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Military Pork: Wasteful or Helpful?

Our Readers Who Comment are mostly angry about R. Jeffrey Smith's report that the House could approve $6.9 billion for military equipment Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates says we don't need. More than a third of that total comes from earmarks.

A reality of politics is that defense contracts bring jobs to a congressional district and campaign contributions from the military industrial complex. Some readers defend this process, but they are in a distinct minority. Gates has long been making the argument that we are buying equipment that has little relevance to challenging today's threats. But if you represent a community that builds parts for C-17 transport planes, you're expected to protect that contract.

President Obama railed against earmarks in his campaign. He has a veto. Many readers are urging him to use it if the House passes the legislation as it stands. Some suggest the money could go to health care. Several urged the Post to provide a full list of the earmarks in the proposed legislation.

We'll start with EddietheInfidel, who wrote, "The face of warfare has changed for America... Fighter planes that elude radar aren't much use against an enemy who's total assets consist of a few AK's, RPGs and a dozen goats. Although this decision might cost yet more jobs in an already faultering economy, it doesn't make sense to me right now to spend money on weapons systems that have questionable utility."

c-love suggested, "Take this money and spend it on needed and wanted health care"

But shadocat noted that "This is a tough one to call. On the one hand, Gates knows his job and should be listened to. On the other hand, we are in a recession with high unemployment, and we are buying JOBS for citizens in addition to military hardware. I'll pass on condemning the Dems this time, but I also won't support them unless they get their ethical and human rights acts together."

chambers14 was the first of several to ask for "Name names, please."

And Michael_A1 added, "Yes, WaPost - NAME NAMES so we can call and harass them personally!!!!"

barto1 wrote, "Gates and the Pentagon would prefer taking the money and spending it on future projects that DoD chooses. A lot of emergency/urgent care advances have come from the military and DARPA grants have resulted in a lot of advances in science and engineering, so it's not always guns and bombs the DoD wants to develop."

SwellLevel5 said, "I am having a ton of trouble with Obama (kind of a major disappointment to me), but he gets flaming "Straight-A's" for going after obscenely bloated defense budgets. Face it, $7 billion of a $1+ trillion budget deficit is comical, but there is no better place to start than John Murtha's buddies."

ripvanwinkleincollege asked, "Can we keep Gates for a while longer? This guy has been the best Secretary of Defense since DoD was created in the late 1940s. I don't agree with him on the C-17 transport plane but everything else he has been doing is "spot on", as our friends across the pond might say."

bcha1 wrote, "Eisenhower was so accurate when he said to 'Beware the military-industrial complex.' Whether it is fear, lobbiests, or simply payoffs in the form of trips, the House of Representatives has been 'bought off.'..."

Obama_TRAITOR_in_Chief wrote, "Gates is turning out to be the little socialist sympathizer himself...."

To which douglaslbarber replied, "I take it this post means that you favor funding defense contracts whether or not the soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen at whom they are directed feel a need for the products the congressmen are selling. Disgusting."

Obama_TRAITOR_in_Chief then said, "NO... This means Gates has turned into a roll-over lap dog for any disagreement between career Military Generals and the Obama White House... Obama sees the Military as his opportunity to suck money from defense and pummel it into Obama vote getting entitlement programs..."

wswail wrote, "The Administration needs to take on the Defense Community, made up mostly of vendors in the field. The Defense budget soared 70 percent during the Bush Administration, not counting Iraq and Afghanistan. We need to trim the collective Defense ears way, way back. We can do National and "Homeland" Security just fine with the 2000 Budget figures. We are largely in deficit because of Cheney's spending on Defense."

hadelaide said, "All we hear about is "bring the deficit down". How the hell this will happen with all these types of shenanigans going on? They want to make more weapons and engage in wars. Yet, they cannot find the funds to close Gitmo and right the injustices that exist there..."

