Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Defense Procurement is Not a Jobs Program

The US Senate is supporting SecDef Gates and President Obama by shutting off spending for the F-22. The House wanted to tack on additional planes since they see the plane as a jobs program. Gates has taken on a big challenge by trying to stop a major weapons program, not unlike Rumsfeld and the Crusader Artillery system. Each SecDef finds some past decisions to be worth re-visiting and some weapons programs worth slowing or even stopping. But they are often defeated by Congress since successful defense contractors like to design production so that pieces come from more than 40 states and more than 300 Congressional districtions. Voting against one of these programs is hard because one can look weak on defense and weak on bringing the pork to one's district.

McCain is on the right side of the issue, as defined by, well, me. Cutting planes that we don't use seems to be the right idea. I have long been a believer in seeing tradeoffs--getting five super high quality planes or artillery systems rather than getting 20-100 of almost as good seems to be a poor choice. Sure, having the absolute best is the ideal, but war is not just about quality but quantity as well. And someone has to choose, rather than ignore the tradeoff. Gates, again, is making intelligent choices, even if one can see some of the downsides.

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