Extorting Lawmakers for Fun and Profit

Each year, DoD lobbies (did we say the “L” word?) Congress for its annual trust-fund disbursement. Some call these war-on-terrorism funds. Others call it a supplemental funding. We call it extortion. 

The services have come to depend — really depend — on supplemental funding separately allocated from annual budgets. Without exception, defense officials talk matter-of-factly about the supplemental, a staple of the Pentagon diet, the same way they’d talk about the soup choices at one of the food vendors. No longer is thought given to making the main budget work. 

It’s as angering as it is brilliant: Defense officials have declared, “We should not have to pay for the war.” That’s it. So they don’t. They supposedly use their main budget to fund everything but “the war.” So how do you split that out? And if a service is crying it’s going to have to send some civilians home if they don’t get this money, then their argument really does not stand up to even the laxest scrutiny. 

Are there two sets of books? Did DoD consult with Enron’s CFO (from his jail cell)? Is DoD extorting money from Congress? We think so. If DoD, in fact, convinced lawmakers the services’ budgets should not fund the war on terrorism and Congress should fund it separately … BAM — funding will be approved. What lawmaker is going to come down on this scam and appear against the doe-eyed in uniform? That’s right. They’re stuck. Civilian oversight of military? Checks and balances? So close to tipping that balance. 

Why not stop the absurdity and have one budget? We think generally accepted accounting principles are a good thing, and a budget is a budget, which is why it’s a budget. Six-plus years into this war on terrorism, we think the services have this funding thing down. 

Joint Chiefs chair Adm. Michael Mullen, USN, seems to agree and has called for all funding to be accounted for in annual budgets, acknowledging it would take time to roll everything into one. Hey, we even understand that some programs might be funded separately, like the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles or other such dogs (our apologies to canines everywhere) into which the services might be forced to satisfy agendas other than those important to the actual defense of the U.S. We digress. 

Supplementals, now a DoD birthright, have a starring role in the theater of the absurd. Hopefully, leaders and lawmakers will heed the Ghost of Enron Past and send the supplemental packing.

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