Thursday, November 19, 2009

Where O Where Does All Your Money Go, Where O Where Can It Be?

I work in Contracting for the Air Force. I'm a "buyer." My job is, in short, to spend those taxpayers' dollars that go to the military. And spend it I do. A shit-ton of it. More than I ever thought possible. And I am on a VERY small base in the middle of nowhere. We burn through more of your money than you could possibly imagine. So I'm going to HELP you imagine it.

First off, I'd like to point out that this is all public knowledge that you can find here. It is kind of a pain in the ass website to navigate, but it has every single contract that every agency of the government has awarded. Some illuminating stuff. If you are bored, browse it for a while, and I am certain you will find some way that your money has been flushed down a toilet.
But these are just a few examples of contracts that have already been awarded at the TINY little base where I'm stationed. I've been here less than a year. This is one of the smallest bases in the country. If this is happening here, what's going on at the BIG bases?
I am going to, as is against my custom, use the numeric digits for the dollar amounts instead of writing it out, because I think it makes a little bit more of an impact seeing all of those zeroes.

We spent about $4,000,000.00 renovating a building that is going to get demolished here very soon. $4,000,000.00 fixing up a building that no one is currently in, because it was deemed "unsafe" more than a decade ago. When I found that out, it made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Except not at all. I personally apologize, and if there was anything I could have done to stop it, I promise I would have. The problem is not demolishing the building. It is now an uninhabitable building. The problem was renovating it in the first place. It was a simple oversight. A more than decade old report that got lost in the shuffle. But it was an oversight that cost $4,000,000.00

We have spent somewhere between $1,500,000.00 and $3,000,000.00 beautifying a parade field on base. We moved two planes from about ninety miles away for more than $200,000.00 each, to display on this parade field. By the time all of the work is over, because it is a "several stage plan," there is no telling how much money this thing is actually going to cost. And for what purpose?
The funny story I've heard told about this whole thing is that some young guy in the Civil Engineering squadron drew up the plans for this huge project on a whim, as a joke, several years ago.

I'd just like to remind you very quickly, this is YOUR money, and my money, and your family's and friends' money.

I have seen new big screen plasma T.V.'s put all over the place. New furniture for offices that had furniture less than four years old. The list goes on.

Right now there is a huge national debate happening over "Universal Healthcare." It's too expensive. We're already in huge debt. But we spend more on our military than the next SEVEN countries combined. We account for 41.5% of ALL military spending.
I realize the arguments. That we need the big military because we are secluded and have big borders and are in big conflicts. That, if not for the military, "we'd all be speaking German" as I've heard so many times. Fine. BUT, how much of that money is completely wasted? The Comanche Helicopter program was scrapped, after spending over $6,000,000,000.00. Recently, the program for the new Presidential Helicopter was also abandoned, after spending $5,000,000,000.00.
This waste is on EVERY level. The big, the small, and the in between. I'm not such a "lefty" that I can't see the need for a military in the modern world. But I'm also pretty sure that a good amount of that money could have been used to fund much more useful things.

There's also huge problems with "cronyism" in military acquisitions. This article appeared in the Air Force Times, the U.S. Air Force's own newspaper. It's about how almost 80% of all retired Generals now work for contractors, who work for the military that they JUST retired from. I realize that people need work after their military lives, but this just stinks to me. I'm not questioning the reitred Generals' ethics, but I am questioning the appearance of impropriety. (And yes, I relaize that this article mentions that John McCain, the man I voted against for President, is the main opponent of this happening. All I have to say to that is, GO SENATOR MCCAIN, GO!)

Again, I'm not offering solutions. Well, at least not past the two very obvious ones: spend less money on the military, and oversee the spending more. But I thought that whoever may be reading this has the right to know how their own money is being spent. The information is out there. You just have to find it.

I'll admit, I'm a little nervous posting this. I know that nothing I have said is illegal. Everything has been true. I doubt any trouble will befall me. But if it does, I might be calling you for bail.

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