Thursday, February 07, 2008

The Fear of Appearing Soft on Defense is What's Soft.

The pentagon’s budget this year, adjusted for inflation, is the highest it's been in 60 years. By the end of this year, the US will have spent ¾ of a trillion dollars on defense.

Despite huge military inefficiency, no one has ever lost an election by promising to "strengthen" our defense by spending more. On the other hand, if a political candidate tells the truth, and claims he can make keep our defense strong, possibly making it stronger by spending less on the defense budget, he appears "soft" on defense. Living with the constant fear of appearing soft on defense is what is soft, especially when that taxpayer money literally does nothing but waste time and money, building up the military industrial complex.

Let’s say one of the Bush twins bought $5,000 of Lockheed Martin stock - biggest defense contractor in America - on September 10, 2001; her initial investment would be worth over $20,000 today. Lockheed Martin, along with other defense contractors, bank on the US government spending most of its federal budget on military projects, some of which have turned out to be totally useless, and the amount spent could have easily funded universal health care a few times over.

Take the F22 Fighter jet program, the most expensive jet in history, with a $330 million price tag, originally designed to fight the Soviets. According to Government Accountability Office (GAO), the original plan scheduled the first aircraft to be operationally deployed in 1996. After 25 years of expensive development, this jet has finally reached what the US defense department calls “full operational capability", meaning it’s ready to go to war.

Well, it's a little late as we have not used the F-22 fighter jet and have no plans to do so further down the road. The best part of all is that F-22 Fighter Jet Program is still very much alive and kicking.

Why is the F-22 program, which has already cost taxpayers $65 billion dollars, still kicking? The answer, as is the answer to many programs we needlessly spend money on, is political clout.

"Lockheed Martin represents tens of thousands of employees in 45 out of 50 states. When you have political clout like that behind you, it’s pretty simple to convince members of congress that continuing a program like that is important to their constituencies. – Christopher Helman, an analyst at the Center for Arms Control
Winslow Wheeler, forced to step down as a staffer on the Senate budget committee after he published an article on bloated defense spending in 2002, reported the GAO recommended no further funding for the F-22 Program until the Department of Defense can provide relevant justification which it could not do.

Many budget analysts estimate big ticket items will drive and make up more than half of the pentagon's budget. However most of these big-ticket programs (missle defense, naval destroyer, submarines,) provide no real value for counter terrorism operations, so these big ticket security projects become priority when they don’t enhance our security.

I don't think anyone would refer to President Eisenhower as soft on defense, yet a few days after he was inaugurated, he promoted deep cuts to defense spending,
“To amass military power without regard to our economic capacity would be to defend ourselves against one kind of disaster by inviting another.“ – President Eisenhower in 1953

So, why is it that "we the people" equate military strength with dollars spent without demanding accountability for how that money is spent, and more importantly if all that money we hand over does make our military stronger?

Currently, with reports of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan lacking proper armor, equipment shortages, not to mention, shortage of troops overall; it's very obvious that higher defense dollars, does not equal a stronger defense.

Miriam Pemberton, a Research Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies and Peace and Security Editor for Foreign Policy In Focus, after crunching the numbers, found that the Pentagon could easily fund troops, equipment, maintenance, modernization and even add money for diplomacy, humanitarian aid, and other measures of preventative security and cut the defense budget by 10%.


Anonymous,  17:35  

So true...great quote from Ike!

Anonymous,  09:57  

Big ticket items won't work when it comes to the war on terror. Our enemy is scattered all over the world. There is no single state with possessions, a population and a professional high budget military.

Our enemy does not have fighter jets, submarines, naval destroyers. Big ticket items may have been appropriate for WWII but are useless and a big waste of money.

It was a big mistake to blow up the defense budget as if that would put a dent in our war on terrorism. All it has done is as Ike said, send out an invitation for more disaster.

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