How Does the Bush Cabal Support the Troops?
Halliburton's profits are out of control, but our government can't find the funds to pay utility bills at military bases?
During a recent visit to a military family center at Fort Hood in Texas, Joyce Raezer was dismayed to find a sign in a restroom stall asking women to clean up because janitorial service had been cut back.
"What message does that send to a family member when they walk into a family center?" asked Raezer, director of government relations for the National Military Families Association.
At Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri, swimming pools closed a month early this fall, and shuttle vans were sharply curtailed in an effort to trim spending. At Fort Sam Houston in Texas, unpaid utility bills exceeded $4 million, and the base reduced mail delivery to cut costs.
Belt-tightening at the bases is only the beginning. As the United States spends about $8 billion a month in Iraq, the military is forced to cut costs in ways big and small.
Soldiers preparing to ship to Iraq don't have enough equipment to train on because it has been left in Iraq, where it is most needed. Thousands of tanks and other vehicles sit at repair depots waiting to be fixed because money is short.
At the Red River Army Depot in Texas, at least 6,200 humvees, Bradley Fighting Vehicles, trucks, and ambulances were awaiting repair because of insufficient money, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported in October.
There is a virtual graveyard of tanks and fighting vehicles at the Anniston Army Depot in Alabama. The depot expects to repair 1,885 tanks and other armored vehicles during the fiscal year that began Oct. 1, spokeswoman Joan Gustafson said. That would be up from the 1,169 and 1,035 vehicles repaired in the previous two years.
Some of the depot's contractors haven't been able to supply enough parts in time to make all the repairs, Gustafson said. The depot is trying to reduce the time for getting parts from 120 days to 60 days.
Tanks and helicopters are one thing; the toll on America's warriors and their families is another.
Post-traumatic stress disorder and problems such as drug abuse and depression have been diagnosed in more than 73,000 soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. That's enough people to fill a typical NFL stadium.
Internet blogs by soldiers or their wives tell of suicide attempts by soldiers haunted by the horror of combat, civilian careers harmed by reservists' deployment and redeployment, and marriages broken by distance and the trauma of war.
"Back-to-back war deployments have changed both of us - to where it's as if a marriage does not exist anymore," wrote a woman calling herself Blackhawk wife on an Iraq war vets Web site. "We just go through the daily steps of life and raising children as best we can."
The length of the war in Iraq has strained all aspects of the armed forces, said Dov Zakheim, the Pentagon's chief financial officer from 2001 to 2004.
"In 2003, I don't think anybody predicted it would go as long as World War II and the wear and tear on equipment would be as intense," said Zakheim, a vice president for global strategy consultant Booz Allen Hamilton Inc. "When I left the department, we were spending less than $4 billion a month on Iraq. Now it's pretty much doubled."
The length of the Iraq war surpassed that of World War II last month. The costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the global fight against terrorism are expected to surpass by spring the Vietnam War's $536 billion in inflation-adjusted costs. That's more than 10 times the Bush administration's $50 billion prewar estimate.
Through the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, Congress authorized about $436 billion in war spending, according to the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress.