(AR) WASHINGTON -- Even as the White House and Congress battled over
the final form of next year's defense budget this week, the military
released details of their projected weapons spending on new and existing
programs -- and the record shows that missiles, planes, and supplies for
the nation's warfighters won't come cheap.
The Defense Department's Selected Acquisition Reports covering the period since last June showed the agency planned to spend some $652,012,600 in current year dollars for weapons programs for the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps. This projection, required each quarter, has risen sightly since the last estimate from the spring/summer, mainly because of engineering and support cost increases. These cost projections do not include the estimated $1.9 billion additional operational costs of emplacing U.S. forces in Bosnia.
Billions for new submarines, missles, aircraft, and spy satellites
does this three fourths of a trillion (yes, that's trillion)
buy? According to Pentagon documents, some $ 67.2 billion will buy 30 new
attack submarines. The Navy will spend nearly $14 billion for Tomahawk
cruise missiles, $28 billion for Trident II sea-launched missiles, and $53
billion for the V-22 Osprey vertical take-off aircraft.
The Air Force will spend $11 billion for Navstar Global Positioning System satellites, $25 billion for Titan IV space boosters to launch large military and national security satellites, and also plans to spend $21.4 billion for the C-17 cargo plane. These costs do not include the new spending contained in the final version of the $267 billion defense bill agreed to by President Clinton late this week and which became law Friday. In the event of a second U.S. federal government shutdown, DoD will still be working.
But the new budget contains some $7 billion in additional spending the President had originally said he didn't support, things like a half billion more for missile defense and $14 billion more for 20 additional B-2 bombers. Clinton, anxious to get approval for his Bosnia peace proposal and its additional, unplanned military costs, elected to go along with the higher bill in part to placate the Hill Republicans and also in part because the White House plans later to "rescind" part of the new spending -- that is, not to spend the approved funds, a tactic that might cause more budget in-fighting later.
The CIA spent an estimated $1 million per year on psychics
$650 billion in weapons spending detailed this week by the
Pentagon extends through the life of these projects, which in the case of
such weapons as submarines and large aircraft is two to three decades or
more, spreading the bills through many Congresses, several Presidents, and
a lot of taxpayers. Of course, critics have said that many of these
weapons platforms, such as the attack subs and the B-2 bombers, have been
designed for strategic targets that literally don't exist anymore. But the
political forces contained within the new Congress are likely to
accelerate defense spending rather than call for cuts to match the global
political environment -- increases that are likely to be slow but steady.
But while the budget impasse was avoided this week, and the larger military issues deferred, Washington had its attention diverted -- as if it needed an excuse to avoid confronting the hard choices -- by, well, a sort of out-of-body experience. Prodded by published reports earlier in the week that the Defense Dept. had used psychics to help locate military targets abroad and define the intentions of potential adversaries, DoD came clean with the admission.
But, it turned out, that the psychic sleuths' contract was turned over to none other than the Central Intelligence Agency, which operated the project for the military for years until it determined that the contract psychics (these were not the relatively cheap variety found on TV late at night or through 800 numbers but custom- tailored, especially selected military-attuned psychics) had miserably failed to define any military targets better than 16 percent of the time.
Congress was outraged. Senators blasted both the Defense Dept. for dreaming up the scheme, but the CIA as well for continuing to spend the estimated $1 million per year on the psychic trail. This tale of political moaning came to an abrupt end when the Washington Post reported senior military and intelligence agency officials had in fact sought to terminate the contracts with the psychics repeatedly, but were rebuffed by the U.S. Senate.
A senior staffer appointed by West Virginia Senator Robert Byrd (D) to the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee was credited by the Post as single-handedly rescuing the psychic contract from the trash heap. The staffer, C. Richard D'Amato, in turn defended his defense of the sooth-sayers because, he said, several Senators had expressed "strong support" for the idea.
The Senators supported the project, D'Amato said, because similar work was being performed in the Soviet Union and China. In all, the Pentagon said that the defense and intelligence agencies spent about $20 million on the psychic trail, with little substantial results.
By week's end, Congress had become strangely silent about the project. But DoD did have one thing more to say about the affair. The name of the psychic research project? Why, "Stargate."
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