Saturday, May 08, 2010

The deficit elephant in the room

I've been thinking about this for the last few months. It's good to see DefSec Gates address wasteful military spending. He takes on all the sacred cows inside the Pentagon including medical benefits and so-called overhead, but I think the big money is in unnecessary equipment.
“For example, should we really be up in arms over a temporary projected shortfall of about 100 Navy and Marine strike fighters relative to the number of carrier wings, when America’s military possesses more than 3,200 tactical combat aircraft of all kinds?” Gates asked in a reference to the congressional push to buy more Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter jets.

“Does the number of warships we have and are building really put America at risk when the U.S. battle fleet is larger than the next 13 navies combined, 11 of which belong to allies and partners? Is it a dire threat that by 2020 the United States will have only 20 times more advanced stealth fighters than China?”

Gates said that those are the kind of questions that the government should be asking and consequently finding an answer in order “to have a balanced military portfolio geared to real world requirements and a defense budget that is fiscally and politically sustainable over time.”
Of course, Congress pushes these procurements to deliver the home district pork. Their constituents who benefit from the spending don't care if it's necessary to national security. It's integral to their economic security. Many of those constituents are the same ones who loudly wail about spending on social programs for "lazy people" who aren't lucky enough to get jobs that depend directly or indirectly on that unnecessary spending.

Gates is right. It will take a ton of courage and political will to make those cuts. Sadly I don't think they're going to find it inside the Beltway. Certainly not before 2012.

[More posts daily at The Detroit News]

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Blogger said...

My Congress Critter Jim Cooper stated it very well last year when he observed "we no longer have the luxury of running the Defense Department as a hometown jobs program.”

Amen to that.

I thought it was hilarious (and sad) that the Tea Baggers in Florida held one of their famous rallies last month to protest Obama cutting a NASA program. The people arguing against government spending still want it in their own backyards. Doesn't that just figure.

7:24:00 PM  
Blogger chicago dyke said...

This was something i came to understand via my experiences in the Corps. they were very clear about it. the thing is, it's really competitive, to be an officer and get re-upped and promoted. so a lot of people, for a lot of reasons will serve a relatively short time and then go into private industry (obviously it's a little different during this war, but it doesn't affect my point). all of us were told, very directly, that it was a lifelong gravy train, once we got out. in the killing business, sure, but one could get a position "indirectly," working with computers or making parts for bombs.

this is only a tiny sliver of the welfare program that is our military. it's sickening and stupid; democrats routinely vote to send huge portions of our discretionary income to Red states, where bases and private industry thrive. making stuff that often, we don't need and doesn't work, and destroys the environment as well as innocent people. scandal after scandal are revealed by DoD IGs, they make a blip in the news and the big contractors or merc firms keep on gettin paid. look at the pie charts that show domestic spending and military spending, it's shocking and i doubt most americans have any idea just how much the MIC costs them.

the reason no one in the Village will challenge this is two fold. TPTB are very good at keeping a cultural condition there in which all the "best" and popular people are also very pro-Military. there aren't many real DFHs on the most exclusive Beltway cocktail party invite lists, but plenty of uniform worshippers and fetishists. lots of them never served, as you know. but the other reason that no one can talk about has to do with the oceans of money the merc firms have swallowed these last ten years. i truly believe that a progressive politician or even a moderate neoliberal one who challenged the military budget successfully would be killed. "suicided," most likely. i think they make that plain any time a pol get too close to actually slashing a DoD gravy train. ymmv.

9:47:00 PM  
Blogger Libby Spencer said...

You're both so right. The MIC *is* the Corporatocracy, with guns & surveillance to enforce it. And the whole "pork barrel spending" crowd never seems to notice how much unneccessary spending goes on there. They would rather bitch about stuff like volcano monitoring.

And I also believe that the threat of being "suicided" is probably a very real factor in keeping the Congressional dissent down. It's a helluva mess.

10:47:00 AM  
Blogger Libby Spencer said...

Oh, and thanks for the link SoBeale. Appreciate it.

10:54:00 AM  
Blogger Capt. Fogg said...

Recently the Military closed an obsolete coastal navigation system (Loran-C) to save money - it was only still used by some fishermen and has long been abandoned by the military.

Yet I was accused of being a communist and lost many good friends last week because I had the audacity to correct someone who insists this is going to expose the country to "attack"

Sure, everybody wants to cut spending that might benefit someone, but obsolete systems that cost trillions? Hell no!

11:01:00 AM  
Blogger Libby Spencer said...

Well you're better off without friends who can't take a little fact check. It's that Neanderthal thing again...

1:58:00 PM  

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