10. The Pentagon's Post-Cold War Black Budget is
Alive and Prospering
Source: Mother Jones, 1663 Mission Street,
2nd Fl. San Francisco, CA 94103, Date: March/April 1992, Title: "The Pentagon's
Secret Stash," Author: Tim Weiner
SYNOPSIS: Today, and every day, close to $100 million flows
through underground pipelines from the U.S. Treasury to the Pentagon
to fuel the national-security machinery of the United States. The black
budget ("black" in the sense of being unseen, covert, hidden
from light) is the secret treasury of the nation's military and intelligence
agencies. It is appropriated and spent with only the scantest public
debate or media scrutiny.
the roughly $36 billion in the secret budget today, about $5 billion goes to build
and develop weapons programs, many of which remain so highly classified that only
the two most senior members of the congressional armed services and appropriations
committees know anything about them.
Robert Costello, in charge of buying weapons at the Pentagon during
the last years of the Reagan administration, said, "Inside the
Pentagon the mind-set is, 'I'm going to use secrecy to build my nice,
isolated little cocoon."' And when resident skeptics criticized
such secrecy, "They fired the bastards who wanted to put the screws
isn't there more publicity? After all, public pressure and congressional anger
forced the lid off the now famous B-2 bomber. And reporters and public policy
advocates uncovered strange programs with eerie names such as Timberwind (a Star
Wars program to build a nuclear-powered rocket engine for missiles designed to
shoot down incoming Soviet nukes), MILSTAR (a network of space satellites and
blast-hardened ground stations that would endure a six-month nuclear war) and
Island Sun (involving a convoy of generals hurtling down highways in lead-laced
tractor-trailer trucks, dodging nuclear detonations and barking commands through
scramblers-a Dr. Strangelove-style operation).
The realization that the
Cold War has ended apparently has not yet penetrated the inner catacombs of the
Pentagon nor stilled projects such as these. After a half century of lucrative
and unchecked black budgets, starting with the Manhattan Project that brought
us Hiroshima, the secret cache largely remains inviolate. The wall surrounding
the black budget has proven more durable than the one that divided Berlin. Iran/contra
exposed the inherent dangers of unexamined secrecy; the congressional investigation
of Iran/contra revealed that the whole fiasco never could have happened without
the machinery and cloak of the secret budget.
The solution is not difficult.
Congress could demand disclosure of data on the cost and character of secret programs
but has only done so on a piecemeal basis; nor has Congress ever confronted the
underlying fact that the secrecy system itself defies the Constitution, which
requires the government to publish a complete and accurate account of all federal
"The fault lies with the Congress," says Representative
Pat Schroeder of Colorado. "If we forced the release of this information,
there would be no issue. As long as the Congress goes along with the Pentagon's
secrecy program, we have no (legitimate) complaint."
Secret Billion-Dollar Black Budget," also by Tim Weiner, was Project Censored's
#7 story of 1990. Weiner's latest investigation reveals that the official end
of the Cold War did not end the Pentagon's secretive Cold War mentality.
Censored Researcher.- Damon S Van Hoesen
COMMENTS: Tim Weiner, Washington correspondent for the Philadelphia
Inquirer, has written extensively on the issue of the Pentagon's black
budget. However, he feels that the subject is still under-covered. Weiner's
work on the black budget won him the Pulitzer Prize for national reporting
in 1988; his book, Blank Check: The Pentagon's Black Budget, was published
Weiner believes that the press has a responsibility to warn the public
about the dangers inherent in the secrecy surrounding the Pentagon's black budget,
but there are reasons why it doesn't fulfill that responsibility. "The black
budget is an arcane, obscure issue that takes a lot of time to explain,"
Weiner says. "Further, it requires expertise in several different areas including
espionage, government secrecy and large sums of money."