Monday, May 10, 2010

Gates Shoots and ....?

Does he score?  SecDef Gates seems to be getting serious about cutting big defense projects and other spending excesses.  Drezner ponders whether he will be successful, given that the interest groups involved have a lot to lose and are quite powerful.  Ricks notes that Gates is also pondering if the US has too many Generals and Admirals.  Regarding the latter, this is not terribly surprising as the past few decades have seen lots of bloat in all kinds of businesses among senior level managers since they make the decisions about who loses jobs and who gets them.  So, we have too many vice-provosts, associate vice presidents, etc.

Anyhow, back to Drezner--defense programs are hard to kill because they are jobs programs to Senators and Representatives.  And big-time lobbyists with heaps of campaign finance are lined up on one side, relatively ambitious but not nearly as well financed groups are on the other side (I interned for Business Executives for National Security one summer between college and grad school).   However, the fiscal pressures are so severe that this may be a crisis that provides for the fracturing of old coalitions and opportunities for significant changes (yes, I have read Gourevitch's Politics in Hard Times).  Rumsfeld did manage to kill the Crusader artillery system.  So, Gates might have a chance, but will he score?  I am pretty doubtful, as the branches of the military will rely on their friends in Congress and the defense industry to protect the big items.  Congress is apparently trying to fund more C-17 cargo planes than DoD wants to buy.  Not surprising. 

If I had to bet, I probably would wager on the defense contractors and not on Gates.  They will be around longer than he will be.

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