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National Debt

Secretary of Defense to Congress: Cut the Waste

  • April 12, 2009

    Secretary of Defense (SoD) Robert Gates, an appointee from the Bush administration retained by the Obama administration, released his proposed budget for the Pentagon calling for drastic reforms and a “fundamental overhaul” of programs and procedures designed to cull hundreds of billions of dollars of waste in the form of outdated and unnecessary programs.

    Much of the focus of Gates’ cuts are programs that were commissioned at least a decade ago when the threat to the U.S. was thought to be mainly from foreign countries and governments with identifiable assets operating within a confined area.  Programs such as the F-22 Raptor jet program, a jet fighter designed to outperform any other jet in the world, were designed primarily to compete with air force programs of hostile countries.  They were not designed to be used in guerilla-type wars that we see in both Iraq and Afghanistan where the enemy is isolated and spread out among the population (and totally lacking aircraft of any sort), and as such, as of February 2008, according to SoD Gates, had not yet been used in either war.

    At a cost of approximately $339 million per aircraft for the 187 F-22s the military already has ($138 million per aircraft if purchased in volume), the U.S. has already spent $6.3 billion dollars on a very advanced jet that has not been used in either of the current theaters, with the entire proposed program projected to cost $140 billion.

    Also on the block are the new presidential helicopter that was famously mocked in an exchange between Sen. McCain (AZ) and President Obama, each of which would have cost more than a new jet fighter, as well as parts of the Future Combat Systems program ($160 billion) which is designed for use against a conventional army in a conventional war.

    Unfortunately, when these unneeded and unwanted programs get cut, the major defense contractors such as Boeing and Lockheed-Martin take big hits to their bottom lines.  The total amount SoD Gates hopes to cut in superfluous spending comes to around $160 billion dollars; that’s 1000 times the amount recently spent on AIG bonuses. 

    In response, the contractors then do what any powerful special interest group does: they hire up all the lobbyists on K Street and make as many contributions to politicians in key places as they can in an effort to get Congress to over-rule SoD Gates and reinstate these costly, wasteful programs.

    As history has shown, since congress controls the budget for the Pentagon, Congress (and by proxy the defense contractors) generally gets its way and funding for these programs continue while other priorities suffer.

    For instance, in a 2008 appropriations bill, SoD Gates and the military were soundly over-ruled by Congress in attempts to cut bad programs and forced to continue to pay for products that were flawed, over budget (96 programs are $296 billion over-budget), or outdated at costs of hundreds of billions of dollars.

    This shows how backwards the process has become and leaves little wonder why defense spending accounts for roughly one-half of all U.S. spending.  When the civilian leader of the armed forces has less control over military spending than those receiving donations from defense contractors and astronomically less knowledge of what is needed in order to maintain the military, one knows that the system is irrevocably broken and in dire need of a top-to-bottom change.

    CapitolWatch began in the 1980s a cold war defense advocacy group strongly supporting the military and its mission of keeping our nation safe from foreign threats.  As the times have changed and our enemies have changed from identifiable countries to non-descript ideological armies operating across multiple borders, we continue to believe it best to leave the operation of the military to the military, and while oversight is an important part of the governing process, it should not be so heavy-handed as to infringe upon the ability of our military to operate in a successful manner.

    We encourage all of our readers and members to immediately contact their elected officials and tell them to support the military and its decision to cut the wasteful spending from its budget.  The money saved from programs that offer no tangible benefit can be put to better uses such as increasing the size of U.S. armed forces -- providing jobs to people who want to serve the country instead of being served by it, and tools that can more readily assist soldiers in the current fields than unknown operations years into the future.

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