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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.
In response to issues raised in an April 20, 2008, New York Times article, Behind TV Analysts, Pentagon’s Hidden Hand, the Pentagon has issued a new report.
- Review of Matters Related to the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs) Retired Military Analyst Outreach Activities (PDF 1.69MB) (Redacted), U.S. Dept. of Defense. Inspector General. Office of Deputy Inspector General for Intelligence and Special Assessments. Report no. DODIG-2012-025.
We found that the OASD (PA) conducted the RMA outreach activities in compliance with policy and regulation; and, with the exception of two classified briefings to those with a security clearance, did not provide access for RMA participants to travel, classified information, and senior officials that was special or different relative to other outreach groups or the mainstream media. The exceptions we found did not, in our opinion, affect our conclusion or lead us to make recommendations to change or modify the DoD directives and regulations.
- Pentagon Finds No Fault in Ties to TV Analysts, By DAVID BARSTOW, The New York Times (December 24, 2011).
A Pentagon public relations program that sought to transform high-profile military analysts into “surrogates” and “message force multipliers” for the Bush administration complied with Defense Department regulations and directives, the Pentagon’s inspector general has concluded after a two-year investigation.
David Barstow wrote back in April, 2008 about retired U.S. generals appearing on the major cable networks as “independent” media analysts, while they were simultaneously working for defense contractors, and repeating talking points from the Pentagon (see Military Analysts for FGI coverage). In that piece, Barstow painted a nasty picture of conflicts of interest and journalistic ethical malpractice.
In today’s NY Times, Barstow has another devastating piece, this time directing his focus to Barry R. McCaffrey, a retired four-star Army general, prominent military analyst for NBC News, and highly-paid consultant to defense contractors. McCaffrey’s duplicitousness (and by extension, the other military analysts and the networks themselves) is truly shocking.
“One Man’s Military-Industrial-Media Complex”. David Barstow. New York Times, November 30, 2008 (oddly the date is 11/29 in the online edition and 11/30 in paper!).
…On NBC and in other public forums, General McCaffrey has consistently advocated wartime policies and spending priorities that are in line with his corporate interests. But those interests are not described to NBC’s viewers. He is held out as a dispassionate expert, not someone who helps companies win contracts related to the wars he discusses on television…
…General McCaffrey used his access to further business interests, as he did during the summer of 2005, when Americans were turning against the Iraq war in droves.
Veritas had been on a shopping spree, buying military contractors deeply enmeshed in the war. Its biggest acquisition was of DynCorp International, best known for training foreign security forces for the United States government. By 2005 operations in Iraq and Afghanistan accounted for 37 percent of DynCorp’s revenues.
… What is more, some of DynCorp’s Iraq contracts were in trouble, plagued by cost overruns, inept work by subcontractors and ineffective training programs. So when DynCorp executives learned that General McCaffrey was planning to travel to Iraq that June, they asked him to sound out American commanders and reassure them of DynCorp’s determination to make things right….
Back home, General McCaffrey undertook a one-man news media blitz in which he contradicted the dire assessments of many journalists in Iraq. He bore witness to progress on all fronts, but most of all he vouched for Iraq’s security forces. A year earlier, before joining DynCorp’s board, he had described these forces as “badly equipped, badly trained, politically unreliable.” Just months before, Gary E. Luck, a retired four-star Army general sent to assess progress in Iraq, had reported to Mr. Bush that security training was going poorly. Yet General McCaffrey now emphasized his “surprising” conclusion that the training was succeeding.
After Mr. Bush gave a speech praising Iraq’s new security forces, Brian Williams asked General McCaffrey for an independent assessment. “The Iraqi security forces are real,” General McCaffrey replied, without noting the concerns about DynCorp.
In April, the New York Times broke a story about the now infamous Pentagon information apparatus that used retired military officers in a “campaign to generate favorable news coverage of the administration’s wartime performance” (Behind Military Analysts, the Pentagon’s Hidden Hand By David Barstow, New York Times, April 20, 2008). The Times also published some of the documents it obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests on its web site (NY Times publishes some FOIA documents).
Now, the Pentagon has published documents it released. This collection appears more complete than what the NYT released.
- Military Analysts “These documents were released to the New York Times regarding the Pentagon’s Military Analyst program.” (last updated 28-May-08)
The documents are posted on the web at the “Reading Room” of the Office of the Secretary of Defense and Joint Staff, Requester Service Center, Office of Freedom of Information, under the heading “5 U.S.C. § 552 (a)(2)(D) Records – Records released to the public, under the FOIA, that are or will likely become the subject of subsequent requests” under the heading “Military Analysts.”
All governments manipulate the media to garner favorable news coverage and spin the flow of information to put their actions in a positive light. But in a story in Sunday’s NY Times (April 20, 2008) entitled “Behind TV Analysts, Pentagon’s Hidden Hand,” David Barstow describes a concerted effort by the Bush Administration who used ostensibly objective military analysts to spread propaganda and dupe the American public in a campaign to generate favorable news coverage of the administration’s wartime performance in Iraq. It turns out that those “independent military experts” consisted of “more than 150 military contractors either as lobbyists, senior executives, board members or consultants.”
Once again, John Stewart describes this event with wit so that we’ll laugh rather than scream. So I’ll let him have the last word. And he mentions a GAO report called “Combating Terrorism: The United States Lacks Comprehensive Plan to Destroy the Terrorist Threat and Close the Safe Haven in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas” that you can now get your hands on via the Internet Archive.
Five years into the Iraq war, most details of the architecture and execution of the Pentagon’s campaign have never been disclosed. But The Times successfully sued the Defense Department to gain access to 8,000 pages of e-mail messages, transcripts and records describing years of private briefings, trips to Iraq and Guantánamo and an extensive Pentagon talking points operation.
These records reveal a symbiotic relationship where the usual dividing lines between government and journalism have been obliterated.
Internal Pentagon documents repeatedly refer to the military analysts as “message force multipliers” or “surrogates” who could be counted on to deliver administration “themes and messages” to millions of Americans “in the form of their own opinions.”…
…Over time, the Pentagon recruited more than 75 retired officers, although some participated only briefly or sporadically. The largest contingent was affiliated with Fox News, followed by NBC and CNN, the other networks with 24-hour cable outlets. But analysts from CBS and ABC were included, too. Some recruits, though not on any network payroll, were influential in other ways — either because they were sought out by radio hosts, or because they often published op-ed articles or were quoted in magazines, Web sites and newspapers. At least nine of them have written op-ed articles for The Times.