COSTS OF MAJOR U.S. WARS COMPARED
More than a trillion dollars has been appropriated since September 11, 2001 for U.S. military operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. This makes the “war on terrorism” the most costly of any military engagement in U.S. history in absolute terms or, if correcting for inflation, the second most expensive U.S. military action after World War II.
A newly updated report from the Congressional Research Service estimated the financial costs of major U.S. wars from the American Revolution ($2.4 billion in FY 2011 dollars) to World War I ($334 billion) to World War II ($4.1 trillion) to the second Iraq war ($784 billion) and the war in Afghanistan ($321 billion). CRS provided its estimates in current year dollars (i.e. the year they were spent) and in constant year dollars (adjusted for inflation), and as a percentage of gross domestic product. Many caveats apply to these figures, which are spelled out in the CRS report.
In constant dollars, World War II is still the most expensive of all U.S. wars, having consumed a massive 35.8% of GDP at its height and having cost $4.1 trillion in FY2011 dollars. See “Costs of Major U.S. Wars,” June 29, 2010.
MILITARY CONTRACTORS IN IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN
The Department of Defense has more contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan than it has uniformed military personnel, another newly updated report from the Congressional Research Service reminds us.
“The Department of Defense increasingly relies upon contractors to support operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, which has resulted in a DOD workforce that has 19% more contractor personnel (207,600) than uniformed personnel (175,000),” said the CRS report — which forms a timely counterpoint to this week's Washington Post “Top Secret America” series on the tremendous expansion of the intelligence bureaucracy, including the increased and often unchecked reliance on contractors.
The explosive growth in reliance on contractors naturally entails new difficulties in management and oversight. “Some analysts believe that poor contract management has also played a role in abuses and crimes committed by certain contractors against local nationals, which may have undermined U.S. counterinsurgency efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan,” the CRS said. See “Department of Defense Contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan: Background and Analysis,” July 2, 2010.
And see, relatedly, “U.S. Special Operations Forces (SOF): Background and Issues for Congress,” July 16, 2010.
UNMANNED AERIAL SYSTEMS AND HOMELAND SECURITY
The potential benefits and limitations of using unmanned aerial vehicles for homeland security applications were considered by the Congressional Research Service in yet another updated report. See “Homeland Security: Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and Border Surveillance,” July 8, 2010.
The same set of issues was examined in a newly published master's thesis on “Integrating Department of Defense Unmanned Aerial Systems into the National Airspace Structure” by Major Scott W. Walker.
Another new master's thesis looked at the comparatively high accident rate of unmanned systems and their susceptibility to attack or disruption. See “The Vulnerabilities of Unmanned Aircraft System Common Data Links to Electronic Attack” by Major Jaysen A. Yochim.
The “secret history” of unmanned aircraft was recounted in an informative new study published by the Air Force Association. See “Air Force UAVs: The Secret History” by Thomas P. Ehrhard, July 2010.
Secrecy News is written by Steven Aftergood and published by the Federation of American Scientists.
July 16, 2010
By Michael Winter
The nation's spy world is anxiously — certainly not eagerly — anticipating a Washington Post series looking at CIA and Pentagon contractors, according to insider reports. And the intelligence community has been preparing for an expected offensive by plotting its defense.
Politico says in “Jitters over WaPo intel series – Explosions rock Iranian mosque – What's Petraeus thinking? – McChrystal's retirement – ‘Monkey Terrorist' update,” that the series, by Dana Priest, is scheduled to appear “in the next few days and that public affairs officers have been preparing how to handle the resulting media onslaught.
The Atlantic has posted a memorandum, “Internal Memo: Intelligence Community Frets About Washington Post Series,” sent by Art House, the media manager for the Director of National Intelligence. He outlines what he thinks the series will say about the “IC” (intelligence community) and offers talking points for press aides.
Here are some of the highlights of the memo:
While we can't predict specific content, we anticipate the following themes:
*The intelligence enterprise has undergone exponential growth and has become unmanageable with overlapping authorities and a heavily outsourced contractor workforce.
