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A trillion dollars here, a trillion dollars there, and soon you're talking real money. But when it comes to reporting on what the Bush war legacy has cost American taxpayers, the media have been shockingly indifferent to the highest run-up in military spending since World War II. Even the devastating defense spending audit released Monday by the Government Accountability Office documenting the enormous waste in every single U.S. advanced weapons system failed to provoke the outrage it, and five equally scathing previous annual audits, deserved.
This is not about the waste of taxpayer dollars -- already pushing a trillion -- in funding the Iraq war, which, while reprehensible enough, pales in comparison to the big-ticket military systems purchased in the wake of 9/11. In the horror of that moment, the floodgates were lifted and the peace dividend promised with the end of the Cold War was washed away by a doubling of spending on ultra-complex military equipment originally designed to defeat a Soviet enemy that no longer exists, equipment that has no plausible connection with fighting stateless terrorists. Example: the $81-billion submarine pushed by Sen. Joseph Lieberman, presumably to fight al-Qaida's navy.
That's the huge scandal the media and politicians from both parties have studiously avoided. But as the GAO's authoritative audit details, the costs are astronomical.
"Of the 72 programs GAO assessed this year, none of them had proceeded through system development meeting the best-practice standards for mature technologies, stable design, or mature production processes by critical junctures of the program, each of which are essential for achieving planned cost, schedule, and performance outcomes."
That's a grade of zero for every major weapons system. Let's take just one, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, a program estimated to be worth $300 billion in sales to its manufacturer, Lockheed Martin, the nation's biggest defense contractor and most generous donor to lobbyists and politicians' campaigns. The program to build what Lockheed boasts is "the most complex fighter ever built" is also the most expensive, with estimated acquisition costs having increased a whopping $55 billion in just the last three years.