President Obama was sharpening his Pentagon ax in remarks at a town hall meeting in northern Virginia earlier today. Defense contractors hang on every word when the government is in a cutting mood like this. They’re eager to adopt any strategy to blunt the impact of the coming cuts on their programs. So let’s look at what the President said — and how contractors reacted:
“Over the last two years, the secretary of defense, Bob Gates, has taken on wasteful spending that doesn’t protect our troops, doesn’t protect our nation: old weapons systems, for example, that the Pentagon doesn’t want but Congress sometimes keeps on stuffing into the budget.”
Can’t really argue with that. Even though it says right in the Constitution that it’s Congress’s job “to raise and support Armies” and “to provide and maintain a Navy.”
“Well-connected special interests get these programs stuck in the budget, even though the Pentagon says we don’t need these particular weapons systems.”
Why the heck is our PAC giving these geezers on the defense appropriations subcommittees all this money if we can’t call in a congressional chit now and then? Besides, we’re allowed “to petition the Government for a redress of grievances,” and nothing grieves us like losing a contract.
“So we’ve begun to cut those out, and Secretary Gates has found a lot of waste like that and has been able to save us $400 billion so far.”
One man’s waste is another man’s weapon.
“I believe we can do that again.”
Damn — we’re getting close to a trillion here…
“Four hundred billion dollars — even in Washington, that’s real money. That funds a lot of Pell Grants. That funds a lot of assistance for communities like this one.”
Sheesh, Mr. President — you’re speaking at the Northern Virginia Community College in Annandale, Va. That’s in Fairfax County — the second richest county in the nation, where the average family’s median annual income tops $100,000. Communities like that really don’t need much help from the feds. Come to think of it, six of the 10 wealthiest counties in the nation surround Washington, D.C. That’s because so many of us defense contractors live in the suburbs surrounding the capital…
“There’s certain aspects of the defense budget that I will not touch — for example, making sure that our troops have the equipment they need to be safe when they’re in theater; making sure that when they come home, veterans are getting the help that they need for post-traumatic stress disorder or to be able to go to college themselves.”
The motherhood and apple pie of defense spending.
“But as I said, there’s some weapon systems that just don’t work.”
That’s never stopped us from buying them before…
“There’s some that may work, but we don’t need.”
…yikes — now he’s getting serious…
“There’s some that we just can’t afford.”