Military-Industrial Complex Wins AgainMarch 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.