to those limits and cuts trillions of dollars from federal health care and welfare spending to reach balance by 2025.

Overall, the Senate version hews closely to the budgetary intent of the House proposal, relying on a repeal of the Affordable Care Act, turning Medicaid and food stamps into block grants, and cutting domestic programs to end federal red ink without tax increases.

The Senate budget also relies on a significant gimmick by counting on a repeal of the health law but also assuming that $2 trillion from the law’s tax increases will continue to flow into the Treasury.

The budget does little to placate concerns of Republican defense hawks that spending caps imposed by the 2011 Budget Control Act are significantly undermining Defense Department operations. Rather than adding money over the caps, the Senate plan creates what is known as a “deficit neutral reserve fund,” which would allow negotiators later this year to reach an accord that overrides the 2011 budget law.


With the release of the Senate budget, Republicans in both chambers now face the task of reaching accord on a document that will set overall spending levels next year and signal the legislative direction that Congress will take on issues like Medicare, the military, and tax policy. It will not be easy. 

What about this year?

Both budget committees should complete work on their plans by Thursday, with both chambers set to consider the tax-and-spending blueprints next week....

The first Senate Republican budget since 2006 is long on ambition but short on details. It foresees saving $4.3 trillion from mandatory programs like Medicare, food stamps, and Medicaid, but unlike the House budget, it does not make specific policy prescriptions, such as converting Medicare into a voucherlike program that allows older people to buy subsidized insurance on the private health care market.

The budget offers up $430 billion in savings from Medicare without saying how. It does require a change to Medicaid to cede much of its administration and control to state governments, saving $400 billion over 10 years. But by maintaining coverage requirements for the low-income elderly and for people with disabilities, the Senate’s Medicaid savings are less than half of the House’s proposed $913 billion cut.

It assumes billions of dollars in savings from scaling back education programs, freezing Pell Grants for higher education, and curbing regulatory action under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street law that was passed after the financial crisis. Spending on domestic programs under Congress’s annual discretion would be cut $97 billion below even the caps already imposed.

This is a $avage budget.

And special instructions are included to the Finance Committee and the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee to repeal the Affordable Care Act with legislation that cannot be filibustered by Democrats. It could, however, be vetoed by President Obama.

Senate budget writers appear to be more concerned with maintaining the integrity of the budget process than mandating sweeping change. House Republicans, seeking to placate their defense hawks, proposed Tuesday to add nearly $40 billion to the Pentagon’s “emergency” war spending account to fund military shortfalls while circumventing budget caps.

The Senate budget responds by capping the war account at $58 billion, Obama’s request, and creating a parliamentary “point of order” requiring 60 votes to add to that account.

“Some of our members are concerned about the apparent abuse of” the emergency account, said a Senate Republican budget aide who requested anonymity to discuss internal party negotiations.

But the Senate plan has plenty of its own questionable assumptions. To get to a small surplus in 2025, the budget’s savings from entitlement programs jumps from $534 billion in 2023 and 2024 to $725 billion the year the budget ostensibly balances.

Then there is the $2 trillion in tax revenues assumed even after the repeal of the health care taxes that produced. Republican aides said nothing in the budget precludes the Finance Committee from producing an overhaul of the tax code this year that would bring in that revenue without the health law. But nothing in the budget orders that overhaul either.


RelatedGOP may boost Obama’s request for military funds

“To placate advocates of the military who say strict budget caps are hurting national defense, the House budget adds “emergency” war spending through a special contingency account that does not count against the spending limits. The budget includes $94 billion to fight the “global war on terrorism,” $43 billion more than Obama has sought. The House budget would also repeal much of Obama’s 2010 law regulating Wall Street financial firms. It would cut food stamps significantly, converting them into a “flexibility fund” to be administered by the states. And it would cut the size of Pell Grants, a popular federal financial aid program for higher education.... more political theater than . . . reality.” 

Unfortunately, the wars are all to real.

"Talks begin on Capitol Hill budget measure" Associated Press  April 21, 2015

WASHINGTON — Lawmakers wrestled Monday over Medicare, taxes, and almost $40 billion in unrequested money for overseas war-fighting as House and Senate negotiators kicked off work on a nonbinding Republican budget blueprint for next year and beyond.

“A budget is more than just a set of numbers. It is a reflection of our priorities, of our vision for the future,” said Representative Tom Price of Georgia, top negotiator for House Republicans, as he touted the version he largely drafted.

Separate House- and Senate-passed budget blueprints have plenty in common. Both chambers want to use the fast-track budget process to send a measure repealing the health care law to President Obama. And both call for padding war spending — it’s exempt from budget limits — on new weapons and training of American forces.

At issue is a nonbinding measure for the 2016 fiscal year starting Oct. 1. Both House and Senate Republicans have endorsed major cuts to programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, highway projects, and domestic agency budgets as a way to balance the federal ledger within a decade — all without raising taxes.

