7. THE PENTAGON'S SECRET BILLION DOLLAR BLACK BUDGET
While the nation enters a recession and budgets for federal
social and educational programs are cut, the Pentagon has a secret stash, called
"The Black Budget," which costs taxpayers $100 million a day. Despite
the extraordinary changes in international relationships, this secret money is
still being spent on the weapons to fight the cold war, the Third World War, and
World War IV.
The black budget funds every program the president of the
United States, the secretary of defense, and the director of central intelligence
want to keep hidden from view; in the past three years, $100 billion has disappeared
into the Pentagon's classified cache.
The money to run America's eleven
intelligence agencies has always been hidden in the Pentagon's budget. But something
new transformed the black budget when Ronald Reagan came to power. A White House
obsessed with secrecy began to conceal the costs of many of its most expensive
weapons, enshrouding them in the deep cover once reserved for espionage. The black
budget exploded; by 1990 it quadrupled in size, reaching about $36 billion a year.
Pentagon keeps this money hidden by keeping two sets of books: one for the general
public, one for the generals. Hundreds of "black programs" are concealed
in the public budget it submits to Congress, camouflaged under false names, their
costs deleted, their goals disguised. The Pentagon simply stamps a secret code
on the price of a bomber, a missile, or a spy satellite, and open debate ceases.
The Pentagon also pads seemingly unclassified programs with billions intended
for black projects. In short, the Pentagon budget, which is nationally debated,
is a false document, an elaborate cover story.
Behind this shield of secrecy,
we are wasting fortunes perfecting plans for nuclear war, building nuclear bombers
that cannot be used, launching spy satellites that fall from the sky, conducting
self-destructive covert operations against enemies both real and imagined, running
guns and missiles to warring tribes 10,000 miles from home.
One of the big
problems, according to Tim Weiner, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter
for The Philadelphia Inquirer, is that the terrible failures of secret spending
and research are never scrutinized. "Today more than 100 multimillion- and
multibillion-dollar black weapons are being built ... in windowless buildings."
Pentagon which buys "bargains" such as $436 claw hammers and $9606 wrenches
from its favorite contractors, says that the black programs are better managed,
more efficient and less susceptible to fraud than unclassified programs. Frank
Conahan, the head of the General Accounting Office's national-security division
says that's nonsense. "The only difference between the two (programs) is
the degree to which things are kept from the public."
As Weiner says, if we are to be a truly open democracy, we cannot allow
our treasury to be spent in secret. "From the creating of the atomic
bomb through the construction of the Stealth bomber, from the covert
funding of the CIA's secret wars through the clandestine conspiracies
of the Iran-contra disaster, the costs of secrecy have been high; billions
wasted on useless weapons and a series of renegade foreign policies.
... We are told we must build secret weapons and fight secret wars to
defend our democracy. But the secrecy best suited for a nation at war
can be an enemy to a people at peace."
SSU CENSORED RESEARCHER: DYLAN BENNETT
SOURCE: ROLLING STONE, 745 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10151
TITLE: "How the Pentagon Hides Its Secret Spending"
AUTHOR: Tim Weiner
[SOURCE2: PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 400 N. Broad Street, Philadelphia,
COMMENTS: Tim Weiner is a Washington correspondent for the Philadelphia
Inquirer; his work on the Pentagon's black budget won him the Pulitzer
Prize for national reporting in 1988. Weiner's Rolling Stone article
was adapted from his book "Blank Check: The Pentagon's Black Budget"
which was published last year by Warner Books. Weiner said that the
issue of secret spending and the Pentagon's "Black Budget"
did not receive sufficient exposure in the mass media in 1990 "with
the exception of the B-2 bomber." While he cautions that "It's
hard to say that this material was censored -- after all, my book is
out and Rolling Stone ran the piece." he agrees that "there's
insufficient attention paid to the power of secrecy as wielded by the
Pentagon and the White House." Weiner also adds that the beneficiaries
of the limited coverage given the secret black budget issue are the
Pentagon, intelligence agencies, military contractors, and Congress.
In a sidebar article, titled "The Solid-Gold Bomber," Weiner
describes just how expensive a military system can be. "The Stealth
Bomber -- the wonder weapon for World War III -- is a monument to the
costs of secrecy. The Stealth is the most expensive airplane ever built,
and its price is growing by the week. The best guess nowadays is that
each one will cost close to $900 million. At that price the United States
Air Force could have built the seventy-ton Stealth out of solid gold,
mounted it on a bed of platinum and displayed it at the National Air
and Space Museum. The batwing nuclear bomber went through ten years
of clandestine research and development before it was unveiled in November
1988. In the beginning, when only four members of Congress were granted
permission to know the barest details of the Stealth, the air force
was telling them it could produce 132 of the bombers for roughly $30
billion. The cost grew in secret over the years. The Pentagon deemed
public discussion of the Stealth an act of treason. By the time the
black-budget shroud was lifted, and the Pentagon permitted debate on
the Stealth's mission, on why it was needed, on what it might cost,
it was far too late. The program could not be aborted. Today that $30
billion is down the tubes, and the air force has a single bomber to
show for it. It wants to build seventy-four more. It says it can bring
them in for another $35 billion or so."