*The IC and the DoD have wasted significant time and resources, especially in the areas of counterterrorism and counterintelligence.
*The intelligence enterprise has taken its eyes off its post-9/11 mission and is spending its energy on competitive and redundant programs.
Management of Responses
We do not know which agencies will receive attention, and each agency will need to manage its own responses. …
It might be helpful as you prepare for publication to draw up a list of accomplishments and examples of success to offer in response to inquiries to balance the coverage and add points that deserve to be mentioned. In media discussions, we will seek to garner support for the Intelligence Community and its members by offering examples of agile, integrated activity that has enhanced performance. We will want to minimize damage caused by unauthorized disclosure of sensitive and classified information. …
House's conclusion: “This series has been a long time in preparation and looks designed to cast the IC and the DoD in an unfavorable light. We need to anticipate and prepare so that the good work of our respective organizations is effectively reflected in communications with employees, secondary coverage in the media and in response to questions.”
Keep your eyes peeled for this blockbuster.
Phi Beta Iota: Panetta had a chance to get it right and blew it. Clapper will finish the job of destroying whatever integrity is left in the US Intelligence Community. This is not news, but the Washington Post has finally caught up with the rest of us.
2000 ON INTELLIGENCE: Spies and Secrecy in an Open World (AFCEA, OSS, EIN)
2002 THE NEW CRAFT OF INTELLIGENCE: Personal, Public, & Political (OSS, EIN)
2003 PEACEKEEPING INTELLIGENCE: Emerging Concepts for the Future (OSS, EIN)
2006 THE SMART NATION ACT: Public Intelligence in the Public Interest (OSS, EIN)
2008 COLLECTIVE INTELLIGENCE: Creating a Prosperous World at Peace (OSS, EIN)
2009 Intelligence for Peace (PKI Book Two) Finalizing (OSS,EIN)
2010 INTELLIGENCE FOR EARTH (OSS, EIN)
And Reviews of Books by Others:
One of the simplest and most effective ways to strengthen congressional oversight of intelligence agencies would be to task cleared staffers from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), which is the investigative arm of Congress, to undertake specific audits or investigations of intelligence programs. Perhaps the clearest indication of the power of this approach is the fact that the intelligence agencies hate the idea and the White House has threatened a veto if it is adopted by congress.
Senate intelligence committee leaders have already yielded to executive branch opposition on this point, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is insisting that the GAO has a role to play in intelligence oversight, and she says she is trying to ensure that Congress does not willingly surrender one of its most sophisticated oversight tools. See “Pelosi Faces Off with Obama on CIA Oversight” by Massimo Calabresi, Time, June 25 and “Acting Spy Chief Plans Departure” by Siobhan Gorman, Wall Street Journal, June 25.
An unreleased opinion from the Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel reportedly holds that intelligence programs are outside the purview of the Government Accountability Office and that intelligence agencies should therefore not cooperate with the GAO.
Although the GAO previously reviewed FBI counterterrorism programs prior to the 2004 intelligence reform legislation, “GAO has been essentially blocked from conducting its current work,” complained Sen. Charles Grassley (R-ID). “The DoJ Office of Legal Counsel is arguing that GAO does not have the authority to evaluate the majority of FBI counterterrorism positions, as these positions are scored through the National Intelligence Program (NIP) Budget.”
The FBI confirmed that the GAO's access to some previously auditable programs has been denied. “With the post-2004 inclusion of FBI counterterrorism positions in the Intelligence Community, aspects of the review GAO proposed in 2009 would have constituted intelligence oversight,” the FBI told Sen. Grassley (at pdf pp. 67-68). “It is the longstanding position of the Intelligence Community to decline to participate in GAO reviews that evaluate intelligence activities, programs, capabilities, and operational functions.”
I recently discussed the question of GAO oversight of intelligence with colleagues from the Project on Government Oversight, which published the conversation as a podcast here.
Phi Beta Iota: Let's not quibble here. CIA and FBI and anyone else that is refusing GAO oversight are committing treason, plain and simple. The US Government is out of control, and if Congress does not start living up to its Article 1 Constitutional responsibilities, there is a very real possibility of a complete over-turning of Congress along with multiple states actively nullifying federal taxation as well as as federal regulation, and some states starting with Vermont seceeding from the Union. The Executive is betraying the public trust and not working in the public interest. It's time We the People pulled the plug with a tax revolt that explicits demands a cessation of funding for both the Pentagon and the secret IC, until such time as they can present to congress a responsible holistic strategy and force structure that produces desired outcomes, not merely a transfer of wealth to Lockheed executives and the banks behind them. ENOUGH!
The financial costs of national security classification-related activities continued to rise in 2009, reaching a record high of $9.93 billion for the combined costs of protecting classified information in government and industry, the Information Security Oversight Office reported today (pdf).
Classification-related costs include not simply the act of classification, but also everything that follows from it: physical security for classified materials, computer security for classified information systems, personnel security, and so forth. “The agencies also reported a modest, but welcome increase in spending on declassification programs,” wrote ISOO Director William J. Bosanko in his transmittal letter to the President.
The newly reported cost data do not include classification-related costs for CIA or the large Pentagon intelligence agencies — since those costs are themselves considered to be classified. This means that the costs incurred by the most classification-intensive agencies are outside the scope of the published report, which significantly limits its value. See “Report on Cost Estimates for Security Classification Activities for Fiscal Year 2009,” Information Security Oversight Office, June 25, 2010.
Phi Beta Iota: These costs are severely understated and probably come closer to $15 billion a year than $10 billion. However, taking $10 billion at face value, this means that the costs of secrecy completely apart from the sources and methods in being, are now at least 14% of the total budget for secret intelligence (itself moderately if not substantially understated since DoD concealed a great deal from the DNI in the last 2-3 years). This is flat out NUTS. It is unprofessional, irresponsible, and should at a minimum be grounds for Congressional refusal to fund the secret intelligence community until a 150-250 person GAO Special Intelligence Audit (SIA) unit is formed and given full access.
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Comment: You were right. I've just learned about Google's Endgame. I'm sure it's been out a while, but when I saw this, I immediately thought of your statement about Google wanting to BECOME the Internet. The short video tells all. REDACTED
Phi Beta Iota: see also these posts.
DEATH BY CLIENT LIST – One was murdered for revealing the client list (Deborah Jeane Palfrey), and one currently lives (and not in jail) because she did not reveal the client list (Jeanette Maier).
This weekend in Brooklyn, NY was the premiere of the film the “Canal Street Madam” about the life of Jeanette Maier and an FBI raid on her infamous family-run brothel in New Orleans. She appeared for the screening and after wards was on a panel for Q & A.
Telephone conversations used in the film were from FBI wiretaps. The FBI used 10 agents taking turns listening to calls for 4 months (5,000 calls). Jeanette Maier said during the Q & A panel that the FBI was wiretapping her phone while she was watching the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and that those tax dollars could have been spent helping keep the country safer.
+ Palfrey page at NNDB
+ Palfrey and Maier connection to Louisiana Senator David Vitter
+ 598 page Book – Why Just Her: The Judicial Lynching of the D.C. Madam Deborah Jeane Palfrey by Montgomery Sibley
Rotting Oder of Pentagon Info Op Signals Effort to Shore Up its Great Game in the Hindu Kush
On 13 June, James Risen of the New York Times conveniently (at least for the Pentagon and the war party) reported that the “United States has discovered $1 trillion in untapped mineral deposits in Afghanistan [also attached below for your convenience]. I say convenient, because time is running out for the Pentagon in Afghanistan, and this report introduces a ‘new’ reason for occupying Afghanistan. The timing of this report was noticed very quickly by several skeptical commentators ( e.g., here and here).
