7.21.2009

Eff-22

The Senate killed the F-22 today with a 58-40 vote. President Obama had threatened to veto a defense policy bill that funded the program. And Defense Secretary Robert Gates had his back in a speech last week in Chicago:
Some might ask: Why threaten a veto and risk a confrontation over a couple billion dollars for a dozen or so planes?

The grim reality is that with regard to the budget we have entered a zero-sum game. Every defense dollar diverted to fund excess or unneeded capacity – whether for more F-22s or anything else – is a dollar that will be unavailable to take care of our people, to win the wars we are in, to deter potential adversaries, and to improve capabilities in areas where America is underinvested and potentially vulnerable. That is a risk that I will not take and one that I cannot accept.

And, with regard to something like the F-22, irrespective of whether the number of aircraft at issue is 12 planes or 200, if we can’t bring ourselves to make this tough but straightforward decision – reflecting the judgment of two very different presidents, two different secretaries of defense, two chairmen of the joint chiefs of staff, and the current Air Force Secretary and Chief of Staff, where do we draw the line? And if not now, when? If we can’t get this right – what on earth can we get right? It is time to draw the line on doing Defense business as usual. The President has drawn that line. And that red line with regard to a veto is real.

John McCain agreed, arguing on the floor of the Senate that the F-22 was "no longer needed beyond where it stands today" and represented "the military-industrial complex at work."

The President, The Secretary of Defense, and John McCain couldn't convince more than 58 Senators that we need to spend our defense budget more intelligently? Better yet, how did it even make it out of committee? Matt Yglesias was right in this post from three weeks ago.
(It's) an illustration of America’s desperately dysfunctional institutional structure. One basic problem of democratic governance relates to concentrated interests versus diffuse ones. Organizing broad groups of people to advance the public interest in the face of entrenched opposition is difficult. And the committee structure is like it was designed to make this problem as bad as possible. The upshot of the way congress does business is that agriculture policy is made by a special minority of legislators who represent the interests of agricultural producers. And energy policy is made by legislators who represent the interests of energy producers. And defense policy is made by legislators who represent the interests of defense contractors. If you just announced an unexpected swap and had the Armed Services Committee set farm policy and the Agriculture Committee do procurement, you could get better results.

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