Black Holes: How Secret Military and Intelligence Appropriations Suck Up Your Tax Dollars

By Larrabee, J. Whitfield | The Humanist, May-June 1996 | Go to article overview

Black Holes: How Secret Military and Intelligence Appropriations Suck Up Your Tax Dollars


Larrabee, J. Whitfield, The Humanist


Corrupt and undemocratic conditions within the United States government were evident last fall when Congress siphoned a half-billion dollars from an illegal slush fund maintained by the secretive spy satellite agency, the National Reconnaissance Office, and used it to fund more B-2 "stealth" bombers. Northrup Grumman Corporation, a military contractor with a sordid and criminal background, secured the money for more B-2 bombers on December 1, 1995, when the 1996 defense appropriations bill became law. The half-billion dollars appropriated for the B-2 is merely a down payment on 20 more planes, which will cost over $31 billion if completed.

Congress has forced the bombers on the military over the objections of the Pentagon, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Air Force. In a May 1995 study commissioned by Congress, the Institute for Defense Analysis concluded that, with the demise of the Soviet Union, there was no need for more B-2s. Nonetheless, Northrop Grumman's patrons in Congress, who have lined their pockets with PAC contributions from the B-2's corporate beneficiaries, shrewdly disclosed the existence of the NRO slush fund just as they were completing their final maneuvers to fund the B-2. They then applied over $1 billion of the slush fund-estimated at a total of $2 billion--to the B-2 and other unpopular weapons programs. If, as President Dwight D. Eisenhower once declared, "Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed," then Northrop Grumman has surely robbed the American public. Shamefully, President Clinton allowed the appropriations bill to become law. Most disturbing of all, the excesses involved in funding the B-2 and the National Reconnaissance Office are not isolated incidences but, instead, are typical of the practices used in dozens of weapons and intelligence programs involving as much as $125 billion annually.

CIA Director Investigates Himself

On September 24, 1995, the Washington Post reported that the NRO had "accumulated unspent funds totalling more than $1 billion without informing its superiors at the Pentagon and CIA or its overseers in Congress" White House Chief of Staff Leon Panetta later confirmed the report, claiming that the money was inexcusably hoarded" and that CIA Director John Deutch had ordered an investigation. Deutch also allegedly ordered "a restructuring of the NRO's financial management and a complete review of its spending" in response to the news. Curiously, prior to taking charge at the CIA in May 1995, Deutch oversaw military intelligence, including the NRO, in his capacity as Deputy Secretary of Defense. (The government officially admitted the existence of the NRO in 1992, although its budget and specific functions remain classified. The NRO's fleet of costly satellites gathers photographs and signals for electronic eavesdropping on behalf of the CIA and military intelligence agencies.) As deputy secretary defense, Deutch was second in command at the Pentagon, as well as the chair of the NRO's executive committee, which makes all critical decisions at the NRO.

This means that Deutch, who had the highest security clearance at the Pentagon, either knew of the slush fund or chose to remain ignorant. Defense News, a widely read military journal, recently called for the dismissal of those responsible for what it referred to as the NRO's "funding debacle" As there is no adequate explanation why Deutch remained ignorant of a hoard placed at over 20 percent of the NRO's $7 billion annual budget, he, too, should be dismissed.

Climate of Secrecy Fosters Waste and Unaccountability

The NRO, a bottomless pit into which Congress pours money, can squander hundreds of millions of dollars and still remain awash in money. In 1994, the NRO was found to have secretly and illegally spent $300 million on an office complex in Fairfax County, Virginia. …

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