The Pentagon’s brazen diverting of tax dollars and hiding it from Congress is getting scrutiny. Florida Senator Bill Nelson, pitted against GOP orphan Katherine Harris in 2006, is exposing the slush fund and demanding an investigation by the Senate Armed Services Committee, of which he is a member. St. Petersburg Times:
In a letter to Sen. John Warner, R-Va., chairman of the Armed Services Committee, and ranking member Sen. Carl Levin, D-Michigan, Nelson seemed incredulous…
“The fundamental issue appears that the Defense Department believes it is not only legal but accepted practice to operate using slush funds that deceive the Congress,” Nelson wrote. “Indications from the IG report are that the practice is widespread, condoned and even encouraged up and down the levels of management within the DOD.”
The Pentagon’s Special Operations Command, or SOCom, is run from Tampa’s MacDill Air Force Base, and is in charge of all the really good spy stuff, according to its web site. The site also offers products, from calendars to SOCom watches, for sale. Doesn’t say where the proceeds go, but that’s along the lines of what Bill Nelson wants to know.
As usual, they’re trying to blame all wrongdoing on the flunkies:
[Chairman of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, Republican Rep. C.W. Bill] Young said Pentagon comptroller Tina Jonas assured him hiding funds from Congress is not tolerated. Jonas, the FBI’s former comptroller, arrived at the Pentagon after the various investigations began.
“It’s not her policy, and anybody who did this on their own, if she found out about it, they would be terminated,” Young said.
That’s interesting, since the former SOCom comptroller was so open about following that very policy.
Special Operations officials divided the $20-million among six projects so the money would not attract attention.
They also instructed their budget analysts not to mention it during briefings with congressional aides.
The agreement was spelled out in an e-mail distributed by then-SOCom comptroller Elaine Kingston to colleagues on Feb. 11, 2002. The Pentagon initially wanted SOCom to hide $40-million, but Kingston refused.
In her e-mail, Kingston coached colleagues on how to account for the additional money and avoid attracting attention to it in congressional briefings.
Kingston began her e-mail by assuring colleagues that the request by the Pentagon was not unusual.
Various investigations have been trying to get to the bottom of all this since 2002, according to the Times, which has tried to find out about it at least that long.
Three years ago, according to documents obtained by the Times, SOCom “parked” – or hid – $20-million from Congress by inflating its 2002-2003 budget at the request of the Pentagon comptroller. Another $25-million was hidden in the SOCom budget the following year.
Of course, overseeing the Pentagon’s $400 billion (with a “b”) budget is bound to be a little challenging. $20 million here, $25 million there, and pretty soon you’re talking about real money for Donald Rumsfeld and his ilk to use however they see fit. Go Bill, go!