Friday, December 26, 2008

Obstacles To Defense Spending Cuts

This post was amputated from "Did NY Times Op-Ed Force Pentagon's Hand?"

The first obstacle faced in cutting defense spending: Defense cuts equal job cuts.

The second, bigger obstacle is Congress. Natch. The NYT gets to the nub of the issue:

Congress will need to develop a lot more realism and restraint. Lobbyists pushing costly and unneeded weapons systems find ready allies in lawmakers looking to create or protect federally financed jobs in their districts. Big contractors like Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon and General Dynamics have become masters at spreading those jobs around to assemble broad Congressional voting blocs. Work on the F-22 has been parceled out to subcontractors in 44 states.
This is going to be one of the great tests of the Obama administration. Can our new president work with the Democratic Congressional majority and the Pentagon to see beyond the jobs military contractors provide on massively expensive, wasteful DOD projects and reign in runaway spending? Will our government be able to replace any defense industry jobs lost with comparable positions elsewhere? Is it possible to do so and win re-election?

The third obstacle is the defense industry itself.* If Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon and General Dynamics are smart, they'd realize the best thing for our country and their business would be to finally face forward. These military-industrial giants would be wise to partner with the Obama administration and Congress to focus their efforts on developing new sustainable biofuels, alternative energy sources and creating a new national energy infrastructure. By so doing, new jobs would be created, energy problems could be solved and taxpayer dollars would be spent on ensuring our future rather than building outrageously expensive weapons designed to fight the wars of our past.

Until that time, as General Dynamics' "whopping $14 billion contract" to build super subs we don't need proves, it's business as usual.

*Note: Sloppy I know but somehow this sentence was clipped in the "amputation."


Clavis said...

The day corporations are no longer legally permitted to maximize shareholder profits at any cost, General Dynamics and all the other defense contractors will start doing what is best for America. Since corporate bigwigs today can make more money serving tainted water to our troops and collecting on contracts for things they never get around to building than they would if they actually had to spend money getting the job done, it is simply silly to think things will change. You might as well suggest that burglars will start leaving stuff behind for the common good.

Anacher Forester said...

Thanks for stopping by Clavis. Yes, once in a great while you'll catch me trying to cut my often overwhelming cynicism with a dose of idealism.

However, I disagree with you. This has less to do with the legality of corporations to "maximize shareholder profits at any cost" than it does with all involved's insistence on conducting business based on a flawed and obsolete model.

Iraq and Afghanistan are proof positive that 20th century weapons systems will have limited effectiveness in any wars we fight from here on in.
We're not going to need nearly as many planes and ships as we have ordered. Defense contractors would do well to look to the future.

Hell, it took long enough but even the oil companies are now investing in alternative fuel R&D.

Clavis said...

Thank you for your response. You make a terrific point that these contractors need to keep up on what will make them money in decades hence. I guess then that the corporate strategy expands without changing. Blackwater, for example (court cases aside) seems to be doing a good job of positioning itself for 21st-century defense contracting by providing people -- often people who just retired from our 21st-century armed forces. It also occurs to me that mess halls and barracks are part of any war, so the tainted water is going to keep coming.

But don't worry. I'm sure those fighters Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi will really hold the Republicans' and the contractors' feet to the fire. (Until a single Repubican member of Congress threatens a filibuster, that is.)

Happy new year. :)