Wednesday, April 08, 2009



Thomas Riggins

These are some remarks on the new Pentagon budget proposed on Monday by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates as reported in Tuesday's New York Times (4-7-2009).

It appears that Gates want's to eliminate wasteful, redundant, and obsolete programs and prepare the military for its new mission, viz., counter-insurgency warfare as in Iraq and Afghanistan rather that conventional warfare, say attacking the Russian army or the Chinese.

The defense industry is gearing up to fight the changes as its interest is not the security of the United States or the safety of the men and women in the military, but on continuing to get as much money as it can from the government to increase its profit margins.

The new budget is a result of new strategic thinking from the administration "making the system," as the NYT puts it, "more flexible and responsive to the needs of the troops in the way it chooses and buys weapons." Right now the troops take second place, or rather third, behind the needs of capitalist profits for the defense industry and domestic political considerations.

Gates was pretty forthright in saying economic issues and Congressional concerns about jobs (i.e., votes) would render it difficult, in his words, to "make tough choices about specific systems and defense priorities based solely on the national interest and then stick to those decisions over time." Hmmm: BASED SOLELY ON THE NATIONAL INTEREST! We will soon see the defense industry and politicians junking the NATIONAL INTEREST for their own PRIVATE INTEREST-- all wrapped up in the flag of course and presented as their patriotic duty.

Gates wants to end "the hugh cost overruns and delays that have plagued so many programs." He will be fought tooth and nail because these overruns and delays boost profits enormously for the industry.

One boondoggle Gates wants to reform is the missile defense shield. He doesn't want to end it just have it "scaled back by $1.4 billion." He might even end, or postpone ,"some of the more exotic programs." Those are ones that basically don't work but justify dumping billions into the private sector defense industries (such as schemes to shoot down inter- continental ballistic missiles).

He also wants to cut back on the production of more F-22 fighter jets, we really don't need so many and the money could be better spent in ways to actually give more support to our ground troops. But not according to the Republican House member Tom Price of Georgia. There are thousands of defense workers who would be out of work in Georgia if these unneeded aircraft were put to rest. What does Price say?

"It's outrageous that President Obama is willing [note-this is Gates' proposal, it hasn't gone yet to the White House] to bury the country under a mountain of debt with his reckless domestic agenda but refuses to fund programs critical to our national defense." The point is, of course, that an excess number of F-22s is NOT critical to our national defense. This is just pandering for votes on Price's part-- an example of the NATIONAL INTEREST being ignored, and even damaged, on behalf a PRIVATE political interest.

As for those "exotic" and ever so expensive worthless anti-ballistic missile missiles, we are told a bipartisan group of six senators (there was one Democrat!) claims that the new budget cuts to that program "could undermine our emerging missile defense capabilities to protect the United States against a growing threat."

What threat? Neither Russia nor China want to commit suicide. North Korea doesn't even have rockets that fly right, Iran doesn't have a bomb. Neither India nor Pakistan have missiles that can reach us, and are unlikely to attack us anyway. That leaves the Brits-- they won't be attacking us anytime soon. The French have been sorely provoked by the Bushites (dumping their wine in the sewers and coming up with "freedom fries") but Sarkozy loves us, so the French will behave themselves. The last possibility is the Israelis. They did attack the USS Liberty in 1967 and kill 34 of our men but I don't think they will nuke us.

Let me conclude by saying, Gates, a conservative Republican working with Obama, is not about to weaken the US military. He wants to rationalize it for the new type of warfare he sees as being the hallmark of the 21st Century-- local interventions to put down insurgencies and uppity natives. I am quite happy to see the bloated defense industry and sycophantic politicians getting the short end of the stick for a little while. But the industry will still get billions of dollars for non productive instruments of mass destruction. The best defense budget would be just enough to bring all our troops home from everywhere in the world.

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