Chagasman wrote, "Congress is out of control. Corruption is rife... Until we ban all campaign contributions from corporations, private business, unions, organizations of all kinds, and only permit $20 per candidate per election contributions from citizens, or fund campaigns entirely from public funds, this corruption will continue..."

But sonny_sky said, "More liberal CHANGE. I think even the idiots that voted for Obama are starting to figure out that Democrats are not really acting in their best interests or the best interests of the country. Time for some real change, Adios, Dems.."

mellwood1 wrote, "I am just so happy to see that a Democrat-dominated Congress is just as capable as a Republican-led Congress is wasting billions of "defense" pork..."

mickle1 asked, "So where are the Blue Dog Dems and the fiscal conservative Repugnicans?"

To which Matthew_DC replied, "Figuring out what other hardware we need which can be manufactured in their respective states. A "fiscal conservative" never met a military project he couldn't wholeheartedly support. But increased pay for the troops, that's another matter."

We'll close with Justlistening, who wrote, "For the President, this is the moment when campaign issues become a reality - a bill that is full of earmarks... he specifically campaigned against them. Now is the time for the political courage to come to the forefront-otherwise the Presidency is compromised and we enjoy full business as usual. Even as a retired vet, the bill goes in the trash and we see who is in charge."

All comments on this article are here.

By Doug Feaver  |  July 30, 2009; 6:26 AM ET
Categories:  Congress , Military  | Tags: Budget, Earmarks, Gates, Military  
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Next: The Guantanamo Quandary

Comments

The local paper ran a story about how bad bacon is. If bacon is so bad are eggs rape? The paper is to the point where reading it is a folly. Even the obits have gone to hell. Liquidation might come sooner than first thought. A Pittsburgh news crisis like hell with the lid lifted and no bacon in the pan. Crash, boom, bang and then bust. Stop the presses time.

Posted by: Dermitt | August 5, 2009 11:01 AM | Report abuse

hey, I got another one...
check out this website, everybody...
here you go:

http://www.wanttoknow.info/corruptiongovernmentmilitary

Posted by: huj534op | August 2, 2009 12:50 AM | Report abuse

I found some on our military:
6/8/09: "Oversight lacking on U.S. spending in Iraq" by Richard Lardner/AP
6/3/09: "Bush is gone, but Halliburton keeps cashing checks" by Pratap Chatterjee, Salon.com
5/22/09: "GI Bill's wording costs state's vets" by Matthew B. Stannard/Chronicle Staff Writer/SFGate
5/12/09: "Some US soldiers forced to steal water in Iraq" by Jeremy Rogalski/11 news defenders
4/12/09: "Military Sex Assault reports up 8%"
by William Cole
3/23/09: "Army gets soldiers thinking, talking to prevent suicides" by William Cole
3/19/09: "Army to Phase out 'Stop-loss' Practice" by Ann Scott Tyson/Washington post
3/15/09: "Families to help Army Stop suicides" by Kristin M. Hall/AP
2/8/09: "Troops new body-armor on hold" by associated press
1/30/09: "Army suicide rate highest in 3 decades" by William Cole and Mike Gordon/Assoc. press and Adveriser staff writers
1/27/09: "Army Cracks down on abuse" by Pauline Jelinek and Lara Jakes/AP
1/4/09: "Marine Corps will modify body armor after complaints" by Chelsea J. Carter/AP
2/18/07: "Soldiers face Neglect, Frustration At Army's Top Medical Facility" by Dana priest and Anne Hull/Washington post
12/23/07: "Gang Rape Green Zone?" article by Yvonne Roberts/guardian.co.uk
12/10/07: Halliburton covering up gang rape of employee"
1/5/07: "Contractor fraud unchecked in Iraq"
10/31/06: "Weldon case recalls Ike's warning: corrupting Power of military-industrial complex"
4/19/06: "Contractor Admits bribery for Jobs in Iraq" by truthout.org
4/16/06: "The Revolt of the Generals" by Michael Duffy
11/28/05: "GOP Lawmaker pleads guilty to bribery"
4/3/03: "Richard Perle's Corporate Adventures" by Tim Shorrock/the nation

Posted by: huj534op | August 2, 2009 12:27 AM | Report abuse

Obama_TRAITOR_in_Chief then said, "NO... This means Gates has turned into a roll-over lap dog for any disagreement between career Military Generals and the Obama White House... Obama sees the Military as his opportunity to suck money from defense and pummel it into Obama vote getting entitlement programs..."

