Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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October 29, 2009

AN IMPRESSIVE WIN ON DEFENSE SPENDING.... President Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010, funding the military for the next year. At a White House event for the bill signing, the president took some time to note the significance of this particular spending bill.

"[W]hen Secretary Gates and I first proposed going after some of these wasteful projects, there were a lot of people in this town who didn't think it was possible, who were certain we were going to lose, who were certain that we would get steamrolled, who argued that the special interests were too entrenched, and that Washington was simply too set in its ways," Obama said. "And so I think it's important to note today we have proven them wrong."

The president was right to tout the accomplishment. This really is something of a breakthrough.

[A]s the president signed a $680 billion military policy bill on Wednesday, it was clear that he had succeeded in paring back nearly all of the programs and setting a tone of greater restraint than the Pentagon had seen in many years. [...]

White House officials say Mr. Obama took advantage of a rare political moment to break through one of Washington's most powerful lobbies and trim more weapons systems than any president had in decades.

Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff, said Wednesday that the plan was to threaten a veto over a prominent program -- in this case, the F-22 fighter jet -- "to show we were willing to expend political capital and could win on something that people thought we could not."

Once the Senate voted in July to stop buying F-22s, Mr. Emanuel said in an interview, that success "reverberated down" to help sustain billions of dollars of cuts in Army modernization, missile defense and other programs.

"They probably get an 'A' from the standpoint of their success on their major initiatives," said Fred Downey, a former Senate aide who is now vice president for national security at the Aerospace Industries Association. "They probably got all of them but one or maybe two, and that's an extraordinarily high score."

Now, it's worth emphasizing that the administration didn't actually cut defense spending. Obama increased the military budget and doesn't intend to make reductions so long as we're in two wars. Rather, the president is spending more money smarter, directing funds away from wasteful projects that few had the political courage to take on.

Defense contractors and lobbyists don't lose often, especially not in recent years. The White House and the Pentagon took the leap anyway, and scored a big win. Good for them -- and for us.

Steve Benen 1:10 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (19)

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Comments

Yay!

Now can we bring the troops home?

Posted by: Gridlock on October 29, 2009 at 1:15 PM | PERMALINK

"Now, it's worth emphasizing that the administration didn't actually cut defense spending." Exactly.

While it's great that useless crap like the F-22 was finally killed, it's unclear that all the spending on the Afghan and Iraq wars is in any way smarter. At least the F-22 merely wasted money; the Iraq war wastes lives.

Posted by: Joe Buck on October 29, 2009 at 1:16 PM | PERMALINK

This is very good news.

Of course, we can guarantee this will draw accussations of incompetence and probably even traitorous intent from both supporters of these programs and from those who could care less about the programs but want any excuse at all to attack the President. The second group would probably have been just as outraged if he hadn't cut the programs -- i.e. "business as usual, blah, blah, blah"

Posted by: Tanstaafl on October 29, 2009 at 1:18 PM | PERMALINK

I wonder when they'll start costing the wars to the defense budget instead of hiding the costs?

Posted by: Dale on October 29, 2009 at 1:26 PM | PERMALINK

While it's great that useless crap like the F-22 was finally killed, it's unclear that all the spending on the Afghan and Iraq wars is in any way smarter. At least the F-22 merely wasted money; the Iraq war wastes lives.

The difference is, we are getting out if Iraq. And we will get out of Afghanistan, sooner or later.

But some of these military procurement programs seem to last for generations, whether or not there's any need for them. They've long proved impervious to cuts. Now there will come a time when we're not fighting a war in the Middle East, and we're not shelling out money for expensive fighter jets that we no longer need.

Posted by: low-tech cyclist on October 29, 2009 at 1:29 PM | PERMALINK

Cue Cheney/Gaffney/McCain in three. . .two. . one. . .

Posted by: DAY on October 29, 2009 at 1:38 PM | PERMALINK

Btw, one of the things we need to do so that we can stop wasting money on programs like the F-22 is to stop selling our current generation fighter jets to foreign countries that are not or may not remain reliable allies.

Foreign military sales, which are frequently heavily subsidized by the U.S. government, are a double bonus for the defense contractors. First, they get huge profits on the sales, then they argue that our armed forces need brand new systems to maintain our superiority over everyone else -- conveniently ignoring that we would already have a clear superiority (in equipment quality) if not for those earlier sales.

Posted by: Tanstaafl on October 29, 2009 at 1:40 PM | PERMALINK

Slashing defence spending is considered a "win" for liberals. Why am I not surprised?

This never would have happened under McCain.

Posted by: Al on October 29, 2009 at 2:00 PM | PERMALINK

Thanks for reading the article Al.

Posted by: Paranoid Floyd on October 29, 2009 at 2:11 PM | PERMALINK

Wow, $680 billion for a defense budget. I know that this is something that Obama should be congratulated for BUT, wow, why are we spending $680 billion?

Posted by: ga73 on October 29, 2009 at 2:55 PM | PERMALINK

We need this expense so that we remain ahead of ALL Countries on earth in money spent on War than them all combined. We are so brave.

Posted by: ALIASALIAS on October 29, 2009 at 3:40 PM | PERMALINK

why are we spending $680 billion?

Politics.

Posted by: Doctor Biobrain on October 29, 2009 at 4:59 PM | PERMALINK

As long as they're scoring wins for the sake of better policy and not just to show their muscle.

And note that's $680B in ONE year for defense as compared with $900B for 10 years of health care. Maybe sick people need more defending.

Posted by: stevenz on October 29, 2009 at 5:43 PM | PERMALINK

nearly $700 billion on defense, and it doesn't even include the two biggest defense expenditures, iraq and afghanistan.

but at least we can blow tons of shit up.....sad.

Posted by: ahoy polloi on October 30, 2009 at 1:15 AM | PERMALINK

Obama increased the military budget and doesn't intend to make reductions so long as we're in two wars. Rather, the president is spending more money smarter, directing funds away from wasteful projects and towards projects that are more cost-effective at killing people.

There, I added what you are too cowardly to.

Posted by: Disputo on October 30, 2009 at 6:27 AM | PERMALINK

"This never would have happened under McCain."

Oh, really? The cutback of the f22 was spearheaded by McCain. Obama did nothing, except, as the article points out, raise the defense budget.

So we're in the position of having the only "Democratic" change(weapons system cutback) the current [faux Republican] President has instituted coming from a real Republican.

Posted by: Ddawg on October 30, 2009 at 9:52 AM | PERMALINK

hey its about time,
Now i get my bonus that i reenlisted for..
but does any one know when ill get it?

Posted by: aj on October 31, 2009 at 1:29 PM | PERMALINK

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Posted by: Wilhelmina on March 21, 2010 at 9:47 PM | PERMALINK

Defense spending can be key to a lot of opportunities in the future.

Posted by: Defense Contractors on November 8, 2010 at 4:13 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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