Ashton Carter. (photo: Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP)
Ashton Carter's History of Wasteful Military Spending
By Ken Klippenstein and Paul Gottinger, Reader Supported News
08 February 15
Ashton Carter, Obama’s nominee for secretary of Defense, oversaw development of the $1.5 trillion F-35 fighter jet, the most expensive weapon system in history. Extravagant funding for the F-35 has not precluded setbacks: in June of 2014, the air force suspended F-35 flight operations when a fire broke out on one of the jets during an attempted takeoff.
Carter, who is undergoing Senate confirmation hearings, also oversaw production of $50 billion worth of MRAP armored vehicles – thousands of which were scrapped shortly thereafter. Documents provided to RSN by the Pentagon’s Defense Logistics Agency reveal that the U.S. government scrapped 2,417 MRAPs between 2008 and 2014. This represented a loss of over $2 billion worth of equipment, assuming an MRAP’s average cost of $1 million.
While deputy secretary of the Department of Defense, Carter rushed to export 27,000 MRAPs to Iraq and Afghanistan, resulting in an over-supply of the vehicle.
However, MRAPs didn’t end up only in Iraq and Afghanistan. MRAPs have contributed to the trend toward militarizing local police; many MRAPs were sent back from the Middle East to American police departments. MRAPs have been sent to towns as small as Dundee, Michigan, population 3,900.
In addition to the development of MRAPs, he also ensured export of F-35 jets to Israel. The Israeli press reported, “Carter was instrumental in guaranteeing the transfer of US-made F-35 fighter jets.”
Of likely of interest to Israel is Carter’s hawkish stance on Iran. He has stated that an airstrike on Iran’s nuclear facilities could have “an important delaying effect” on their alleged nuclear program. Concerning diplomacy with Iran, Carter wrote that “diplomacy and coercion should be mutually reinforcing,” and that “repeated attacks” may be required to cause long-term damage to Iran’s nuclear program.
Regarding the costs of a hypothetical Israeli air strike on Iran, Carter conceded, “The costs to the United States of an Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear program might ... be almost as large as the costs of a US strike.”
Carter’s contempt for Iran was on full display his Senate confirmation hearing. At the hearing, Carter was asked if he believes ISIL represents the most immediate threat to U.S. interests in the Middle East and to the region itself. Carter responded, “I hesitate to say ISIL only because in the back of my mind is Iran, as well.” The questioner did not point out the fact that Iran and ISIL are mutual enemies.
Regarding the U.S. nuclear arsenal, Carter said that “nuclear weapons don’t actually cost that much.” The nuclear program is estimated to cost up to a trillion dollars over the next three decades. During his time as undersecretary of Defense, Carter protected the nuclear arsenal from budget cuts.
Despite Carter’s loose approach to military spending, he criticized military waste during his confirmation hearing. He stated, "The taxpayer cannot comprehend, let alone support the defense budget, when they read of cost overruns, lack of accounting and accountability, needless overhead, and the like. This must stop.” Carter’s record couldn’t disagree more.
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Paul Gottinger is a freelance journalist based in Madison, Wisconsin. He can be reached on Twitter @paulgottinger or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Ken Klippenstein is a staff journalist at Reader Supported News. He can be reached on Twitter @kenklippenstein or email: email@example.com
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