|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||M - Th 11p / 10c|
|Full Metal Budget|
So now we're hearing screams of outrage from supposedly "fiscally conservative" members of Congress. The Obama administration, they say, is endangering the nation's defense because Secretary of Defense Robert Gates (a holdover from the Bush administration) declares that the days of soaring defense budgets are over.
The same members of Congress who opposed the economic stimulus package and President Obama's budget on the grounds that such spending is "fiscally irresponsible" oppose cuts in the defense budget. Indeed, they want to add tens of billions to the defense budget and let contractors continue to milk the system. Sens. John Kyl (R-AZ), as well as Rep. Tom Price (R-GA), whose district includes a Lockheed Martin plant, and Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) are among those leading the charge for defense pork while claiming that Obama is spending too wildly. During the Bush administration, these "fiscal conservatives" voted to spend trillions in Iraq without a cost-benefit analysis and without scrutiny. Now they say they are worried about the nation's debt -- but only selectively worried. The debt can't interfere with their pet projects.
Gates plans to slash the number of federal defense contractors from 39 percent of the Pentagon's workforce to the pre-9/11 percentage of 26 percent, scrap the Navy's DDG 1000 destroyer, a "stealthy ship whose cost has ballooned over the past decade," halt production of the Air Force's F-22 fighter jet, kill the new presidential helicopter program, and cut back the Army's ambitious $87 billion Future Combat Systems program, the Washington Post reports. Gates, the paper says, is alienated from the defense procurement system, because it "buys the wrong arms and pays too much." But Gates' cuts will have difficulty winning Congressional approval because too many members are trying to protect defense spending in their districts and are beholden to contributions from defense contractors.
Fortunately, there are still some true fiscal conservatives with a modicum of consistency and fiscal integrity. Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona), the Republican standard bearer in 2008, backs the cuts. He told The Washington Times:
"I strongly support Secretary Gates' decision to restructure a number of major defense programs," he said. "It has long been necessary to shift spending away from weapon systems plagued by scheduling and cost overruns to ones that strike the correct balance between the needs of our deployed forces and the requirements for meeting the emerging threats of tomorrow."