Liberal Vermont independent Bernie Sanders views the plan as an assault on the poor and working class. “The rich get much richer, and the Republicans think they need more help,” Sanders said.

He sounds like he is running for president.


I never saw anything about the lost billions in Afghanistan in my Globe.


US raises alert level at military bases

The incremental boost will likely mean heightened vigilance, and more random bag or vehicle checks due to the recent terror threat surrounding a provocative cartoon contest in Texas.

OMG, they are using that ridiculous SITEing in Texas to advance this pathetic piece of propaganda:

"FBI warned Texas officials before cartoon show attack" by Del Quentin Wilber Bloomberg News  May 08, 2015

NEW YORK — The FBI warned authorities in Texas about a 30-year-old Phoenix man hours before he and an accomplice were slain as the two attacked a controversial anti-Muslim exhibition this week, but had no evidence that an attack was in the works.


Look at them throw it back in the locals lap! 

Yup, FBI knew all about, were watching them, but had no idea.... !!!!


James Comey, director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, who hailed the officers involved as heroes, said that Elton Simpson had been under investigation by the FBI since March after agents noticed he had indicated an interest in jihad on social media. It was the second time since 2006 that Simpson was the subject of an FBI investigation into the Muslim convert’s interest in terrorism.

So which government intelligence agency was he working for?

Comey said the investigation into Simpson had been in its early stages, and he did not know whether the officer who shot him had seen the FBI intelligence warning. He said an FBI bulletin about Simpson had been sent.

The case highlights the difficulty in stopping homegrown extremists inspired by jihadist rhetoric, Comey said. It also signals a sea change in how terror groups operate and push their message, he said.

“Al Qaeda core would never give somebody an assignment to kill on its behalf until he had been vetted,” Comey said, referring to the terror group that orchestrated the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

The director added that the Islamic State extremist group, which has taken over large swaths of Syria and Iraq, “is testing people’s bona fides to go kill people.”

“‘Kill in our name, kill someone in uniform, all the better in military or law enforcement,’” Comey said. “The old paradigm of being inspired or directed, it all breaks down.”

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of people in the United States who follow Islamic State supporters on social media, Comey said.

Oh, so that is who is enabling them.

In the past, those interested in such rhetoric found kindred souls in chat rooms that were not always easy to uncover or navigate. Today, Comey said, the Islamic State’s “siren song, it sits in the pockets, on the mobile phones of the people who are followers on Twitter.”

Now you know this is all a BS propaganda operation. NSA would be collecting all that stuff. It's all government-created lies and cover being pushed by a complicit propaganda pre$$.

“It’s almost as if there is a devil sitting on the shoulder saying ‘kill, kill, kill,’ all day long,” he said.

I call it an agenda-pushing, war-promoting jew$paper, but the OVER-THE-TOP HYPERBOLE from Comey is REALLY MAKING HIM LOOK FOOLISH!

Comey added that tracking such extremists was difficult because after engaging with Islamic State members on Twitter, local supporters are often told to communicate using secure networks. The FBI can obtain those communications, Comey said, but the information is typically “gobbledygook” because it’s encrypted.

So THAT is what I'm reading!

“We can see, if we are in the right place, a connection, but then it disappears,” Comey said, drawing an analogy to finding a needle in a haystack, in which the haystack is the United States and the needles are scores of “troubled souls” with interest in waging violent acts.

Some they frame with instigators, 'er, informants, usually mentally-challenged idiots.

The problem, he said, is that “increasingly the needles are invisible to us. All we can see is a connection that is made that someone is a follower on Twitter and then they go off Twitter and they are going dark to us.”


Comey declined to provide specifics about Simpson’s communications or online activities, nor did he comment further about the bureau’s renewed interest in him.

Oh. That's code for SHOVELING BS!

Simpson first came under FBI scrutiny in 2006, and an investigation led to his 2010 indictment on charges of lying to agents about his intent to travel to Somalia to fight for a terror group.

A federal judge found Simpson guilty of lying to agents about seeking to travel to Somalia but ruled that the Justice Department failed to prove it was for waging jihad.

OMG, he IS a government agent! A COURT letting him off on that?

He was sentenced to probation, and the FBI closed its investigation into him last year, Comey said.

That's damn near a confirmation! Didn't they give the Tsarnaev's a clean check when warned by Russia?

Comey said he was fairly confident that the bureau had done all it could since re-launching its investigation of Simpson in March.

(Blog editor shakes his head; this guy is a real piece of work)

Other US officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, have said Simpson and his 34-year-old roommate, Nadi Soofi, both of Phoenix, were most likely inspired to act by jihadist rhetoric but not directed by terror groups to specifically attack the exhibition, which had drawn the attention of extremists online.

First I heard about was after the alleged shooting. I'm thinking staged and scripted fiction for the most part.


Time to abort this mission.

UPDATE: House defies Obama veto threat, passes defense spending bill

$90.2 billion for emergency war-fighting.