Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Defense Secretary Faces Uphill Climb To Cut Many Weapons Programs

Secretary Of Defense Robert Gates will almost certainly face an uphill climb with members of congress as he proposes to cut some wasteful defense projects or other projects that have gone into extreme cost overruns. Members of congress will argue that cutting some overpriced defense projects will hurt jobs in their districts. However, compared to other spending projects such as highway construction, unemployment benefit expansion or Food Stamp program increases, extremely expensive defense projects provide very few jobs or provide many economic stimulus to very few persons. Gates would like to see defense spending more closely allocated to likely war events such as in Afghanistan, rather than more more far fetched was scenarios with states such as Russia or even China.

While some defense projects may provide a few jobs in up to 44 states, the cost of these projects for the number of jobs that they actually provide is very low. A good example is that during World War Ii, many of the fighter planes only cost around $6,000 each minus the engine. Today, the overpriced F-22 Raptor fighter plane project that Gates would like to cut back on cost a huge $137.5 each. And such planes have little use in situations such as Afghanistan where a painstaking war to defeat Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters from hiding places in mountains and other areas takes place by NATO fighters.

It will be interesting whether Gates is actually able to reorganize defense spending as he would like or whether congress will once again seek to undermine legislation with adding so many pork-barrel spending proposals to legislation and actually keep many projects alive that Gates would like to trim back or even eliminate.

During the Bush Administration, at least 33 members of this Administration had ties to the defense industry, were major stockholders or former executives. Even the offices of Secretary of Army, Navy and Air Force were all handed over to former CEOs or others with defense contractor ties, not military career persons. Whether the Obama Administration can really sever the strong ties of the defense contractors to infiltrate government and then spend the government money on projects they want will remain a major battle as members of congress and their defense contractor lobbyist pals will seek to keep the good old boy system alive. Even part of the problem at Chrysler is less defense contracts, since some of their more silly projects such as a tank that flexed up and down by four feet was cut. This tank actually proved to be more vulnerable at the flex points than a normal tank, and cost much much more.

Changing Washington is a very difficult task.


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