I agree with George Will that it’s okay to reduce Pentagon spending. After all, the United States accounts for almost one-half of the world’s military outlays, about twice as much as the combined total of possible enemies.
But I also agree that national defense is one of the few legitimate functions of the federal government, so I want to make sure we get the most bang for the buck (no pun intended) from every penny.
That’s why I get especially irritated when I read horror stories about Pentagon waste.
But in many cases, it’s not the fault of the Generals and Admirals. America’s military is forced to waste money because the politicians in Washington are motivated by cronyism, corruption, pork, and political correctness.
For example, let’s look at an excerpt from a column in the Washington Examiner.
Imagine you’re a legislator in a country with a bloated budget of almost $4 trillion and a record level of spending that requires massive deficits and could mean job-killing tax increases. Now imagine you’ve got a weapons program that is billions over budget, a decade behind schedule and unwanted even by those for whom it is intended. What would you do? If you said, “Earmark the program another $380 million,” you’re apparently qualified to serve on the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee. The weapons program is the Medium Extended Air Defense System, a joint venture with Germany and Italy that was zeroed out by three of four relevant congressional funding authorities. But the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense decided the program was worth a $380 million earmark, and the full committee passed the final bill along with a unanimous vote.
I’m not an expert on weapons systems. Heck, I know less about such matters than Obama’s cabinet knows about the economy. But it certainly seems foolish to throw good money after bad on a program that doesn’t work. Especially when the military doesn’t want it!
And here are a couple of sentences from a Forbes column about part of the military budget being diverted to subsidize solar power.
The U.S. Army is looking for a few good renewable energy projects. Some $7 billion worth. On Tuesday the Army began accepting bids for green energy installations that will be deployed on military bases and facilities across the U.S. The Army will sign contracts to buy the electricity generated by solar, wind, geothermal and biomass projects for up to 30 years. …The program is part of a Department of Defense initiative to meet at least 25% of energy demand on its bases from renewable sources by 2025. The military is also aiming its bases to become “net zero” consumers of electricity – generating more power than they use by installing solar and other renewable energy systems.
Silly me. I thought the Pentagon was responsible for keeping the nation safe. I guess I missed the memo where it was tasked with being a tool for the green agenda.
These examples doubtlessly are just the tip of the iceberg. Politicians can’t resist turning anything they touch into a vehicle for graft, waste, and foolishness.
To be sure, there are also big picture issues of national security that have to be resolved. Is NATO now an anachronism, as Steve Chapman persuasively argues? Is overseas intervention a pointless exercise, as Mark Steyn explains?
But whatever the mission, the Pentagon’s ability to carry it out is compromised when politicians treat the military budget like a goodie bag.