The Assault on Checks & Balances

June 7, 1999

Comment: #283

Discussion Thread:  #s 169 "The Constitution, Situational Ethics, & the Phony Debate Over More Defense Spending," August 25, 1998; see also Comments #49, #61, #114


[1] John Donnelly, "Navy Lost Track Of Millions In Arms, Internal Audit Finds," Defense Week, June 7, 1999, Pg. 1.

Accountability is the foundation of our freedom. You can not have a government of the people, by the people, and for the people, unless elected and appointed officials are accountable to the people.

The ideal underpinning our Constitution may be OK for high school civics texts, but the war against Serbia has shown that classical accountability is rapidly becoming an anachronistic curiosity as the Twentieth Century stumbles to a close.

The President used an entangling defensive treaty—NATO—to by-pass Congress and wage an offensive war, without a UN sanction, against a country that posed no threat to any member of that alliance. The looming peace accord ending the Serbo-NATO War will mean that 7,000 more US soldiers will be stationed in another Balkan protectorate indefinitely—a fait accompli that Congress may debate, but will approve after the fact, in a way that makes a mockery of the checks and balances envisioned by the Architects of the Miracle of Philadelphia.

The arrogance of the representatives of the people is not limited to questions of war and peace, or the de-facto establishment of great power protectorates, however. They treat the people's money with equal contempt.

In Comment #169, I endeavored to show how the Defense Department's corrupt accounting systems subvert the spirit, if not the letter, of the Constitution. Simply stated, the Defense Department can not, and does not want to, satisfy the elementary requirements of the Accountability Clause of the Constitution and the Chief Financial Officers Act of 1990, notwithstanding the fact that every member of the Defense Department has taken a sacred oath to uphold the Constitution without reservation.

The Reference to this Comment adds another layer to this disgraceful artichoke. John Donnelly of Defense Week reports that a Navy audit report has concluded the Navy has no record of receiving nearly $1 billion worth of "ammunition, arms and explosives" that the service knew had been shipped. The auditors found the Navy system for monitoring missing weapons was fundamentally broken. Far more weapons are missing than are reported missing. This conclusion was based on the huge disparity between the large numbers of "adjustments" to inventories (7,700) and the few reports of missing weapons (573) in the 1,400 sites that store weapons. Other services have similar problems.

If your teenage son spent money like the Navy, would you increase his allowance?

Well, the Serbo-NATO War taught your Congress a its own kind of oversight lesson. It has proved to the hawks in Congress (those porkers with wings, many of whom did not support the war) that it is now necessary to increase the defense budget to fully fund the President's two war strategy.

What an elegant symmetry - Congress will use the burden of an unconstitutional war will to justify an increase in unaccountable spending.

Put another way: the assault on the Accountability Clause of the Constitution will continue and it will intensify.

Chuck Spinney

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