Out, plumb used up, kaput and depleted like an empty beer keg. "We're out of Schlitz." That's how the Army summarized its user-friendly manpower assessment before a congressional commission yesterday.
Now that we've had the adults in charge for six years, don't you feel safer?
But rather than posing the question of how much more we should spend in pursuit of safety, the dire assessment, it seems to me, raises the question of what in hell have we been doing with what we've had?
"In particularly blunt testimony," the Army's chief of staff said his forces "began the Iraq war 'flat-footed' with a $56 billion equipment shortage and 500,000 fewer soldiers" than 15 years ago, when Pops had the good sense to get out immediately after getting in.
These shortages, said the chief, put "future missions in jeopardy."
A $56 billion equipment shortfall? A half-million fewer soldiers than the budget allows? Future missions at risk?
Current U.S. military spending accounts for more than half of all global expenditures on things that go boom and the folks who bring them to you. Put another way, we spend more on destruction than the rest of the entire world put together.
Depending on how you add it all up, we spend nearly 10 times what China does -- that military behemoth of hair-raising proportions, we're warned; and it's further implied we should start catching up.
Lordy, lord, to hear the neocons and Pentagon tell it, the little buggers are outdistancing us in every firepowered category. We are woefully, dangerously behind.
But they don't mention just how far ahead we are in being behind.
No, instead we're told we entered this idiotic war with a $56 billion equipment shortage.
But let's be fair. That's only because, as was reported into Congressional oversight oblivion in 2003, the Defense Department "couldn't account for more than a trillion dollars [as in 1000 billion] in financial transactions, not to mention ... Defense inventory systems so lax that the U.S. Army lost track of 56 airplanes, 32 tanks, and 36 Javelin missile command launch-units."
Oh well, that's why they put erasers on pencils, as my father was fond of saying when pondering our military's gargantuan waste.
And you won't hear the Pentagon highlighting the fiscal fact, as budgetary things stand now, that its "spending, not including funding for the Department of Energy or for actual combat operations for the period FY’07 through FY’11 will exceed $2 trillion."
In this case, let's be prudent as well as fair. Perhaps we should kick in another trillion, since half of that two trillion is likely to vanish somewhere, somehow, by FY '11.
Frustrated with this relentless underfunding, the Army chief of staff "banged his hand on a House committee-room table, saying the continuation of today's Pentagon policies is 'not right.'"
How right he is. Throwing more money at the Pentagon is like feeding a one-armed bandit. The statistical odds of a profitable outcome are less than confidence inspiring.