What are some things people would be surprised to find out that the Pentagon controls? originally appeared on Quora - the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights.
Answer by Arnold Punaro, author of On War and Politics: The Battlefield Inside Washington's Beltway, Vietnam War veteran, on Quora.
The Department of Defense is the largest and most complex organization in the world. Its size dwarfs even the world's largest corporations, with over 3 million employees, including 1.3 million active duty personnel and 818,000 guard and reserve, over 5,000 facilities on over 30 million acres of land worldwide, and an annual budget of over $580 billion.
But many of its activities are not central to its war-fighting mission. Some of these include a large grocery chain: the commissaries that are located on military bases. They provide all the goods a local supermarket does, but with pre-determined savings. It is one of the world's largest grocery chains in terms of sales, but it is subsidized by the taxpayers to cover its $1.4 billion annual shortfall. The DOD also runs its own school system on the bases, which costs about $3.5 billion a year.
The Army (not the VA) runs Arlington National Cemetery, one of our nation's most revered burial sites. The Army Corps of Engineers civil division does work in the U.S. on many of our waterways, locks, and dams. This part of their budget is not even found in DOD's overall budget, so that is likely an area most would not think the Pentagon controls.
DOD also runs a huge medical establishment on its military bases, called Military Treatment Facilities. In many cases they are located in close proximity to larger Veterans Administration hospitals. There is also a misconception in the public about military healthcare. While the Department of Veterans Affairs is indeed failing to meet its duties, the Department of Defense runs the Military Health System for active duty military, retirees, and their dependents, as well as providing a health insurance plan called TRICARE for those who can't make it to the military hospitals. TRICARE's rates are tied to Medicare rates. TRICARE and the DOD hospitals are not in the same poor shape as the VA hospitals, but they do need significant reforms in order to be sustainable in the future.
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