The presumptive new Republican chairman of the House Armed Services committee, Rep. Buck McKeon (R-CA), has announced that he will push for an increase in defense spending. In a rambling reply to a Reuters correspondent, McKeon explains how he’s going to defend America from the future:
We’re spending less than at times in the past and we’re involved in two wars, as a percentage of our gross product. So I think, myself, I think you have to be very careful of the taxpayer dollar and I think the things the Secretary (of Defense) is pushing for with increased savings through efficiency. I support that. But I also support a higher top line because we have underlying costs that are taking such a high percentage of our budget that we’re not going to have enough to do the R&D and do the weaponry spending to provide the wherewithal to have the defense that we need. So, you know, they cut back in missile defense. They cut back in the F-22. They cut back in the next generation bomber. All these things for the future, and we can’t wait for the future to come. We need to be prepared for it. So, I think we need more money in defense and I think we need to do a better job spending that money.
Elsewhere in the interview, McKeon continues to argue for a second engine for the $382 billion F-35 joint strike fighter program, a redundancy that Secretary Gates has repeatedly insisted is not necessary (he apparently didn’t see the slick website lobbyists have created to convince us). But not to worry, a corporate welfare program for General Electric’s defense division “hasn’t been a partisan position,” according to McKeon. His colleagues on both sides of the committee’s dais agree on adding unnecessary lines to the defense budget, while justifying the service to defense lobbyists as ensuring “competition.” As Gates pointed out early this year, “only in Washington is a proposal where everybody wins get considered a competition.” So much for McKeon’s goal of doing “a better job spending that money.”
In this climate, it’s remarkable that some are still brave enough to suggest that we could scrap the F-35 program entirely, and rely on other existing fighter production lines to meet future needs. But if Buck McKeon won’t even accept cuts to pork attached to existing programs, there is little reason to hope that the future will include any significant cuts to DoD’s budget. The future is coming, and it looks like it will surely include the GOP’s favorite form of redistribution: bloated defense.