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Proposed military slush fund would risk new boondoggles: Experts

A proposal supported by ex-NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg would speed up DoD acquisition authority without Congressional approval.

Reporting | Military Industrial Complex

As U.S. competition with China reaches a fever pace, Congress should give the Department of Defense the ability to initiate some contracts without having to secure funding from lawmakers, according to Michael Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York City and current chairman of the Pentagon’s Defense Innovation Board.




The proposal, which Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall first pitched earlier this year, would allow military leaders to “fill gaps as they arise, without having to wait on the passage of annual appropriations,” as Bloomberg wrote in Defense News on Monday. “There is always risk — financial and operational — in adopting cutting-edge technologies, but keeping the U.S. military the world’s foremost power requires greater appetite for risk.”




The Pentagon, for its part, says the proposal is necessary to deal with the “very aggressive contest for military technology superiority” between the United States and China. But watchdogs are doubtful about the potential upsides of such a provision. “It could lock in expenditures and commitments prior to Congressional approval, which would violate the basic principle of Congress's power of the purse,” argued Bill Hartung, a senior research fellow at the Quincy Institute.




“Moving more quickly doesn't always produce better results,” Hartung argued. “The U.S. arsenal is littered with dysfunctional systems that were rushed into production without adequate testing; and the new enthusiasm for AI and hypersonics risks bringing in unqualified or unscrupulous contractors looking to cash in on a new flood of [research and development] funding.”




The proposal also contributes to “China threat inflation” and opens up new avenues for acquisitions that DoD is unlikely to handle well, according to Julia Gledhill of the Project on Government Oversight. “The proposal lacks strong enforcement language to hold the Pentagon back from pursuing programs that fail to complete preliminary design reviews, or fail the reviews completely,” Gledhill added.




The House chose not to include the measure in this year’s defense policy bill, but it remains possible that the Senate will include the “Rapid Response To Emergent Technology Advancements or Threats” provision in its version of the National Defense Authorization Act. 




If the proposal does become law, the Pentagon would have up to $300 million each year to start developing new technology that would either “leverage an emergent technological advancement of value to the national defense” or “provide a rapid response to an emerging threat.”




As Bloomberg noted, the House version of the NDAA includes a pair of pilot programs that would grant the Pentagon a portion of Congress’s acquisition authority and ease restrictions on weapons purchases. But those programs pale in comparison to the one put forward by Kendall, which would give DoD significant leverage over lawmakers in decisions about future spending priorities.


EX-NYC Mayor and once presidential candidate (left, pictured with former DoD secretary Ashton Carter in 2012) wants to make it easier for the Pentagon to initiate contracts without Congressional approval of funding. (DoD photo)
Reporting | Military Industrial Complex
Diplomacy Watch: Russia could be invited to Ukraine-led peace talks

Diplomacy Watch: Russia could be invited to Ukraine-led peace talks

QiOSK

Ukraine would consider inviting Russian officials to a peace summit to discuss Kyiv’s proposal for a negotiated end to the war, according to Andriy Yermak, the Ukrainian president’s chief of staff.


“There can be a situation in which we together invite representatives of the Russian Federation, where they will be presented with the plan in case whoever is representing the aggressor country at that time will want to genuinely end this war and return to a just peace,” Yermak said over the weekend, noting that one more round of talks without Russia will first be held in Switzerland.

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Biden officials want Russian frozen assets to fund Ukraine war
Janet Yellen, United States Secretary of the Treasury. (Reuters)

Biden officials want Russian frozen assets to fund Ukraine war

QiOSK

On Tuesday, U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen strongly endorsed efforts to tap frozen Russian central bank assets in order to continue to fund Ukraine.

“There is a strong international law, economic and moral case for moving forward,” with giving the assets, which were frozen by international sanctions following Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine, to Kyiv, she said to reporters before a G7 meeting in San Paulo.

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Will Michigan ‘uncommitted’ disaster wake Biden up on Gaza?

Activist Layla Elabed speaks during an uncommitted vote election night gathering as Democrats and Republicans hold their Michigan presidential primary election, in Dearborn, Michigan, U.S. February 27, 2024. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook

Will Michigan ‘uncommitted’ disaster wake Biden up on Gaza?

QiOSK

A protest vote in Michigan against President Joe Biden’s handling of the war in Gaza dramatically exceeded expectations Tuesday, highlighting the possibility that his stance on the conflict could cost him the presidency in November.

More than 100,000 Michiganders voted “uncommitted” in yesterday’s presidential primary, earning 13.3% of the tally with most votes counted and blasting past organizers’ goal of 10,000 protest votes. Biden won the primary handily with 81% of the total tally.

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