Military cuts are bipartisan duty

August 16, 2010


As Republicans take their case to the voters in November about the Obama administration’s massive overspending and record debt, they should seriously consider what could be a rare bipartisan objective: cutting defense spending.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates — a George W. Bush appointee and an Obama holdover — has announced plans to reduce what he calls the “cumbersome” American military hierarchy. Gates also wants to cut spending by more than one-quarter on support contractors and close the Joint Forces Command in Norfolk, Va., which, according to the Washington Post, “employs about 2,800 military and civilian personnel as well as 3,300 contractors, most of them in southeastern Virginia.”

Gates’ proposal got the attention of Sen. James Webb, Virginia Democrat and Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, a Republican. Closing a national security facility would cost jobs, and Virginia, which recently announced a budget surplus and houses the Pentagon and other military venues, doesn’t want to regress.

It is one of Washington’s major embarrassments that no matter which party controls Congress, members use defense spending to create jobs and do favors for political contributors in their states and districts. But like the bipartisan Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process, which operated through Republican and Democratic administrations and resulted in the closing of 350 outdated military bases, a similar approach to cutting unnecessary defense spending might also produce benefits to taxpayers.

The problem has been that the Left too often wants to cut defense for its own anti-war and political agenda and the Right thinks all defense spending is good and to cut it is unpatriotic. So how about starting with the most outrageous and unnecessary spending, which should make harder cuts a little easier?

Citizens Against Government Waste (www.cagw.org) offers some useful places to begin. In the 2010 defense budget, “$3,385,000,000 was added anonymously for four projects. According to the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007, signed into law on Sept. 14, 2007, by President George W. Bush, members of Congress are required to add their name to each earmark. However, they continue to violate this law by adding anonymous earmarks to fund projects — often big-ticket items — at the expense of taxpayers.” Why can’t Congress live under laws it passes to regulate itself?

Another anonymous earmark for $250,000,000 was added, “For advance procurement of components for the two DDG-51 destroyers planned in fiscal year 2011. According to a Sept. 29, 2009, Associated Press article, the DDG-51 destroyer is “to be built in Pascagoula, Miss., home to Republican Sen. Thad Cochran,” ranking member on the Appropriations Committee. “Sens. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), John Kerry (D-Mass.), (former senator) Paul Kirk (D-Mass.) and Rep. Travis Childers (D-Miss.) added $8,100,000 for a hybrid drive system for the DDG-51 destroyer.”

Spending may be Washington’s last bipartisan activity.

Again anonymously, $2,500,000,000 was earmarked for “10 additional C-17 aircraft. In a floor statement posted on his website, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., voiced his opposition to the C-17 funding: ‘what we would do in this bill is effectively fund the purchase of new aircraft that we neither need nor can afford with critical sustainment money. That would have a significant impact on our ability to provide the day-to-day operational funding that our servicemen and women and their families deserve.’”

It will take more than spending reductions to make the Pentagon — and the American economy — healthy again. Ultimately, the political leadership must develop a policy about the proper role of the United States in the world and what weapons are necessary to fight modern wars against terrorists.

President Obama has said (and so have his predecessors) that he doesn’t like the pork in defense bills, but he has to sign what Congress sends him. The least he could do is to shame those members who won’t attach their names to spending measures, or who support spending for weapons the Pentagon neither wants, nor needs.

Wasting money on the Department of Defense may strengthen the political careers of politicians, but it weakens our defenses.

— Cal Thomas is a columnist for Tribune Media Services. tmseditors@tribune.com


mickeyrat 7 years, 10 months ago

The world must be coming to an end, because Cal is making sense for once. The DoD could spend a lot less on weapons systems, a lot more on supporting soldiers and their families, and STILL save billions.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 10 months ago

There will be no real cuts in war spending, and that will be a "bipartisan" effort by the two sides of our one-party system.

Paul R Getto 7 years, 10 months ago

Good points, Mr. Thomas. Good luck getting a handle on this. There is a reason why we have one/two endless wars going and why they make at least something for the defense program in all, or nearly all, congressional voting districts. The good Mr. Eisenhower warned us about the MIC long ago and we have ignored his advice ever since.

Jason Bailey 7 years, 10 months ago

Bozo: For the first time, I agree with you. We do have a one-party system -- neither is any different than the other outside of how the politics are packaged and marketed to the people.

Kyle Reed 7 years, 10 months ago

Wow I feel like I'm taking crazy pills. I agree with Bozo too!

MyName 7 years, 10 months ago

Wow, maybe this is like the one week in the year when he remembers to take his medicine before writing a column. Or maybe the talking points memo was delayed this week and he was forced to write something sensible instead of whatever the party line was.

Ralph Reed 7 years, 10 months ago

Good point Paul. This is from Eisenhower's farewell address to the nation in 1961. " In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the militaryindustrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together. "

He was quite prophetic in that respect. For me, the key points are: "We should take nothing for granted." This is a given. "Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry..." An alert and knowledgeable citizenry is dependent upon people listening and questioning intelligently when something doesn't seem right. Just because the latest talking (or yelling) points tell you something, always go back and check. Read something other than your favorite slant on the news; put several sources together to get a better idea of what's going on.

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