Saturday, April 27, 2013
The United States spends about $700 billion — give or take a few billion — annually on defense. Given the incredibly high budget, it wouldn’t seem following Congress’ order to trim $41 billion this year ($487 billion over 10 years) would be all that difficult.
Yet U.S. Department of Defense employees have been in panic mode as programs are cut and work hours and pay for those hours are being reduced.
That’s because the members of Congress — the same folks who have mandated the cuts — won’t let Pentagon officials cut what they see as wasteful and unnecessary.
Congress is forcing the military to keep ships, aircraft, military bases, retiree benefits and other programs that defense officials insist they don’t want, can’t afford or simply won’t be able to use.
Associated Press reporters interviewed senior military leaders involved in the ongoing analysis of the budget and its impact on the services and compiled data on the costs and programs from Defense Department documents.
Military officials told AP that Congress’ refusal to retire ships and aircraft means the Navy and Air Force must spend about $5 billion more had Congress allowed stuff that wasn’t wanted or needed to be cut.
Defense officials have also been undercut in efforts to shut down expensive, underused military facilities around the country.
Congress, for example, rejected the department’s request last year for two more rounds of base closings, because senators and representatives objected to the prospect of taking jobs and dollars out of a region’s economy — and each region (at least those that had an underused base that stayed open) had champions in Congress.
It’s outrageous, but few Americans are surprised. It’s the way a government works when those setting the rules are elected to office to represent relatively small geographic areas. And being re-elected to office requires pleasing those living in those geographic areas (commonly known as congressional districts). The same goes for those serving in the Senate, although the geographic area is generally far larger and more populated.
Cutting programs that cost jobs costs senators and representatives support back home.
Therefore, lawmakers fight to stop cuts that hurt their voters at the expense of reason and being fiscally responsible.
This has been going on for much of the nation’s history. In the 1870s it even got a name — pork-barrel politics. In the 19th century a family’s pork barrel was a measure of its wealth.
Pork barrels are no longer such a measure, but pork-barrel politics is very much alive.
When is Congress going to start looking out for the good of the entire nation?