But there is more. The NYT report has the rotting odor of yet another Pentagon misinformation operation to lather up the masses using the willing offices of the tired old Gray Lady of journalism. The oder is intense, because Risen’s Pentagon-inspired geological report coincides with the growing disenchantment with Afghan adventure. And more people are coming to appreciate the disconnect between (1) a spate of credible reports (e.g., here) describing the lack of progress in Afghanistan, particularly the failure of the showcase Marja COIN strategy to deliver its predicted result and (2) the requirement imposed by President Obama to show progress by the end of this summer. Bear in mind, Obama’s ‘requirement’ was imposed on the Pentagon when he improved the flawed McChrystal/Petraeus surge plan and sold it to the American people last fall. The military and spokesmen for the Obama administration began immediately to back away from the deadline shortly after its inception, and it has already been stretched to coincide with the mid-term elections in November — which goes to show that domestic politics do not end at the water’s edge?
Although the several commentators expressed their justifiable skepticism about the timing of the NYT report, to the best of my knowledge, none have addressed the substance of the mineral estimate. Shortly after it was published, my good friend and colleague Pierre Sprey, who has been called a vampire because he does his best work in the dark after midnight, got to the heart of the latter question and put the entire story together in an elegantly brief email that he distributed in the dark early hours of 14 June.
Attached for your reading pleasure is Pierre’s incisive critique:
U.S. Identifies Vast Riches of Minerals in Afghanistan
Pierre Sprey 14 June 2010
The timing of this release of ancient mining news–especially when floated with Petraeus' name plastered all over it in a tried-and-true government propaganda outlet like the N.Y. Times–smells to me like a last ditch attempt to invent an economic justification for hanging on many more years in the hopeless Afghani morass.
Note that the now sacrosanct 1980s Russian mineral survey was “stumbled on” six years ago in 2004 by an American reconstruction team foraging in the Afghan Geological Survey Library. Then, according to the Times' (read Petraeus and DoD) spin, nothing happened until two years later when the U.S. Geological Survey launched a 2006 aerial mineral survey followed by another in 2007, supposedly yielding all-new evidence of astonishing mineral wealth (iron, gold, copper, lithium, supposedly a trillion dollar's worth) just waiting to be tapped. Supposedly, this astonishing new evidence was then ignored by all until a Pentagon business development task force “rediscovered” the ignored USGS mineral data in 2009.
This spin is quite untrue: in 2005, the Afghan government, quite aware of their mineral resources, opened bidding on copper mining leases in Logar Province, bidding that was won by the Chinese in 2007. As for the reliability of the USGS data, note that they report 1.8 billion tons of potential lithium deposits (lithium is very trendy with the greens these days) but only a puny 111 million tons in proven or probable deposits.
But none of this purportedly astonishing USGS aerial survey data has raised much dust in the international mining world, despite the fact that the entire current New York Times scoop was thoroughly covered by Reuters and Mining Exploration News a year ago in April of 2009.
So what turned the ho-hum Reuters news of April, 2009 into a hot Times scoop in June of 2010? Is there any connection with the desperate need of McChrystal, Petraeus and Gates for a life jacket, now that the Afghan surge they floated is sinking so rapidly?
Here it is….
By JAMES RISEN New York Times, 13 June 2010
WASHINGTON — The United States has discovered nearly $1 trillion in untapped mineral deposits in Afghanistan, far beyond any previously known reserves and enough to fundamentally alter the Afghan economy and perhaps the Afghan war itself, according to senior American government officials.
The previously unknown deposits — including huge veins of iron, copper, cobalt, gold and critical industrial metals like lithium — are so big and include so many minerals that are essential to modern industry that Afghanistan could eventually be transformed into one of the most important mining centers in the world, the United States officials believe.
An internal Pentagon memo, for example, states that Afghanistan could become the “Saudi Arabia of lithium,” a key raw material in the manufacture of batteries for laptops and BlackBerrys.
And so on….read the full deception.
Chapter 20, “21st Century Counterintelligence: Evaluating the Health of the Nation,” especially Dereliction of Duty (Defense); Disinformation, Other Information Pathologies, & Repression; Emprire as a Cancer including Betrayal & Deceit; Impeacahable Offenses (Modern); Institutionalized Ineptitude; and Intelligence (Lack Of), all in the online hyperlinked version of INTELLIGENCE for Earth: Clarity, Diversity, Integrity, & Sustainability (pages 179-205, in Part III.