Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Family Budget

It has always struck me as ludicrous that the Pentagon budget is always the last to be slashed or even minimally lowered during difficult economic times. We can expect attacks on social programs, like free lunches for poor children or Medicaid, but the Pentagon ... well, it's simply too important to touch. It's even harder these days because we seem to be caught up in the idea of perpetual war and it would be unpatriotic to undercut our troops. Jets that won't fly, tanks that are too unwieldy for the modern battlefield: no matter. We need them.

It's especially disconcerting when the expenditures on weaponry are for the benefit of another nation.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is pushing for congressional funding to ship more Iron Dome missile defense systems to Israel.

“The Department of Defense has been in conversations with ... Israel about U.S. support for the acquisition of additional Iron Dome systems and intends to request an appropriate level of funding from Congress to support such acquisitions based on Israeli requirements and production capacity," Pentagon spokesman George Little said in a statement released Tuesday.

DOD had set aside more than $200 million to help Israel purchase and field the Iron Dome system in fiscal 2012. Israel already has three Iron Dome systems deployed in the country.

They have been key in deterring counter short-range rocket and mortar attacks emanating from the Gaza Strip, according to Little.
[Emphasis added]

Yes, I know: these are defensive systems intended to protect Israel from incoming missiles. And I do admit that I find funding such systems a bit more palatable then assisting Israel buy more rockets and jet fighters. That said, I still find it hard to swallow that we're spending hundreds of millions of dollars to prop up a nation that by all outward signs is still not serious about solving the biggest problem in the Middle East right now as it spreads its "settlements" into Palestinian territory and locks down other parts of that land.

From the looks of things, however, it appears that Israel will get this further assistance and the vote will truly be bipartisan:

“Iron Dome is a game changer,” said Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.). “The threats Israel faces from incoming, indiscriminate terrorist rocket attacks are countered by this cutting edge anti-missile system. Iron Dome is fundamentally shifting political, diplomatic and military realities on the ground."

Berman, a ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, has pushed a number of pro-Israeli measures, including an extension of an Israeli loan guarantee program and further sanctions against Iran, along with more funding for Iron Dome systems.

Rep. Berman has lots of friends from the other side of the aisle rushing to join him in pushing for that additional funding. Unfortunately, no such cooperation appears to be imminent for additional funding for such programs as WIC, school lunches, Medicaid and the like. I guess our welfare isn't quite as important.

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