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It's Not the Pentagon Standing in the Way of Cuts to Weapons Programs


May 1, 2013
Jordan Bloom / The American Conservative

The Pentagon latest budget called for a new round of base closures that could reduce infrastructure costs by about 20 to 25 percent. Yet Congress rejected that idea last year. And in the last week, there have been several news stories about Congressional opposition to scrapping weapons programs -- for ships, for tanks, for planes. Both Dems and the GOP are agreed: taxpayers should spend an extra $436 million on the Abrams tank, a weapon the experts say is not needed.

http://www.theamericanconservative.com/its-not-the-pentagon-standing-in-the-way-of-cuts-to-weapons-programs/

(April 29, 2013) -- Last Wednesday Senator Barbara Mikulski chided [1] the military leadership for not being more forthcoming about decisions that could impact defense expenditures in their states:

... We really need those within the department to have a real understanding of this committee and every member, not only the full committee chairman and the vice chairman and the chairman of the subcommittee and Senator Cochran but all of the committees. We have been deeply troubled from time to time that we have been treated in a dismissive way. The chairmen are always treated with respect.

Everybody wants to come and see us, have meetings, exchange coins, and we all Kumbayah together. But at the end of the day, there are members here that want to be on this subcommittee so they can get simple answers about what's going on in their own state. They worry about…the moving of airplanes, the fact that a meeting with us is checking the box.


Mikulski represents Maryland, which is the third most exposed [2] state to defense cuts behind Hawaii and Alaska, and she chairs the Appropriations Committee.

The Pentagon proposed a budget earlier this month that called for a new round of base closures; estimates [3] going back [4] to the Bush administration claim the surplus of infrastructure is about 20 to 25 percent. Yet Congress rejected that idea last year.

In the last week there have been several news stories about Congressional opposition to scrapping weapons programs,
from ships [5]:

The Navy is stuck with a number of poorly performing ships it wasn't permitted to scrap but can't afford to fix because Congress hasn't resolved its budget stalemate. Four Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruisers were on the Navy's decommissioning list for 2013 because repairing and upgrading them would cost billions of dollars. But Congress objected to the cuts and instead authorized money to maintain three of them. That money has yet to materialize.

to planes [6]:

Parked around the airstrip at Lackland Air Force Base are more than a dozen massive C-5A Galaxy transport planes. There is no money to fly them, repair them or put pilots in the cockpits, but Congress rejected the Air Force's bid to retire them. So every now and then, crews will tow the planes around the Texas tarmac a bit to make sure the tires don't rot, then send them back into exile until they can finally get permission to commit the aging aircraft to the boneyard.

to tanks [7]:

Lawmakers from both parties have devoted nearly half a billion dollars in taxpayer money over the past two years to build improved versions of the 70-ton Abrams.

But senior Army officials have said repeatedly, "No thanks."

It's the inverse of the federal budget world these days, in which automatic spending cuts are leaving sought-after pet programs struggling or unpaid altogether. Republicans and Democrats for years have fought so bitterly that lawmaking in Washington ground to a near-halt. Yet in the case of the Abrams tank, there's a bipartisan push to spend an extra $436 million on a weapon the experts explicitly say is not needed.

On their own, each one of these things is a tiny part of the Pentagon's budget. But with furloughs and benefit cuts on the table, not to consider scrapping unwanted weapons programs is to put pork before American soldiers.

(It's worth adding that the Pentagon has funded things Congress explicitly told them not to [8] recently as well.)



Comments

#1 Comment By Michael N Moore
On April 29, 2013 @ 1:44 pm

President Eisenhower's first draft of his farewell address warned of the military-industrial-congressional complex. Nervous aids had him delete "congressional." However, this is at the core of the problem. The military-industrial complex, which is bankrupting our country and become a major threat to World peace is the fat marbled into our political economy.

Politicians, assembly line workers, executives and stockholders have all come to understand that their standard of living is maintained by war or the threat of war. The militarized economy provides the stability of a government income with higher pay than government jobs. Stability is something that has disappeared from the actual private sector, where insecurity and constant pay erosion are the order of the day.

The primary flaw in Keynesian economics is that to overcome taxpayer resistance to huge government expenditures you may be required to have a war. The political pressure is always there and always looking to assemble the next pro-war political coalition.

