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This is the kind of news that makes the public distrust government (in this case rightly, but just as frequently that distrust is misplaced). It’s also the kind of news item that I like because there’s context AND there’s a copy of the internal study that I can archive, catalog and give access to via our library catalog.
The Pentagon has buried an internal study that exposed $125 billion in administrative waste in its business operations amid fears Congress would use the findings as an excuse to slash the defense budget, according to interviews and confidential memos obtained by The Washington Post.
Pentagon leaders had requested the study to help make their enormous back-office bureaucracy more efficient and reinvest any savings in combat power. But after the project documented far more wasteful spending than expected, senior defense officials moved swiftly to kill it by discrediting and suppressing the results.
The report, issued in January 2015, identified “a clear path” for the Defense Department to save $125 billion over five years. The plan would not have required layoffs of civil servants or reductions in military personnel. Instead, it would have streamlined the bureaucracy through attrition and early retirements, curtailed high-priced contractors and made better use of information technology.
The study was produced last year by the Defense Business Board, a federal advisory panel of corporate executives, and consultants from McKinsey and Company. Based on reams of personnel and cost data, their report revealed for the first time that the Pentagon was spending almost a quarter of its $580 billion budget on overhead and core business operations such as accounting, human resources, logistics and property management.
I was so happy to see that the Memory Hole — which for a long time posted amazing FOIA’d and found government documents but which went dark in 2009 — is back to work. Russ Kick is doing yeoman’s work to shake loose and shine light on amazing documents. I often save copies in the Stanford Digital Repository and make them available via our library catalog. I hope others will do the same. Scroll to the bottom of the site to subscribe to weekly updates. Welcome back Russ and the Memory Hole!!
The Memory Hole 2 – run by Russ Kick – saves important documents from oblivion. Its predecessor, The Memory Hole (2002-2009), posted hundreds of documents, many of which will be reposted on the new site.
The Memory Hole 2 achieves its mission in several ways:
- Discovering what documents the US government has pulled offline, recovering them, and reposting them here. In this way, The Memory Hole 2 is the reverse of its namesake in George Orwells 1984, in which official documents that were no longer convenient for the powers-that-be were sent to a furnace through a hole in the wall.
- Digitizing and posting important documents that previously existed only on paper.
- Filing Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests for documents across the federal government (including Cabinet-level departments, regulatory agencies, intelligence agencies, and the military), then posting the results. I also sometimes file at the state and local levels, as well as with governments outside the US.
- Posting documents obtained by other researchers.
- Proactively mirroring important documents that seem in danger of being pulled offline.
- Posting documents that are available but are languishing in obscurity. This may include documents buried in huge search-only archives (not browsable), forgotten news reports, startling passages from books, court decisions, etc.
- Converting documents from inconvenient or cumbersome formats into convenient ones. This might include taking hundreds of one-page and two-page PDF files and merging them into a single document, or making a photo gallery out of images in scattered locations.
- I do some behind-the-scenes work by downloading gigabytes worth of documents from government websites that use dirty tricks to block automatic archiving and caching, As long as the documents stay on the official sites, I may not post them, but if they ever go missing, I have copies.
Amidst the spirited discussion here and elsewhere about Wikileaks, you might have missed the fact that Donald Rumsfeld set up a web site (rumsfeld.com) with hundreds of “declassified or previously unreleased documents” to accompany his new book. (Rumsfeld compared his “archive” to a sort of legitimate version of Wikileaks.) Rumsfeld didn’t have to go through that pesky FOIA process to get or release those documents either. (See: Rumsfeld’s Snowflake, “Subject:Porpoises” and Rumsfeld Memoir Highlights VIP Access to Government Files).
Now, here is more news:
John Cook at Gawker has posted a collection of documents that Donald Rumsfeld neglected to include in his archival Rumsfeld Papers website that accompanied the publication of his recent memoir. Cook and company obtained the documents by sending a FOIA request to the Defense Department for all the records that Rumsfeld had requested and previously obtained from DOD via FOIA. The result was many documents that did not make their way into Rumsfeld’s online collection. The documents (available in their entirety here) portray Rumsfeld “curious to know what the rush is” in bringing enemy combatant and U.S. Citizen John Walker Lindh to a speedy trial, interested in rationalizing why administration policies toward detainees was “perfectly legal, proper, and historically correct,” and emphasizing that administration officials continued “referring to our ‘plan’.”
—FRINFORMSUM: 2/24/2011, Unredacted, by Seth Maddox.
I’m quite partial to honeybees since I was a hobbyist beekeeper (got my first bees from the inimitable Richard Taylor on whom David Foster Wallace wrote his undergraduate honors thesis). And so I was particularly bummed about the news of a leaked EPA document (PDF) in which, despite warnings by EPA Scientists about the pesticide clothianidin being toxic to honeybees, EPA approved its use anyway. “Clothianidin has already been banned by Germany, France, Italy, and Slovenia for its toxic effects. So why won’t the EPA follow? The answer probably has something to do with the American affinity for corn products. But without honey bees, our entire food supply is in trouble.”
For more on honeybee colony collapse disorder, I’d highly recommend seeing the documentary Queen of the Sun