The Personal Blog of Stephen Sekula

What’s $100M when you’re defending democracy?

I am concerned by this recurring “story about 100M dollars going missing in the Iraq reconstruction effort”:;_ylt=At9K0nB3DggPB8jukqks16ZG2ocA;_ylu=X3oDMTBiMW04NW9mBHNlYwMlJVRPUCUl. The AP news story on leads with “U.S. government mismanagement of assets in
Iraq, from the lack of proper documentation on nearly $100 million in cash to millions of dollars worth of unaccounted-for equipment, are setting back efforts to fight corruption in the fledgling democracy, auditors and critics say.”

I’d say that a “set back” in Iraq is the least of the ethical baggage the government should worry about when it comes to losing $100M. Agents who distributed the money claimed that “were under the impression that it was more important to quickly distribute the money to the region than to obtain all necessary documentation.”

So much for fiscal responsibility. So much for the idea that putting a businessman in the office of the President will improve this nation’s financial footing and ethics. Let’s frame this from my perspective.

The Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, as a “matter of public record”, is funded by the Department of Energy’s Office of Science (DOE SC) at the level of $120M. The total budget of the DOE SC is at the level of $3.2B, which is a fraction of the many billions spent on both the war and the reconstruction in Iraq. As you can see, the amount “lost” in Iraq is comparable to the amount spent to generate great science at a great national treasure, SLAC.

So here’s what I am worried about: losing $100M seems to be chalked up to the price of defending democracy, here and in Iraq. Spending $100M on great science to make this country worth defending is becoming a growing complaint within the federal gov’t, which seems loathe to spend money on the science that has made this country great. Even the President’s own party is concerned, as “evidenced by this letter from Republican Frank Wolf (VA) to the President expressing his concern about the ongoing trend to decrease basic science funding”:

Let us not become complacent with our money. Can we afford to lose $100M defending democracy, yet feel worried about legitimately spending $100M to make a great democracy? That’s for Americans to decide.