Wednesday, June 02, 2010

MN-02 : Kline Fighting Yesterday’s War with Borrowed Dollars

One of the most challenging questions for Congressional candidates to answer is :
With the U.S. facing a staggering national debt while still feeling the effects of a slow global economic recovery and an aging population that is dependent upon entitlement programs, how should the military budget be spent ? Or, a better question, what’s the best investment to protect the country from a stateless enemy ?

To put that question in proper perspective, the answer should be based on what’s working today and what will work in the future … not what has been our past experience.

Yesterday’s headline was that Mustafa Abu al-Yazid, who has been described as Al-Qaeda’s #3 and believed to be the head of al-Qaida in Afghanistan, has been killed in a drone strike in Pakistan’s tribal area. A website linked to al-Qaida also acknowledged his death.

Predator drones have been used extensively by the CIA to assassinate alleged al-Qaeda and Taliban militants in the tribal areas of northwest Pakistan. The CIA does not comment on its top-secret program, though the New York Times reported this month that the intelligence agency believes it has killed more than 500 militants in the past two years. Last year the CIA’s director, Leon Panetta, called the Predator drone program “the only game in town”.
Each army Predator costs $6 million “without payload”. Col Gregory Gonzalez, project manager for Unmanned Aircraft Systems, says drones are equivalent to the use of radar in the second World War, or helicopters in Korea and Vietnam : “They’ve been funding us really well, because they know there’s a bang for the buck.” Col Gonzalez says.
The technology is becoming more accessible. Forty-three nations are building military robots, as are some non-state actors, such as the Lebanese Hizbullah.

Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley reports the transfer of personnel, weapons acquisition dollars, training assets and other resources from conventional to unmanned aircraft is “being institutionalized and will stay with us for years to come.”
Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli said that unmanned aircraft are not just a fad, “They have forever changed the way the Army operates.” The “Unmanned Aircraft Systems Roadmap” outlines the Army’s plan to develop its own fleet of UAVs over the next 25 years, when all aviation missions are slated to transition to predominantly unmanned. Some missions, such as cargo resupply, will be performed mostly autonomously, while others, like attack, will be performed mostly by remote operators.

So, to the military, drones are the future … so why are House Republicans still fighting for yesterday's weapons … building up the military for the last war ?

Case in point : the Air Force's most advanced and most expensive fighter, the F-22 has never been flown in combat. Yet, John Kline (R-MN-02) supported an “earmark” offered by Rob Bishop (R-UT) for eight additional F-22 … the cost to produce these would be $2.8 Billion . Secretary of Defense Robert Gates put a 187-plane cap on the program and does not think we need anymore. Mr. Kline defended his support as this was a “good jobs bill” (at least for Lockheed Martin).

Another example is Boeing’s C-17 … Gates said the 205 C-17s that are already in the fleet or under construction are enough, and he included no money in the 2010 defense budget for additional C-17s. But the House and Senate added $2.7 billion to a war-funding bill to buy eight C-17s and seven smaller C-130J cargo planes.

Or the FY2011 Navy budget that was altered by Todd Akin (R-MO), whose district is near Boeing’s defense headquarters in St. Louis, to approve 30 F/A-18 E and F Super Hornet strike fighters which is eight more than requested.

Or, the change to Defense Budget for an alternate engine for the Joint Strike Fighter which both Presidents Bush and Obama Administrations do not want.

Mr. Kline is clear … spending on military programs gets a blank check … even if it spent to fight the last war. Mr. Kline is planning a war against the past adversaries; today’s enemies are not nation states but stateless terrorists. When Boeing, General Electric and Lockheed Martin win, the taxpayers’ do not … even if it means monies for Mr. Kline’s re-election (i.e. Boeing gave $7,500 for his campaign and $5000 to his Security and Freedom PAC.)

Conversely, DFL-endorsed candidate Dan Powers offers a more reasoned approach, “we can’t afford to do that. If we can retool the way we use our military, we can put a lot of money towards infrastructure needs, towards becoming energy independent. There are so many other things we can do to invest in our own country".

Mr. Kline borrowing will grow the national debt needlessly and not help us defend against the enemy that is waging war against us.

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