Yesterday, there was yet another story on our troops not getting what they need. The Columbus Dispatch wrote about how Ohio National Guard troops had to train with different weapons than what they will use in Iraq and, once again, don't have enough night vision goggles and armored vehicles to train effectively. We have heard this so often it is becoming a disturbingly old story.
We are spending two billion dollars a week on this war and nearly a half a trillion dollars this year for the rest of the DOD budget. What is going on here?
I have been looking at DOD spending for almost thirty years and seen the situation get worse and worse. Our defense procurement system is broken. In the past, that has meant that the taxpayers have been cheated and our war readiness has been poor. Now it threatens soldiers' lives and it is time to start doing something about it.
There is probably nothing more Byzantine and boring as military procurement but the public, the press and the Congress has to start paying attention to it. Current attempts to get a handle on it by the military bureaucracy are failing. Take, for example, the Marine's attempt to get to process "urgent needs" for equipment for their troops has been a failure. According to an Associated Press story , from February 2006 to February 2007, only 10 percent of the urgent equipment needs were processed and sent to the troops. An official use only briefing from the Marines claimed that "Process worship cripples operating forces," and "Civilian middle management lacks technical and operational currency."
This problem did not happen overnight. Many of the hard fought military procurement reforms, pushed through Congress because the public was angry about $435 hammers and $7600 coffee brewers, were eviscerated under the guise of Clinton's Reinventing Government. The DOD's way to streamline the government was to eliminate many reforms and severely cut the number of auditors and investigators in the DOD during the 1990s. For more information on the subject, click here.
Another untold story is that the heavy use and dependence on contractors in a war zone has disrupted the traditional system and the Army was not ready for it. This has added to the chaos and malfunction of getting our soldiers what they need.
How many news stories does the public need to hear before they pressure the Congress? Whether you support this war or not, this is an issue that everyone can agree -- we are spending huge amounts of money to make sure that our troops are not going without but they are still not getting what they need.
I have outlined the failures and problems by following eleven soldiers and contractor employees in my book, Betraying Our Troops: The Destructive Results of Privatizing War, through the buildup to the war, the war and the occupation. My book is filled with stories of brave men, some who are still on active duty, because they wanted to come forward to tell their story on how the system is broken. Now it is up to the public, the press and the Congress to start to seriously do something to channel the tremendous amount of money we are spending to what the troops need and get some serious oversight. Will we continue to wait until we get more stories of equipment shortages and possible deaths?
If you want more information to call your member of Congress, go to my website, www.followthemoneyproject.org .