The Difference Between Pork and Raising and Supporting Armies
12:14 PM, Jul 30, 2009 • By MICHAEL GOLDFARB
The Washington Post's Jeffrey Smith reports:
That's the lede, and then the close:
It would be nice if, just occasionally, some larger historical perspective slipped into these hysterical accounts, such as on C-17, which Dick Cheney first tried to kill in 1992. Having those extra airlifters in places like Kosovo, Iraq and, particularly Afghanistan has been a life-saver and, of course, we're using C-17s much more than "planned," which means they're wearing out faster than "planned" and -- wait for it -- there's no replacement on the drawing board, let alone in design, test or production.
Every few years the Air Force does a "mobility requirements study" that, surprisingly, confirms whatever the budget of the times calls for but which, over the last decade or so, has seen the total airlift requirement mushroom.
In sum, nobody really believes that we have sufficient airlift. And so, for the past several years, the Pentagon has been in cahoots with the Congress: the DoD does not include C-17 buys in its budget on the presumption that the Congress will add them back, thank you very much, in its mark-up of the defense appropriations bill or in a supplemental. The only thing notable about this year's number is that it's substantially lower than the recent past, when we were buying 8 or more C-17s at more than $1 billion.
Further, to equate a John Murtha $8 million earmark to a home-district contractor and the purchase of desperately needed cargo planes -- as Smith does -- is the height of mendacity. Not all congressional modifications or add-ons are "pork," even if -- gasp! -- they have unfortunate consequences like creating or preserving manufacturing jobs. Or providing needed gear. Gates may be a popular defense secretary but that doesn't give him the authority to issue final diktats on defense spending. Thankfully, the Constitution vests that power in the Congress. In America, "business as usual" means "the rule of law."