March 9, 2009

Some things never change, and Congress members bringing home the pork for military projects (one of the least effective forms of economic stimulus, by the way), regardless of their merits, remains a bi-partisan tradition. But considering the current economic climate, Obama really needs to stop this kind of spending - and we need to support him:

When President Obama promised Wednesday to attack defense spending that he considers wasteful and inefficient, he opened a fight with key lawmakers from his own party.

It was Democrats who stuffed an estimated $524 million in defense earmarks that the Pentagon did not request into the 2008 appropriations bill, about $220 million more than Republicans did, according to an independent estimate. Of the 44 senators who implored Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates in January to build more F-22 Raptors -- a fighter conceived during the Cold War that senior Pentagon officials say is not suited to probable 21st-century conflicts -- most were Democrats.

And last July, when the Navy's top brass decided to end production of their newest class of destroyers -- in response to 15 classified intelligence reports highlighting their vulnerability to a range of foreign missiles -- seven Democratic senators quickly joined four Republicans to demand a reversal. They threatened to cut all funding for surface combat ships in 2009.

Within a month, Gates and the Navy reversed course and endorsed production of a third DDG-1000 destroyer, at a cost of $2.7 billion.

"Too many contractors have been allowed to get away with delay after delay in developing unproven weapon systems," Obama said, attributing $295 billion in cost overruns to "influence peddling" and "a lack of oversight" that produces weapons meant "to make a defense contractor rich" instead of securing the nation.

He did not mention that since 2006, Democratic lawmakers have presided over a 10 percent increase in the Pentagon's budget -- it now amounts to 46 percent of the government's total discretionary spending -- and have also voted repeatedly to keep funding weapons systems that have had hundreds of billions of dollars in cost overruns.

Although Obama complimented one Democratic and one Republican senator who last month proposed revisions, senior Pentagon officials predict that gaining support on Capitol Hill for ending procurement abuses will be an uphill battle.

"There is equal blame to go around," a senior defense official said Friday, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of political sensitivities. "It's bipartisan. It's all about political expediency."

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