On February 1st President Obama submitted a Defense Department budget request for FY2011 for over $708 Billion. For the first time since the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, the DoD budget request includes direct funding for the continuing military actions in Afghanistan and Iraq (over $150 Billion). In real dollars, this request represents the largest DoD budget request in the history of the country.
1) Do you believe this request is proportional to the threat to our security and, if not, is it too high or too low? Please describe what you believe to be the real military/security threat to our country to clarify your response.
2) Keeping in mind the current debate taking place over healthcare insurance reform and the cost associated with that issue and the fact the FY2011 leaves us with a $1.3 Trillion deficit; do you believe that the proposed DoD budget request is in balance with the social and infrastructure needs of the country?
Q. Do you believe this request is in line with the proportional threat to our security and, if not, is it too high or too low?
A. The FY2011 Defense Budget is made up of various components including increased funding to care for our wounded soldiers, pay raises and other support for them and their families, that I fully support.
Without having the time required to delve into the entire budget and the considerable underlying data supporting it as well as any refuting documentation, and not being in a position to be fully informed regarding threats to our security, it would be presumptuous to respond with a resounding “yes” or “no” and would be irresponsible, at best (and purely political, at worst), to state whether or not this request is proportional to our needs.
Based on our past experience with regard to waste in these bills, such as the F22 (that can’t fly in the rain), and the contentious debate over the alternate engine production for the F35. The F35 engine alone would cut $465 million (that cut was unsuccessful in FY2010). There are, in fact, several more items in the budget request that are targeted for elimination. So progress is being made on these issues by this administration and I applaud them for these efforts. More could be done, however. In both the FY2010 and FY2011 budgets, the goal to increase the number of contracts that are competitively awarded has only a target number of 1% annually. While 64% of their contracts are now competitively awarded, at a 1% increase annually; it will take 36 years to complete this goal. Given the condition of our economy, that delay is unacceptable.
No bid and cost plus contracts must be eliminated from the procurement process. Deborah C. Kidwell’s white paper, “Public War, Private Fight? The United States and Private Military Companies” delves into this issue at http://www.cgsc.edu/carl/download/csipubs/kidwell.pdf. While the FY2011 budget attempts to address some problems, more should be done and implementation should proceed as quickly as feasible. (Unfortunately, we know the inability of government to act quickly makes this currently unlikely.)
Q. Please describe what you believe to be the real military/security threat to our country to justify your response.
A. There are many threats facing us - militarily, economically and environmentally. The National Intelligence Council reports threats include an economic realignment of power, as wealth shifts from the West to the East; projected population growth that will increase demand on resources such as energy, food and water and those demands will have the potential to create conflicts in many parts of the world, including the mid-eastern countries.
Iran and North Korea may continue to be a threat, perhaps not directly to the U.S. but to world stability. Iran is shifting toward a military dictatorship that could be more problematic than their current clerical rulers. In addition, we have threats from home-grown terrorists, biohazards, pandemics, climate change, cyber security, a devastated economy and more.
The people of the U.S. must look past these known threats and determine what America’s role should be for the 21st Century. Are we the cops of the world? If so, we will need to continue feeding the military industrial complex that, while creating jobs, also provides a trough at which the mega corporations can continue to feed at the expense of taxpayers. Taxpayers, who continue to lose out on services that would benefit them, while these corporations hide assets off-shore to avoid paying taxes that further burden those who can least afford it.
So what is the "real" security threat to our county? While the above-listed threats are many and far-reaching, the real threat has now been clearly identified.
For years, the powerful corporations have insidiously infected our politics at the expense of the citizenry. The recent debates involving health care and bank reform have exposed the degree of influence these corporations have over our government
The Supreme Court's Citizens United decision now gives both foreign and domestic corporations the ability to use unlimited resources to influence our elections and our laws. With this unfettered ability, their influence will become greater, as more and more in Congress fall in line to accommodate the powerful corporations over the people in order to keep their own jobs. This threat will affect every citizen in this country and all those to follow.
We already know that much of the Defense budget is due to the influence of the defense corporations, using retired military to lobby members of Congress on their behalf to sell the latest new toy. We must have a Congress that is willing to decide which threat is greater – those threats from without or from the controlling corporations within? Only then can one honestly decide whether the Defense budget is too large or too small.