#2 Comment By James Canning
On April 29, 2013 @ 2:19 pm

Great piece. "Defence" contractors, property developers, et al., have gamed the system so that the epic squandering of fantastic sums on unnecessary weapons etc etc etc continues unchecked.

#3 Comment By James Canning
On April 29, 2013 @ 2:21 pm

Michael N Moore – - The huge sums squandered on unnecessary weapons could instead be spent on building and improving public transport in every American city.
But, as things stand now, the colossal vested interests keep the idiotic programme in place.

Let's remember the tens of thousands of lawyers, lobbyists, and othe fixers who live high on the hog thanks to the way things are today.

#4 Comment By SteveM
On April 29, 2013 @ 3:05 pm


And don't forget the other side of the Defense Contractor coin -- the thousands of Systems Engineering and Technical Assistance (SETA) contractors disbursed throughout the massive defense contractor archipelago in and around the DC Beltway.

Those are mostly PowerPoint engineering shops that generate obtuse, visually dense work products with half-lives of maybe 10 minutes for their Pentagon/Program Office clients. (They spend weeks polishing the apple with pointless animation and changing "happy" to "glad" in their slide decks.)

DoD SETA contracting has turned into a HUGE make-work jobs program for retired military. The revolving door spins like a top. A uniformed officer retires (at perhaps at 44) after having spent the last 2 years at a Program Office, gets hired by a SETA contractor and is sent back to his old Office to market to his pals. Who are more than happy to throw his company gamed contracts. Because they want the same kinds of jobs when they retire in 2 years!

The total cost to the Government must be enormous. But nobody cares because it's all inside baseball. And the "Warrior-Hero" mentality makes the scam almost an entitlement.

P.S. that what gets me about Obama. His whole schtick is deficit spending money out the wazoo till he leaves office, and focusing on the second and third issues as diversions because he's clueless on how to address the fundamental problems that are driving America over a cliff.

#6 Comment By Ken T
On April 29, 2013 @ 4:46 pm

Of course, while we're all busily pointing our fingers at congress, let's not completely close our eyes to the part "we the people" play in all of this. After all, those congresspersons are there because they have been elected, partially on the basis of the success they have had in bringing home the bacon to their own states and districts. We all need to keep one eye on ourselves in the mirror, to make sure we don't succumb to NIMBYism when we are demanding elimination of waste.

#7 Comment By cecelia
On April 29, 2013 @ 6:05 pm

My observation is that the enimity directed towards the so called military industrial complex is misplaced – it is a congressional-industrial complex.

#8 Comment By James Canning
On April 29, 2013 @ 7:41 pm

SteveM – - Good points. Of the ten richest counties in the US, aren't seven in the Washington suburbs?

#9 Comment By Michael N Moore
On April 30, 2013 @ 7:57 am

Cecelia makes a good point. Since the inception of the military-industrial complex other imitators have surfaced such as the medical-industrial complex, the academic-industrial complex, and the finance-industrial complex. The key ingredient in all of these is a circle of money appropriated by Congress into the hands of the industry and then back to the Congresspeople.

URLs in this Post:

[1] chided: http://e-ring.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2013/04/24/mikulski_to_pentagon_respect_congress

[2] third most exposed: https://www.wellsfargo.com/downloads/pdf/com/insights/economics/special-reports/Sequestration_Which_States_Are_Most_Vulnerable_02182013.pdf

[3] estimates: http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/04/10/us-usa-fiscal-defense-idUSBRE9390QU20130410

[4] going back: http://www.senedia.org/our-mission/base-realignment-and-closure-brac/brac-history.html

[5] ships: http://www.military.com/daily-news/2013/01/23/navy-cant-scrap-ships-but-cant-fix-them-either.html

[6] planes: http://www.kgw.com/news/politics/Congress-forces-Pentagon-to-spend-money-it-doesnt-want-to-204277801.html

[7] tanks: http://www.detroitnews.com/article/20130428/POLITICS03/304280328#ixzz2RsAU4Vb3

[8] explicitly told them not to: http://news.antiwar.com/2013/04/09/overlooking-congressional-ban-pentagon-to-fund-nato-missile-defense/

[9] Follow @j_arthur_bloom: https://twitter.com/j_arthur_bloom

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