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The tightrope of security and spending

by Josh 24. May 2010 18:09
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Courtesy of the Defense Department

Certainly, a large part of aviation innovation, and of the aviation industry itself, derives from the American military. Anyone enjoy that GPS stuff lately?

An editorial in the USA Today last week echoes what has become a growing sentiment of Defense Secretary Robert Gates, a holdover from the Bush administration largely credited for righting the ship in Iraq, to limit military spending and to cut into rank-and-file bureaucracy.

Gates has pushed in recent years for cuts in parts of the Defense budget, something rarely seen from a Pentagon leader during active conflict.  His reasoning is often this: The military strength held by the United States overshadows that any other nation, and in the case of the next-largest armies, many belong to allies.

Fighting the global war on terror does not always necessitate billion-dollar machinery, his logic says.

Gates has railed to trim fat from various branches that squabble for slices of the hundreds of billions of dollars available each year in the Defense budget, the second largest expenditure behind Social Security.

Often, a general of one military branch lobbies for the same money as another. For instance, when the Army insisted upon up-armored Humvees so more soldiers could survive IED blasts in Afghanistan and Iraq, similar requests came from the Air Force for UAVs and expanding fighter jet programs.

The Pentagon, at Gates’ urging, capped production of the F-22 last year. However, another recent request of his to curtail a similar program went unheard by lawmakers.

The House Armed Services Committee passed legislation to award GE a contract to compete with Pratt & Whitney building engines for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (pictured above), which is expected to cost $113 million per plane.

The USA Today notes that the most ardent in Congress who backed the plan without approval from the Defense Secretary came from districts home to GE facilities. At home, such a vote for a Congress member means creating or saving jobs, regardless of the true defense needs.

"Does the number of warships we have and are building really put America at risk when the U.S. battle fleet is larger than the next 13 navies combined, 11 of which belong to allies and partners? Gates asked in a recent speech. "Is it a dire threat that by 2020, the United States will have only 20 times more advanced stealth fighters than China?"

In today’s times, there is a difficult balance for politicians and the non-partisan civil service workers who carry out the laws they pass. That balance spans between creating jobs, leashing government spending and defending our country. Each is important, but drawing lines is hard.

Many times, the simple solution is not the smart solution, but one can just as easily say that the other way around, too.  Weigh in below and let us know what you think.

Thanks to our friends at CFM Jet for tweeting the editorial.


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