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

Friday, April 03, 2009

The Coming Military-Industrial Complex Battle

A Senate panel that I assume doesn't include Evan Bayh or Ben Nelson passed unanimously a bill to rein in the contracting process at the Pentagon. There's a lot to like about this bill, which is co-sponsored by John McCain.

The bill would require the Pentagon to do more extensive engineering studies before embarking on new weapons programs and to rebuild its oversight staff, which was sharply reduced after the end of the cold war.

It would create a position for a project-testing director at the Pentagon and make it easier to end programs that exceed their original budget estimates by 25 percent.

Senator Carl Levin, a Democrat from Michigan who is chairman of the committee, said before the vote on Thursday that the changes were meant to be “tough medicine.”

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has been scrutinizing the most troubled programs and is expected to propose cuts in several major programs soon.

The Government Accountability Office, the auditing arm of Congress, reported this week that nearly 70 percent of the Pentagon’s 96 largest weapons programs were over budget last year, for a combined total of $296 billion above the original estimates.

Obviously, it's easy to change the PROCESS for procurement - a fair bit of the bill concerns realistic cost estimates (read: higher ones). The proof of whether Congress can really push back against out-of-control contracting comes when Bob Gates releases his Pentagon budget.

Reporting from Washington -- Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates will announce his plans for a sweeping overhaul of the defense budget on Monday, Pentagon officials said today.

Gates will announce his decisions first in telephone calls to congressional leaders Monday morning and then in an afternoon news conference.

Gates has been working for weeks on an overhaul of the defense budget and has been contemplating tough decisions on whether to cancel the Air Force's F-22 fighter plane, Navy shipbuilding programs, the Army's Future Combat System and a host of other weapons programs.

In an unusual move for the Pentagon, Gates will announce his budget recommendations before shipping the formal recommendation to the White House's Office of Management and Budget.

"It ... reflects the magnitude of the decision," said Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell. "These aren't changes on the margins. It is a fundamental shift in direction."

Already Holy Joe and his pals in the GOP are pushing back against this. They cannot conceive of an armed forces without bloated budgets the size of the rest of the world combined. It doesn't matter that America can't afford it, because military spending is magic.

This will be an epic fight.

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