In the fight over the Pentagon budget the battle lines have been drawn. When President Obama releases the military budget later this week, proponents of fiscal responsibility and a leaner, meaner military will, once again, combat the defenders of Pentagon pork and overpaid defense contractors.
Buck McKeon (R-CA), Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee (HASC), along with other Republicans on the HASC released a video arguing against defense cuts just hours before the President’s State of the Union address—which is just their latest assault on attempts, like those by Reps. Barney Frank (D-MA), Ed Markey (D-MA), and others, to rein in the bloated Pentagon budget.
But this isn’t a partisan spat. While Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, a Democratic political appointee, has been spouting hyperbolic “doomsday” rhetoric about Pentagon spending cuts, many Republicans have expressed an interest in reducing the Pentagon’s bloated budget, including Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI), who recommended reducing spending on service contracting, including military contractors, and Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK), who has identified more than $1 trillion that can be cut from the Pentagon’s budget over the next ten years.
As Coburn’s proposal points out, there’s plenty of wasteful spending to be found in the Pentagon’s budget. In fact, more than half of it goes to defense contractors whose CEO’s enjoy eight-figure salaries while our underpaid soldiers are deployed on multiple overseas tours with little leave in-between, and work alongside contractors who, often, make more than double their salary. As the Tea Party affiliated Freedom Works has argued, “The Pentagon budget is filled with corporate welfare for the defense industries.”
This is a battle between proponents of Pentagon fiscal responsibility, both Republican and Democrat, and proponents of an expensive Pentagon bureaucracy. This is a battle between those who would have us continue to rely on deficit spending to maintain a bloated military budget and those who would like to cut the fat now instead of burying our children and grandchildren under an ever-increasing mountain of debt.
When the Pentagon budget is revealed, American taxpayers will learn which side their President is fighting for. Will full funding for the $1 trillion dollar F-35 program—whose greatest capability seems to be making money disappear—be maintained? Will spending on service contractors continue to outstrip spending on all DoD uniformed and civilian personnel, combined? Will enlisted soldiers bear the brunt of the cuts while those in the already top-heavy Pentagon bureaucracy are spared?
Will the budget reflect the views of the Obama that appointed Panetta, who makes no apologies for the Pentagon’s extravagant budget, or the Obama who claimed, in his State of the Union address, that his new defense strategy “ensures we maintain the finest military in the world, while saving nearly half a trillion dollars in our budget”? Taxpayers need the latter, and in this fiscal climate, simply cannot afford the former.
We need to see that our President is committed to keeping us free from danger without endangering our pocketbooks. We need a President who stands up against faux-patriots who write blank checks to defense contractors for overpriced, underperforming weapons while cutting enlisted soldiers. We need a penny-pinching patriot that provides us with the security we need at a price we can afford.