None of the problems in our country will be solved until we end the corporate influence and the corrupt way business is allowed to be done. Being ruled by corporate dollars rather than an informed electorate is the real threat to the people and to our Republic.
Q. Keeping in mind the current debate taking place over healthcare insurance reform and the cost associated with that issue (Republican House Leader, John Boehner, just yesterday repeated his claim that, if enacted, the current Senate proposal would "bankrupt our country".) Do you believe that the proposed DoD budget is in balance with the social and infrastructure needs of the country?
A. First, to address a detail: John Boehner repeatedly uses Frank Luntz's poll tested language to scare and mislead the public with regard to the health care reform bill.
While the health care reform bill is far from perfect and — like the Medicare and Social Security bills when they were first enacted — will require many changes in the very near future, it will not "bankrupt our country." According to CBO, the reforms in the health care bill would reduce the deficit.
American taxpayers, under the Bush administration, paid $900 million for Iraqi citizens to have universal health care in their country. Yet we are told universal coverage cannot be enacted here because it is "socialized." While John Boehner doesn't personally make earmark requests, many other Republicans each request millions annually while they decry the amount of the deficit and debt and claim we cannot afford to provide health care to our citizens.
Much of the DOD budget is no doubt devoted to nation building in Iraq and Afghanistan – building roads and schools there, to say nothing of buying a very expensive war. Our own country’s infrastructure is in need of repair and doing those repairs would create good paying jobs for people who desperately need work. And with every step made toward creating these jobs, the GOP stands in the way, demanding earmarks, reductions or tax cuts as inducement to passing jobs legislation, or extending unemployment or COBRA benefits.
If there is too little money, then why did the Republicans (and several Democrats) support the Kyl-Lincoln amendment to the estate tax that will cost $750 billion over 10 years – or three-fourths of the cost of the health care reform bill? https://www.centeronbudget.org/cms/index.cfm?fa=view&id=1204
It is not a question of balancing the money in the Defense budget with our countries needs, it is a question of priorities. It appears that to a number of our legislators the banks, insurance companies, mega corporations, giant defense contractors and the top 1% of Americans are the ones deemed to be more important than the remaining 99%.
Until we send people to Washington D. C. who are truly committed to bettering the lives of the majority of Americans, the lobbyists will continue to influence our representatives and, while their corporate masters get the cake, the people only get the crumbs.
Diana McGinness comes to her interest in public service via her 35 years working in the insurance industry. Her sense of fairness and justice led her to choose a career fighting fraud and, in 1991, she moved to Washington State with the goal of becoming a fraud investigator. Within two years, she attained that goal and within five years, she helped create the company’s first unit dedicated solely to investigating organized groups that defraud insurance companies and their policyholders.
Her investigative acumen made her a natural choice to be lead investigator in a large scale medical clinic/attorney mill involved in selling and buying patients, padding medical bills, billing for services not rendered, and creating fake injuries. As a result of her field work, the company filed one of its first affirmative litigation lawsuits against the clinic, and winning a judgment against those involved.
Throughout her career, she has investigated and uncovered fraud rings, including family-based staged accident and theft rings, medical mills billing for services not rendered, and diagnostic firms billing improperly. Most important to Diana, the company’s policyholders are no longer paying millions in fraudulent payments a year. paying millions in fraudulent payments a year.
Diana saw massive fraud—money scams, identity and credit card theft, and more—damaging the public and ruining lives. When she was unable to convince her company to engage in public education programs, Diana didn’t give up. She and a friend in the industry created a website for the general public to be educated about fraud issues and to assist those who have been defrauded.
Diana was specifically recognized as the driving force behind the creation of a criminal fraud investigative unit within the Office of the Insurance Commissioner.
In the years before her retirement, she turned her research skills toward politics. She has recently established a Progressive Democrats of America chapter in her congressional district (2nd). She is not a party insider. She is a concerned citizen who strongly believes we cannot continue along our current political path. We must unite in our common desire to move beyond the current stalemates in Washington that do nothing to solve the problems we face as a nation. We must come together or most surely we will come apart.
Diana McGinness is from Southern Illinois where she grew up in a middle class family with working parents. Her parents, who lived through the depression, raised her to have a strong work ethic. She was the first in her family to attend college. She has a daughter and two sons, one a former Marine who served in the Gulf War. She relocated to Washington in 1991. She currently lives in Bellingham, Washington.
Chad (The Left) Shue