As the defense-budget battles heat up – they’ll come to a boil later this week when Defense Secretary Leon Panetta heads to Capitol Hill to say where he thinks the ax should fall – you’ve got to be on the lookout for pyromaniacs in fields of straw men (credit: William F. Buckley via George Will). While a comprehensive review of what U.S. national security needs should be based on an apples-to-apples comparison, we’re ending up with fruit cocktail. In other words, keep your eye on the ball as the debate increasing shifts from national defense to local employment.
Take this weekend’s piece from the Newport News Daily Press by local congressman Randy Forbes, a Republican who chairs the House Armed Services readiness subcommittee and whose region is the nation’s key shipbuilding center:
…consider that the $79.69 billion spent bailing out private auto makers could have funded Navy shipbuilding for over five years. The $535 million of taxpayer money dumped into the now-bankrupt solar power company, Solyndra could have completed this year’s backlog of ship maintenance with nearly $200 million left over.
His column is larded with warnings of the perils that he says would accompany deep military-spending cuts now on the horizon. But what he – and those making similar arguments, including Panetta and Army General Martin Dempsey, the new chairman of the Joint Chiefs — never say is this: even under the biggest-cut scenario now under consideration, the U.S. military would trim its spending only back to 2007 levels. I know many folks who would be happy to live on their 2007 incomes.