The speech Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates presented at the Economic Club of Chicago was purported to present the administration's case for its defense budget, especially to clarify the strategic vision that animates opposition to the efforts in Congress to keep the F-22 Raptor line open. Secretary Gates made his case -- basically that we need to worry more about wars in places such as Iraq and Afghanistan than about enemies we used to have, such as the old Soviet Union. Yet even if this argument is correct, it only dictates closing down the F-22 line if you buy into an ideology that Secretary Gates expounded but didn't even try to justify. Here is the money quote:
"The grim reality is that with regard to the budget we have entered a zero-sum game. Every defense dollar diverted to fund excess or unneeded capacity -- whether for more F-22s or anything else -- is a dollar that will be unavailable to take care of our people, to win the wars we are in, to deter potential adversaries, and to improve capabilities in areas where America is underinvested and potentially vulnerable. That is a risk I cannot accept and I will not take."
Um… precisely who has dictated this "zero-sum game" and why? Literally as Secretary Gates was speaking, all of Congress was busy looking to authorize a trillion dollar plan to expand health insurance. Just the other day, we needed trillions for bank bailouts, auto bailouts, stimulus payments, etc., and we came up with that money. Now President Obama wants billions for community colleges. Why is it that the defense budget, and the defense budget alone, is a zero-sum game? This is not analysis; this is ideology and maybe we could consider an alternative one. Perhaps one that goes like this:
We live in a dangerous world and it is impossible to know what threats we will need to address in the future. Although the country has many needs, most can be addressed by many different sectors of society. Individuals, companies, labor unions, churches, foundations, localities, state government, all these sectors and more can help with jobs, health care, education and other needs. The federal government is just one of many players on these issues. The defense of the country and of our interests abroad can exclusively be taken care of by the federal government. So, in looking at the future, the national defense budget should always err on the side of caution.
Secretary Gates says the administration prefers the F-35. At this point the F-35 does not exist. Its capabilities and reliability are, therefore, uncertain. The prudent choice would be to continue to keep the F-22 Raptor production line open at least until F-35s are in the field, fully deployed and we have completed an evaluation of the planes in operation. It is a false choice -- an Obama imposed choice -- to say that we must "decide now" to buy one or the other. If it turns out that the world is such that if we never use these high-tech F-22 aircraft, then we can look back and say we ordered a few extra planes to be on the safe side. Reasonable people can differ about which weapon system we should buy more of at any given time. But nobody has to buy into the Obama Administration's self-imposed zero sum game. We have adequate funds to take care of job one. What we don't have is an administration that recognizes its primary responsibility is national defense. That is why the Constitution makes the President Commander-in-Chief, not the Auto Czar-in-Chief or Health Care Provider-in-Chief. Hopefully members of Congress will refuse to be constrained by the diktats of the president and will insist on funding the F-22.
Next Page