The Pentagon’s $496 billion budget request released Tuesday contains a laundry list of weapons systems and troops’ benefits the military wants for next year. What the massive request does not include, however, are any details about how it plans to spend money on its most important function: fighting wars.
Instead, the Defense Department is tossing out $79 billion as a “placeholder” request to Congress for spending on wars, known as the “overseas contingency operations” account.
That is the exact amount the military asked for last year. But, given that the Obama administration is in the process of winding down the war in Afghanistan, officials are insisting their placeholder should not be taken seriously. “It’s not a real number,” Acting Deputy Defense Secretary Christine Fox said last week.
So why can’t the Pentagon tell Congress how much it needs to fight the nation’s wars?
For one, the pace and future of the Afghan drawdown remains in flux.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai is defying expectations by refusing to sign the U.S.-Afghanistan security pact, which could allow the United States to keep 10,000 troops stationed in the Central Asian country. But if Karzai refuses to sign the agreement, and if his soon-to-be-elected successor refuses as well, the White House has said it is making plans for a complete pullout of U.S. forces.
The eventual number of troops stationed there obviously will greatly affect how much military operations will cost in 2015, and so Congress may get a much clearer picture if the next Afghan president signs the security pact following the upcoming elections.
And Congress may not, in fact, be in any hurry to find a rigid ceiling for the war-spending account. The fund is not subject to Congress’s strict budget caps, and in the 2014 budget, the Pentagon and Congress added some $30 billion for items not directly related to war — including depot maintenance for major weapons systems, and pay and benefits for service members who may or may not be deployed.
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Before we get to the specifics of this exposé about escorts working the Iowa and New Hampshire primary crowds, let’s get three things out of the way: 1.) It’s from Cosmopolitan; 2.) most of the women quoted use fake (if colorful) names; and 3.) again, it’s from Cosmopolitan. That said, here’s what we learned:
- Business was booming: one escort who says she typically gets two inquiries a weekend got 15 requests in the pre-primary weekend.
- Their primary season clientele is a bit older than normal—”40s through mid-60s, compared with mostly twentysomething regulars” and “they’ve clearly done this before.”
- They seemed more nervous than other clients, because “the stakes are higher when you’re working for a possible future president” but “all practiced impeccable manners.”
- One escort “typically enjoy[s] the company of Democrats more, just because I feel like our views line up a lot more.”
No matter where you stand on mandating companies to include a backdoor in encryption technologies, it doesn’t make sense to allow that decision to be made on a state level. “The problem with state-level legislation of this nature is that it manages to be both wildly impractical and entirely unenforceable,” writes Brian Barrett at Wired. There is a solution to this problem. “California Congressman Ted Lieu has introduced the ‘Ensuring National Constitutional Rights for Your Private Telecommunications Act of 2016,’ which we’ll call ENCRYPT. It’s a short, straightforward bill with a simple aim: to preempt states from attempting to implement their own anti-encryption policies at a state level.”
Much has been made of David Brooks’s recent New York Times column, in which confesses to missing already the civility and humanity of Barack Obama, compared to who might take his place. In NewYorker.com, Jeffrey Frank reminds us how critical such attributes are to foreign policy. “It’s hard to imagine Kennedy so casually referring to the leader of Russia as a gangster or a thug. For that matter, it’s hard to imagine any president comparing the Russian leader to Hitler [as] Hillary Clinton did at a private fund-raiser. … Kennedy, who always worried that miscalculation could lead to war, paid close attention to the language of diplomacy.”
The New Covenant. The Third Way. The Democratic Leadership Council style. Call it what you will, but whatever centrist triangulation Bill Clinton embraced in 1992, Hillary Clinton wants no part of it in 2016. Writing for Bloomberg, Sasha Issenberg and Margaret Talev explore how Hillary’s campaign has “diverged pointedly” from what made Bill so successful: “For Hillary to survive, Clintonism had to die.” Bill’s positions in 1992—from capital punishment to free trade—“represented a carefully calibrated diversion from the liberal orthodoxy of the previous decade.” But in New Hampshire, Hillary “worked to juggle nostalgia for past Clinton primary campaigns in the state with the fact that the Bill of 1992 or the Hillary of 2008 would likely be a marginal figure within today’s Democratic politics.”
At first, “it was pleasant” to see Trevor Noah “smiling away and deeply dimpling in the Stewart seat, the seat that had lately grown gray hairs,” writes The Atlantic‘s James Parker in assessing the new host of the once-indispensable Daily Show. But where Jon Stewart was a heavyweight, Noah is “a very able lightweight, [who] needs time too. But he won’t get any. As a culture, we’re not about to nurture this talent, to give it room to grow. Our patience was exhausted long ago, by some other guy. We’re going to pass judgment and move on. There’s a reason Simon Cowell is so rich. Impress us today or get thee hence. So it comes to this: It’s now or never, Trevor.”