I guess "TRAITOR_in_Chief" hasn't noticed, but the only ones arguing for warmed over Cold War weapons like the F-22 and C-17 are either: a. congressmen in whose districts these systems are produced, or b. retired generals/admirals who are now employed by Lockheed, Boeing, etc. Gates seems to understand the needs of the current active duty military just fine, thanks.

Posted by: schmuckatelli | July 31, 2009 7:24 AM | Report abuse

Earmarks are not the problem. If legislators will spend for political reasons when it's out in the open, what makes you think that the executive branch and its bureaucrats would not do the same once they got the money into the back rooms?

Congress should earmark EVERY SINGLE PENNY.

The problem is not the earmarks. The problem is the spending.

Posted by: jdadson | July 30, 2009 11:50 PM | Report abuse

"President Obama railed against earmarks in his campaign."

I take issue with that statement. McCain railed against earmarks. Obama was focused elsewhere. Just look at the first debate:

McCain: We Republicans came to power to change government, and government changed us. And the -- the worst symptom on this disease is what my friend, Tom Coburn, calls earmarking as a gateway drug, because it's a gateway. It's a gateway to out-of-control spending and corruption.

Obama: Well, Senator McCain is absolutely right that the earmarks process has been abused, which is why I suspended any requests for my home state, whether it was for senior centers or what have you, until we cleaned it up. ... But let's be clear: Earmarks account for $18 billion in last year's budget. Senator McCain is proposing -- and this is a fundamental difference between us -- $300 billion in tax cuts to some of the wealthiest corporations and individuals in the country, $300 billion. Now, $18 billion is important; $300 billion is really important.

In sum, Obama wasn't actually against earmarks, he just though the "process has been abused." Next time, please correctly portray Obama's campaign promises.

Posted by: d4t4 | July 30, 2009 2:23 PM | Report abuse

This is the stupidest excuse I’ve seen yet for giving the military what it says it doesn’t want or need. Defense contractors and subcontractors basically rape the public. I’ve a friend who works for one of the big defense contractors. He does web programming. His starting salary was $75,000. In the private sector, the job he left for this one, he did the exact same job. For $50,000. I don’t blame him for taking the other job. Who wouldn’t like an automatic $25,000 salary increase for doing the exact same job? So there’s no sympathy from me for these “lost jobs” that will result from nixing this funding. That money could be distributed instead to other industries in a community, which also supply needed jobs. I’ve always supported Obama and continue to do so. But that loyalty will be severely tested if he doesn’t veto this. And I’d like to see the Post actually BE a “news” provider and list the names of every single legislator who approves this funding, whether or not they receive(d) campaign funds from which defense contractor (and how much they received), and also list the names of every single legislator who snuck in an earmark, the cost of the earmark, what the earmark is for, and the legislator’s connections to anyone/organization with the earmark. What say you, WaPo? Up for the challenge?

Posted by: woebegoner | July 30, 2009 12:55 PM | Report abuse

I am outraged that House members continue doing business as usual in this time of crisis. We need Representatives with spines who will say "no thanks" to defense money. Who will not just look out for interests of their contributers, but provide for everyone's future. Defenders of large defense budgets argue that this provides jobs, but I ask - TO WHAT END? We need to think of the future-to put our money and energy in green jobs, heathcare and education. That's how we build a future.

Posted by: daccame | July 30, 2009 12:02 PM | Report abuse

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