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Military-Industrial Complex Wins Again

March 3, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

I know this is old news now, but Irregular Times has brought my attention to an overlooked vote that I think is worth noting. During the House’s recent continuing resolution vote-a-rama, one of the amendments that was brought up for debate and quickly shot down was one from Rep. Ron Kind [D, WI-3] that would have eliminated two weapons systems progams that the military has said, in no uncertain terms, that it does not want. They are the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (a.k.a. the EFV) and the Surface Launch Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile System (a.ka. the SLAMRAAM) and eliminating them would save the government $13 billion, with most of the savings coming from the EFV elimination.

“If fully executed, the EFV — which costs far more to operate and maintain than its predecessor — would essentially swallow the entire Marine vehicle budget and most of its total procurement budget for the foreseeable future,” Defense Secretary Robert Gates said at a January press conference on the matter. He added that he would prefer to pursue a “more affordable and sustainable” solution for developing weapons to meet the needs the EFV was designed to fill. That’s a position supported by the White House and the Commandant of the Marine Corps.

But when it was time for Congress to act, they voted overwhelmingly to against the military’s position and decided to keep the EFV and SLAMRAAM in production. The amendment to cut the programs was rejected by a vote of 306-123, with 79 Democrats and 227 Republicans voting to keep production alive.

Why, when the dominant theme of the day is reducing the deficit by eliminating inefficiencies, would Congress insist on spending money for weapons systems that the military itself does not want?

The weapons are manufactured by two of the world’s largest and most powerful defense contractors — General Dynamics and Raytheon. Combined, in 2010 the two companies spent more than $18 million on lobbying and $3.7 million on direct contributions to Congress, according to data from OpenSecrets.org. That’s just one year. If you look back a couple decades, the companies have spent hundreds of millions of dollars on influencing decision makers in D.C.

The result isn’t simply bought-out politicians, it’s also that the defense contracting industry has won the hearts of many in Washington as America’s premier job-creating industries. Indeed, in arguing against canceling the EFV program a bipartisan trio of Ohio lawmakers wrote in a letter that, “without the EFV, these facilities will be severely downgraded, hurting the local economies and eliminating hundreds of high-paying, high-skilled manufacturing jobs.”

In this jobs crisis, that’s almost a winning argument, and the defense industry has put itself in the position to make it over and over. The idea that the money saved from canceling these programs could be reinvested in building something that creates jobs and is actually useful — e.g. a weapons system the military does want, transportation infrastructure projects or green energy tech. development — just doesn’t permeate the web of influence the defense industry has built in Washington D.C. That’s by design. It’s how the military-industrial complex works, and until it’s reined in, Congress’ attempts to reduce deficit spending aren’t going to make a whole lot of sense.

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Comments

  • pjmerc 03/03/2011 7:15am

    This is an absolutely disgusting waste of money. It indeed shows that none of our representatives represent us. As to the claim that it provides jobs; what a crock! Why not have jobs NOT paid for by the government? How’s that for budget cutting? The very idea that our manufacturing sector can’t come up with something to make unless in some way the government ie; the taxpayers pays for it,is a sad comment on our creative ability and our ingenuity. Pathetic.
    Where are all the green jobs that Pres. Obama spoke about? Probably held up by over regulation as usual. Americans want to work, but I’m not real happy that the taxpayers again have to fund work for some Senator’s or Congressman’s district. It’s as bad as that stupid alternative engine for the F 35.

  • Comm_reply
    mbale4387 03/03/2011 12:56pm

    As I can see, you have not a clue of the need for this vehicle. The only reason the Commandant agreed with Mr. Gates is, he’s (Gates) is his boss. Talk with the people who put leather to the ground and they want this thing as soon as possible. They are waging a war in 30 year old equipment and now we are asking them to wait until 2030 to get anything to replace the old tired iron. They could have the EFV in 5 years, with a cost no more than the M1A1 tank that is currently in their stock.
    The EFV has fullfilled every requirement the USMC asked for and just finished passing the Reliability testing.
    You are complaining about spending this amount of $$, wait until you start seeing the bill for “green” jobs. They are not cheap. Like Mr. Gates wants to be with Marines lives at stake.

  • fakk2 03/03/2011 7:32am

    Donny, thank you for writing about this. I agree with pjmerc, and unfortunately we do not have a truly “alert and informed citizenry” as Eisenhower talked about. If it came down to cutting $300 million from Planned Parenthood or $300 million from this program, I would gladly see it cut from this instead of PP. $300 million is $300 million, no matter where it comes from. I just read the amendment from the congressional record and it is, in no uncertain terms, only directed at this program. I’m going to have to make an angry phone call now. Thanks again Donny!

  • MikeCCBC 03/07/2011 11:03am

    i understand the need for these vehicles in our defense force, but i see no reason to have BOTH. we’re spending 13 BILLION dollars on what the military themselves are calling unnecessary. With all the recent discoveries in the scientific world that still aren’t getting the funding they require, why couldn’t we cut back on just one of these two massive vehicles and give funding to a few programs that are at least making progress. The worst part of it is that these are our elected officials, they wouldn’t be there if we didn’t vote them in. How did we elect people this twisted

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