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COMMENTARY: MONEY IS NOT AN EXCUSE

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CRYING POVERTY AFTER WASTING MONEY

The opposition to buying the troops more equipment is always the same—we don’t have the money. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates even went so far as to paint the budget as a zero-sum game during the F-22 debate in a speech at the Economic Club of Chicago, saying, “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.”

 

However, a recent Heritage Foundation study on government waste shows that the government spends $25 billion a year on vacant and unused properties. According to Senator Tom Coburn’s web site, three to four billion of that money is spent in the DOD budget each year, more than enough to pay for the additional F-22 production that the Obama administration opposed.

 

The full $25 billion wasted on unused and vacant properties by the federal government would have been enough to buy the Air Force 215 F-22 fighters – which in conjunction with planned production would have given the Air Force a force of 401 Raptors. That does not count what selling the properties outright would bring.

 

MORE WASTE

The Navy and Marine Corps “fighter gap” is even more appalling when other waste is added. The federal government lost $60 billion due to medical fraud. If only half of it were stopped, it would be enough to buy five hundred F/A-18E/F Super Hornets. Not only would this more than cover the Navy and Marine Corps “fighter gap,” the Navy could go back to putting five squadrons of fighters on its carriers. The Marines could also replace their F/A-18A/C/D Hornets with the Super Hornet based on the $60 million cost estimate – which does not include any savings from buying in bulk.

 

The Obama administration pleads poverty as the Navy and Marine Corps find themselves short on fighters. Only in Washington, D.C. could such a claim have a chance of being accepted at face value.

 

The ridiculousness of that argument is pointed out by former Alaska governor Sarah Palin, who said in a 23 September, 2009 speech in Hong Kong, “It strikes me as odd that Defense Secretary Gates is the only

member of the Cabinet to be tasked with tightening his belt.”

 

BILLIONS HERE AND THERE…

A look at other government projects shows just what politicians view as important: Three billion dollars to re-sand beaches; $1.3 billion in farm subsidies to suburban homeowners for the grass in their backyards in 2006; two billion dollars lost due to drafting errors in a 2005 Deficit Reduction Bill. Ignored recommendations to improve efficiency at the Department of Health and Human Services cost taxpayers nine billion dollars each year.

 

Taking just the annual cost of the ignored efficiency improvements at HHS and the farm subsidies to suburban homeowner, the cost reaches $10.3 billion a year. That would have been enough to fund the entire disputed CSAR-X program.

 

The total sum of the waste per year: $100.3 billion.

 

…WHILE TROOPS DO WITHOUT

Don’t just think of the waste in terms of what could be bought. Think of it in terms of a missing surge. The money being wasted could have helped expand the Army to a far larger size than presently being discussed. Imagine an active force of 18 divisions, as the United States had at the end of the Cold War, in conjunction with a larger National Guard.

 

Or consider a Navy that is based on sixteen carrier strike groups, with enough amphibious ships to move two Marine Expeditionary Forces instead of Marine Expeditionary Brigades. Or a Marine Corps that would be able to field a large number of Super Hornets to provide air support for Marines going into battle in the new Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle.

 

Or an Air Force that not only fields over 400 F-22s, but also has enough UAVs that Taliban or Haqqani forces cannot sneak up on an isolated outpost in Nuristan Province, Afghanistan. The $100 billion in waste each year could buy a lot of gear and pay a lot of troops.

 

There is something very wrong when the government can find money to attempt to get Chinese hookers to drink responsibly, but forces our troops to tighten their belts. With this sort of waste in government, pleas of poverty from Secretary Gates to justify defense cuts and not immediately dealing with the fighter gap ring very hollow, indeed.