As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Can't Beat That Military Industrial Complex

There are some conflicting stories about what the post-stimulus world means for the Pentagon. Today's New York Times made it seem like they were coming around to the reality of smaller budgets and more oversight:

Having signed into law nearly $800 billion in new spending, President Obama will now be under pressure to identify at least some budget cuts — and the Pentagon may be particularly vulnerable.

Mr. Obama is set to release his first budget proposal on Feb. 26. After years in which military budgets have soared to record levels, Pentagon officials are already preparing at a minimum to pare back, with a particular eye to slashing weapons programs that have suffered significant cost overruns.

Some Democrats are pressing for much broader cuts in military spending, with Representative Barney Frank of Massachusetts, the Democratic chairman of the Financial Services Committee, having called for a 25 percent reduction in the Pentagon budget.

While such a drastic reduction is unlikely during a time of two wars and a recession, several high-dollar, high-tech weapons systems will be under the most scrutiny.

Indeed, despite the best efforts of military-industrial complex mouthpieces like Mark Bowden, it appeared that the F-22 would be one of the first dodo bird weapons systems to go. There is no need for future investments in the system, especially since air superiority is the least of our worries in a 21st-century military environment. But an emerging fight has broken out about it, one that uses the rhetoric of jobs:

When it comes to the F 22 Raptor, the administration is facing a March 1 deadline to decide how many more F22s to order. Lockheed is supposed to deliver the last of the current batch of 181 on order in 2011 [...] So not surprisingly there's a lot of lobbying going on to keep the F 22 rolling. Northrop and Lockheed Martin are lobbying heavily to keep the plane in production and there's a large press availability this week where reporters can sit in simulators and learn all about the 95,000 jobs the plane's advocates say are at state. Any state where there's work related to the Raptor is lobbying for it. "With rising unemployment, we need to make sure that we're not making a knee-jerk reaction and we keep this program going strong," Keith Scott, president of the Baltimore County Chamber of Commerce told the Baltimore Sun. Our point is, No. 1, this preserves jobs, and No. 2, it is immediate. You don't have to develop anything," Lawson said. "This is 'shovel ready.' "

According to the Los Angeles Times, the F-22 program is directly responsible for 25,000 jobs at Bethesda, Md.-based Lockheed Martin and its major suppliers. But Lockheed officials say when jobs from sub-suppliers are added in, the F-22 program maintains 95,000 jobs in 44 states. Among the firms helping Lockheed in Washington is Public Strategies, home to George W. Bush media adviser Mark McKinnon. In Congress, prominent senators from Ted Kennedy to Judd Gregg to Dianne Feinstein signed a letter back in January urging then President Elect Obama to keep the F22 going. Not surprisingly there's a website, that's just part of the lobbying campaign being waged by the Lockheed, Boeing and other suppliers of the jet fighter. We'll know soon whether their efforts have been successful.

Via Spencer Ackerman, I'd put money down that the lobbyists will win this one.

Remember earlier this month, when the White House's Office of Management and Budget told the Pentagon to cap its forthcoming fiscal 2010 budget at $527 billion, excluding the cost of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars -- an increase from the $513 billion appropriated in the final year of the Bush administration? But because the figure was lower than a $584 billion Bush-era Pentagon wishlist for fiscal 2010, people started portraying the increase as a cut? Well, Josh Rogin at CQ reports (behind a firewall, alas) that OMB and the Pentagon have agreed to an even greater increase: $537 billion for the coming fiscal year.

The new topline figure is $10 billion greater than guidance President Obama's administration gave to the Pentagon only last month. The increase reflects the effort to incorporate some items previously found in supplemental war funding budgets, the sources said, but does not cover the cost of ongoing operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, which will still require additional funding above the base request next fiscal year.

That'll creep up and up and up, I suppose. And when the "fiscal responsibility summit" comes around, don't expect the participating Blue Dogs to sound the alarm against wasteful defense spending. That kind of spending is magic.

We will never get our fiscal house in order, as it were, as long as we needlessly spend more money on the military than any other nation on Earth combined.

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