Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Devil Does Details

The spending on our military grew exponentially over the previous maladministration, independently of war costs. Over the years 1999 through 2008, 58% of the world's total military outlay was U.S. spending. This is not chump change, though chumps are in charge of the huge cost run-ups. We should get a handle on this atrocity, for a simple reason; we can't afford this.

Milbank writes at WaPo on the worst, that comes out at appropriations time on the Hill.

This meeting of the Senate Military-Industrial Caucus will now come to order.

The chair recognizes the senator from Northrop Grumman for a question.

"We've noticed the increase in the amphibious ship fleet needs that go beyond traditional military missions," said Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.). "Do you see a continuing need for shipbuilding in the amphibious area?"

Of course, Senator. Nobody will hurt the DD(X) destroyers they build in Pascagoula.

Does the senator from General Dynamics have a question?

"Littoral combat ships," said Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.). "Do you believe that this program will play a vital role in our Navy's future fleet?"

Certainly, Senator. Tell the folks in Mobile that their shipbuilding operation is safe. The chair now recognizes the senator from Boeing.

"I wanted to ask you today if you can tell me how you are taking into account the health and longevity of our domestic industrial base," asked Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.).

Sure, Senator. Your constituents in Everett will get another shot at that aerial refueling tanker contract they lost to the Airbus consortium.

And so it went at yesterday's hearing of the Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, attempting a bold reshaping of the military-industrial complex to meet the changing nature of war, pleaded with the lawmakers to rise above the powerful contractors that fund their campaigns and influence their elections. "The responsibility of this department first and foremost is to fight and win the nation's wars," Gates reminded them. "I know that some will take issue with individual decisions. I would ask, however, that you look beyond specific programs and instead at the full range of what we are trying to do."

Not likely, Mr. Secretary. Lawmakers are perfectly happy to reform military procurement, as long as the cuts are not made in any of their back yards. The result will inevitably be that the Pentagon is forced to fund many programs it doesn't want while shortchanging others it urgently needs.

The country is ill served by the mismanagement of our military appropriations. Should we ever need that military in combat, we would have to scramble to re-direct our effort to catch up.

Much of the waste is in areas that are already recognized not to be pertinent to reality. Star Wars is a prime example. This is a pipe dream, and the pipes are clogged. It doesn't work, and wouldn't be worthwhile if it did. The billions poured into it would do well to go to actual needs, of which this country has no lack.

While our lawmakers are eying social needs for spending cuts, they treat waste on military as sacrosanct. The true 'entitlement' is this heedless throwing of money at pure frills - while we desperately need real services the government is meant to provide.

The article I've excerpted reads like comedy, but it's producing a tragedy.


Heard this a.m. on Washington Journal, at CSpan.

Dr. Dean re; Rep. Gingrey's misinformation about wife Dr. Steinberg (who does accept Medicare patients contrary to that misinfo.) - 'Good thing he's in congress because I'd hate to see what he does to patients.'

On Republicans speaking about health care; "What they say is not so."

Three cheers.

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