Friday, May 28, 2010

Because There’s Always Money For War

I love how everyone talks about cutting federal spending especially on things like healthcare and unemployment benefits, but there’s always money for war:
The House on Thursday voted to keep funding a second engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, defying the White House and Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

Gates has repeatedly threatened that he would personally recommend that President Barack Obama veto any defense bill containing funding for an engine made by General Electric-Rolls Royce that the Pentagon does not want. The Office of Management and Budget on Thursday followed up with its own veto threat in a statement of administration policy. 

Both GE-Rolls Royce and primary engine maker Pratt & Whitney mounted vigorous lobbying campaigns in recent weeks aligning congressional supporters on each side. But when the House cast a vote on an amendment to strike funding for the second engine, the supporters of a second engine prevailed by a vote of 231-193.

The Pentagon doesn’t want this engine but Congress is going to make sure it gets built anyway. Of course they will. The Penatgon, as Rep. Jim Cooper pointed out a year or so ago, has become a de facto hometown jobs program. Didn’t Eisenhower warn us about this a generation ago?

Never mind. Congress will continue to mouth platitudes about cutting the deficit while refusing to touch the second largest item in the Federal budget:

At over $700 billion this year, total military spending rivals Social Security as the largest item in the federal budget. We are spending more than at any time since World War II, yet our principal enemy has no multi-million person army, no air force, no navy, no sophisticated anti-aircraft systems – in short, none of the kinds of weapons our arsenal is best designed to fight against. And of that $700 billion per year, the vast bulk – over $500 billion – goes towards the Pentagon’s base budget, not the wars in Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan. A forthcoming report from the Sustainable Defense Task Force  – a group of defense and budget experts convened with the encouragement of Rep. Barney Frank – presents a menu of options for making cuts in the Pentagon budget without undermining our basic security. Look for details within the next two weeks.

There are plenty of savings to be had from eliminating unneeded weapons systems and cutting waste, fraud and abuse, but it is important to note that any substantial reduction in Pentagon spending will have to involve reducing U.S. global commitments. We can’t and shouldn’t continue to structure our forces as if they should be able to go anywhere and do anything. This is directly relevant to the new National Security Strategy.

$700 billion year, much of it devoted to weapons for fighting the Cold War which, last I checked, St. Ronnie won for us over 20 years ago. This makes no sense.

Time to turn our swords into plowshares. Instead of spending $485 million to build an engine the Pentagon says it doesn’t want, why can’t these workers be retrained and factories retrofitted to build things this country does want: things that are even more important to our national security than weapons for a war no one is fighting anymore? Things like components for wind turbines and solar panels and parts for electric vehicles and the like?

Why do we keep making the same mistakes over and over again? It boggles the mind.