Paying for Afghanistan with Squandered Defense Dollars

Since operations in Iraq and Afghanistan began in 2003, the services (notably the Army) have held helmet in hand, scrounging for supplemental dollars from lawmakers. The Army, for example, justified these multimillion dollar plus-ups as its only way to fund war ops.
While addressing the grey-clad and bleating about his strategy for Afghanistan, the president was clear that the $30 billion Run for the Poppies needed to be funded.

Given outrageous defense cost overruns and assorted program assassinations of late, how can funding resources be a question?

Washington’s immediate, though ill-advised response was a new tax. House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey proposed a war surtax. This “Hearts, Minds and Wallets” measure has it supporters (ironically including perennial fave, Pennsylvania lawmaker John Murtha, who is a one-man, defense-dollar machine channeling money into his district as well as fat cat coffers.) Though $30 billion seems a low estimate, (Americans can’t handle the truth?) the bucks (albethey deficit dollars) are there, as our man Murtha has proved, repeatedly, to great effect.

Though House Speaker (and Baltimore native) Nancy Pelosi has nixed the Obey idea for now, House crafters planned the “Hearts, Minds and Wallets Tax” in great detail. These published figures are for dual-income households. Halve the numbers for single-income wage earners.

  • 10 percent bracket becomes 10.1 percent for the first $16,700 in income
  • 15 percent bracket becomes 15.15 percent from $16,701 to $67,900
  • 25 percent bracket becomes 25.25 percent from $67,901 to $137,050
  • 28 percent bracket becomes 28.28 percent from $137,051 to $150,000
  • $150,001 to $250,000: Rate to be determined by the president
  • Over $250,000: Surcharge is double that for the $150,001-$250,000 level

How short are the memories of the “Hearts, Minds and Wallets” supporters? Thirty billion is defense chump change and (theoretically) could be funded through a handful of defense missteps. Remember the now-canceled (soon to be resurrected) presidential helo program?

That was running $5 billion over budget when it was kicked to the curb. One of our favorites, DDG 1000, the stealth ship to nowhere, came in at an astounding $2.5-$3 billion per copy before the Zumwalt class was canceled at a mere two or three vessels (down from the original 32. Cha-ching.) Navy-defense industry love child, the littoral combat ship, will cost at least an additional $12-15 billion above original estimates over the life of the program. (Significant cost increases were reported in the past week.) The Army’s gasping Future Combat Systems was estimated at around $160 billion – more than five times the estimate for the upcoming Taliban Tussle. Many costly FCS systems have been cut. Our Joint IED Defeat Office has been flush with cash. Its fiscal 2008 budget was a heart-stopping $4 billion, one-seventh the money needed for Afghanistan.

“Hearts, Minds and Wallets Tax”? Not even a mention of current defense spending practices? How important is Afghanistan on Washington’s list of priorities?

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