Washington Babylon — June 10, 2009, 1:13 pm

The Myth of Gates as Defense Reformer

Dana Milbank had a good story in today’s Washington Post about Congress larding up the defense bill:

This meeting of the Senate Military-Industrial Caucus will now come to order. The chair recognizes the senator from Northrop Grumman for a question.

“We’ve noticed the increase in the amphibious ship fleet needs that go beyond traditional military missions,” said Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.). “Do you see a continuing need for shipbuilding in the amphibious area?” Of course, Senator. Nobody will hurt the DD(X) destroyers they build in Pascagoula.

Does the senator from General Dynamics have a question? “Littoral combat ships,” said Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.). “Do you believe that this program will play a vital role in our Navy’s future fleet?”

Certainly, Senator. Tell the folks in Mobile that their shipbuilding operation is safe. The chair now recognizes the senator from Boeing. “I wanted to ask you today if you can tell me how you are taking into account the health and longevity of our domestic industrial base,” asked Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.).

Worth a read, but Milbank still propagates the myth that the Obama administration is seriously seeking to revolutionize and modernize defense spending:

Defense Secretary Robert Gates, attempting a bold reshaping of the military-industrial complex to meet the changing nature of war, pleaded with the lawmakers to rise above the powerful contractors that fund their campaigns and influence their elections. “The responsibility of this department first and foremost is to fight and win the nation’s wars,” Gates reminded them. “I know that some will take issue with individual decisions. I would ask, however, that you look beyond specific programs and instead at the full range of what we are trying to do.”

Yes, someone, especially Milbank and the rest of the media, really should take a look at what the administration is doing. Its recently released and much-hyped defense budget didn’t challenge any of the fundamental assumptions of American foreign policy or the matter of why we need to spend so much money — more than the rest of the world combined and four percent more than last year — and “defend” so many regions. It proposed killing a few of the most egregiously stupid weapons programs, but preserved many more, such as the unneeded, overpriced, deeply flawed F-22 fighter (which the Pentagon still hasn’t deployed to Afghanistan or Iraq, and which has no utility against groups like Al Qaeda) and left $7.8 billion for the dregs of Star Wars, aka ballistic missile defense. And in the end, Congress will reverse the few minor positive changes that Gates is proposing, and the administration will go along.

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