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  • Save Money? Not In My District, Mr Gates
    Posted by Bill Sweetman 1:11 PM on Aug 19, 2010

    Nathan Hodge at the Wall Street Journal has a perceptive piece on the resistance to Defense Secretary Robert Gates' proposal to eliminate Joint Forces Command.

    If Gates and his successors are serious about getting the Pentagon to a sustainable level of operations, this is merely the Fort Sumter of that war. Congress is armed, equipped and motivated to derail any serious budget-cutting, piece by piece, base by base and program by program - all the while insisting on its own statesmanlike responsibility in fiscal matters.

    What makes this issue a particularly difficult one is apparent when you look at the location of many military bases and not a few defense plants. They are islands of union industry jobs and well compensated Federal careers, surrounded by a sea of agriculture and Wal-Marts.

    Entire communities live by shipbuilding, and (aside from the smallest vessels) there is no US shipbuilding that is not funded by the US Navy.

    For many of these defense-dependent districts, the role of their elected representatives is to keep the money pipeline open, this year, next year and the year after that. You have to have some sympathy for this attitude, because the impact of closing a base or a major shipyard will be apocalyptic.

    And yet the results are all too obvious, in terms of ageing, increasingly obsolescent equipment and the massive bills for keeping that equipment operational - like $25 million a shot for a few more years of use for a single fighter. If that is not "unsustainable" I don't know what is.

    That's why it is important to look at the UK's defense review. In Parliament, elected officials can do little more than vote a budget up or down - and if the majority rejects it, the government falls. It is also an axiom that Conservatives can cut military spending with relative impunity. October's cuts will be deep and structural, but they may have some lessons for the US and the rest of the world.

    Tags: ar99, gates, pentagon cuts

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